by Erinn Fortson
Only 39 minutes after Lily & Madeleine’s Tiny Desk Performance was posted on You Tube, the video had already received 189 views. Ironically, this is where it all began two years ago. The sisters uploaded intimate sessions, covering bands like First Aid Kit and Fleet Foxes and unlike a lot of their musically inclined peers, getting discovered online wasn’t really the Jurkiewicz sisters’ plan. It worked though, and whether it was their intention or not, the singers have managed to turn quite a few heads.
There’s an innocence that’s refreshing about the young musicians. It could be because of their ages, but the sincerity seems more true to the girls’ characters. They’re humbly grateful for every ounce of success thus far. And their accidental beginnings have fostered some pretty incredible experiences. These Indiana natives are still learning to navigate their way around a studio while balancing their new careers with schoolwork. And even though the girls admit to this being a challenge, the typical responsibilities of the average teenager haven’t held them back just yet. It helps to have a supportive team that bought into Lily & Madeleine long before NPR did.
“Yeah, it’s true, the music industry can be really brutal,” says Madeleine. “But we’ve been pretty lucky and just have been working with some really awesome people. We’ve had, really, only pleasant experiences so far. No one’s been horrible, which is really nice.
“Our parents have been super supportive,” Madeleine continues. “I think that starting out, they didn’t understand, I mean Lily and I didn’t even understand, what was going to happen; we were just going to do this for fun and see what we could make out of it. And then all of a sudden, [all this success we had was so overwhelming] and it built up. But our parents are just really supportive. And I think that they’re not worried ’cause we’re working with amazing people.”
Those people came knocking on the duo’s door soon after Lily & Madeleine made their You Tube debut. The attention they attracted from the web got them a gig with John Mellencamp, established a relationship with producer Paul Mahern, and found the singers a home with Asthmatic Kitty Records.
By the time their debut full-length was released, Lily & Madeleine already had an impressive following. Each song among the record’s 12 tracks is a reminder why listeners were paying close attention before the Jurkiewicz sisters had an ampersand in between their names. The self-titled record, released last fall, sometimes makes you forget that Lily and Madeleine are only 16 and 18 years old.
“We’ve gotten that reaction a couple of times,” confirms Lily. “If we’re introducing our music to somebody, explaining what we do, then obviously they know how old we are. So, it’s not surprising [how old we are] then. But a listener has no idea. I don’t know, I feel like we sound kind of sound like teenagers, but that’s just me.”
Confident in harmony and sure in melody, the sisters make singing rangy pitches seem so simple. And it is for them because they’re good at what they do and they love doing it.
“I definitely think even without a record label and even without the technology that helped us to meet these people and make an album, I would still be performing in some way and Lily and I would still be sharing our music,” says Madeleine.
Since the buzz surrounding Lily & Madeleine began, the girls have already managed to hit the road and take their songs as far as Europe. The goal is to book more venues and continue traveling where they can, when time allows it. There’s still the obligation to academia, which the sisters place high on their list. Even though they mutually decided to take some time off at the start of the year’s second semester, completing putting their education on the back burner isn’t an option Lily and Madeleine are ready to consider.
“Education is really important and we will continue to study, hopefully, for as long as we possible can,” says Lily. “We’re just taking it one step at a time. So, if we’re taking off this semester, we’re just going to plan on coming back next August. School is really important, especially because if things for some reason don’t work out and we don’t have school to fall back on, that’s kind of a scary idea, you know?”
From the looks of it, things have already worked out much better than Lily and Madeleine could have imagined. What started as fun quickly became the full-time dream job and the Jurkiewicz sisters couldn’t be happier about the surprise turn of events. Their spontaneity opened up doors, studios, and labels that might have remained shut if the girls decided not to go viral. But Madeleine is right. Regardless of an online platform, they would have found a way to share their music and people would have found a way to listen.
Lily and Madeleine will be at Boot and Saddle on May 2nd.