Brandon Jane and Leah Crutchfield, the sisters that comprise Coldwater Jane, were born to be country stars. Together. It just took some time for them to figure it out.
“I don’t ever remember thinking about what I wanted to do and it not involving music,” Brandon says. “I always knew I wanted to move to Nashville.”
“I was always writing songs,” Leah says. They are as close as two sisters can get. Which is not to say it was just that simple.
Brandon and Leah hail from the tiny town of Lucedale, Miss., population 2,990. “They are mainly our relatives,” Leah says with a smile. “We know most everybody that lives there.”
Their father was a ‘70s rocker at heart who helped instill their love of the Eagles and Jim Croce, among other bands, while their mother insisted on gospel music. “We weren’t allowed to listen to the radio, but our dad would sneak us Journey when we were washing the truck,” says Leah, with a laugh.
Their paternal grandfather was also a musician. “We’ve always been around music,” Brandon says. “Our mom and dad really encouraged us to be creative and play instruments.”
As teenagers, they toured with their parents as a family gospel band, sometimes playing three gigs a day. Their mother booked the band while their brother handled the drums and their father played bass. Brandon handled lead vocals and Leah sang harmony and alternated between guitar and keyboard.
After three years on the road the family moved to Nashville so that Brandon and Leah could pursue a career in music. “They basically said, ‘We’re here, do with this opportunity what you will’,” Brandon recalls. “They’re dreamers.”
After working a variety of odd jobs, the teenaged sisters scored a publishing deal and began performing as a duo. “We wanted to do everything but we didn’t really know who we were,” Brandon says. “But we started to hone our craft and we learned a lot.”
They eventually disbanded and each went their own way. Brandon married and moved to New York City and Leah stayed in Nashville to pursue her dream of songwriting.
Brandon became a solo artist for the first time in her life. “I spent the next five years trying to figure out who I was as an artist. I was passed on, offered deals that I never got and every year my birthday would roll around and I thought, ‘this is going to be my year.’”
Leah, who is two years younger than her sister, faced similar struggles. While her songs were being recorded, she didn’t score the hits she dreamed of. “It’s competitive and there’s a whole lot of heartbreak,” she says of songwriting. “Every time I’d want to quit and earn a real living I’d think, ‘but I get to do this and I love it.’” “Even if I’m not songwriter of the year this year, I’m never going to be if I quit.”
Eventually the women came to the same conclusion: they needed to be together. “I missed playing music with her,” Brandon says. “Every time we went to our parents’ house we’d get out guitars.”
They began writing and performing in Nashville to try and find a spark. It didn’t take long. “It’s just so second nature playing with your family,” Brandon says.
Leah agrees. “It’s always like we’re together in our living room. I was made to make music with her.”
Through Brandon’s husband, Kevin Kadish, himself a noted songwriter and producer, the sisters hooked up with producer and songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick (Little Big Town). After the sisters impressed Kirkpatrick and Kadish with their version of Emmylou Harris’ “Red Dirt Girl” and a verse/chorus they had written, they were convinced.
The exercise was more about creating music that they loved than winning the approval of anyone outside the foursome. “You can spend a lot of time trying to make something everybody else will love,” says Brandon. “This time we wanted to make something we loved and just hoped other people would love too.”
“We didn’t even know what we would do with these songs, we just wanted to write together,” Leah says.
“It was very organic,” Brandon adds. “Every song on our record is about us.”
The women began playing at various clubs around Nashville. “We needed to figure out if we loved doing it enough to commit to it and we did,” Leah says.
“We don’t do anything with half of our heart,” Brandon adds.
Next came their name. While ‘Jane’ is a name that runs in the family, including Brandon’s middle name, Coldwater came from the famous Coldwater Canyon in Los Angeles. The combination reminded them of the ‘70s bands they both loved such as the Eagles, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Fleetwood Mac.
They began recording and six months later Mercury Nashville came calling. “I was in shock,” says Brandon. “I couldn’t believe that after all these years of being calculated and persistent that something that natural and organic and easy was what finally got us a record deal.”
Brandon sings lead and Leah adds harmony and that’s just the way they like it. Both women play guitar. “She can look at me when we’re singing and know where I’m going,” Brandon says of Leah.
“You should do what you love to do and I love harmony,” Leah adds.
Single “Bring On The Love” is a guitar driven plea for peace and understanding both in personal relationships and in the world at large. “It’s kind of a ‘Come Together’ song,” says Brandon. “It’s also a sing it in your car with the windows rolled down kind of song.”
Meanwhile the driving “Devil Train” is based on a true story. “I’ve always liked the boys,” Leah says with a laugh. “It’s about when I was younger and I liked this boy that was a good bit older than me. We snuck out and were dancing around with the radio on in a cotton field. My mom and dad went ballistic when they found out.”
“Tough As Nails” is a waltz about the women’s struggles. “I’ve been at my lowest point and so has Leah,” Brandon says. “It’s about when it’s heartbreaking and you’re aching and you don’t know that you can keep doing this anymore. Everybody’s been there.”
The gorgeous “You’re The Best Thing (Since Jesus)” is a tribute to their husbands. “They give us the confidence to go and do what we do,” Brandon says.
The sisters count Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Linda Ronstadt and Patty Loveless among their influences. “We have shared a lot of things since we were young,” Leah says, “including music.”
Their sound is uniquely their own. “We want to be a different voice on the radio,” Brandon says. “We want people to hear us and know that it’s Coldwater Jane.”
It took a while to get there, but the winding path each has followed lead them back to each other. “I wanted to write songs and have people hear them and she wanted to sing songs and have people hear them,” Leah says. “It was right here the whole time.”
Coldwater Jane - "Marionette":
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