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Song-Telling Tuesday: The Twins of Franklin and the Symmetry of Harmony

Photo by Bump Opera

Time has a way of developing and revealing insights into how people influence your life. For Becky Shaheen and Laura Lou, a decade of singing together has meant the pair can do “some pretty neat things.”

The Twins of Franklin are built around tight, delicate harmonies that seem very effortless.They’ve established themselves in the Twin Cities with honesty, authenticity, and gratitude for the platform they have been afforded to be able to speak on issues we call experience.

“There’s so much disgusting shit happening every day that we, as artists, have to say something about it. If we don’t say something about it, what are we doing? That’s such an important aspect of art and music and storytelling.” ~The Twins of Franklin

Songwriting

As I learned, songwriting for their new album started long ago with broccoli and should culminate with ice.

Becky Shaheen grew up with a father who wrote hundreds of songs. Her whole family was musical and sang, so writing songs was ingrained and just something they all did. She jokingly shares that her first song was “Do You Like Broccoli? I do,” at age 3.

For Laura Lou, she grew up singing covers, jazz, and music theater songs. She also confesses Mandy Moore and Jewel were personal favorites to sing along to. It wasn’t until she met Becky at 19 and heard her cheesy love song called “Puzzle Piece” that writing songs became doable. The first song she wrote wasn’t until her sophomore year of college.

“I literally was like, this is a more attainable goal because I can see somebody who is so similar to me doing this. I can be inspired by the music she’s writing and the way she’s doing it,” shares Laura.

Their parents have been avid supporters of their music throughout the years. Becky’s parents offered some strong advice when she went to college and intended to double major in music and chemistry. “Don’t half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.” Laura developed a strong friendship with Becky and found herself sending song ideas, via voice memos, back and forth. Becky’s job at In The Groove, a music publishing and licensing house, has given her a keen sense and knack for understanding songwriting.

Photo by Ash & James Photography

The mechanics of songwriting for The Twins of Franklin are oftentimes built around the hook. They’ll write a first verse or verse-part and think of the overall form. They get a sense of what needs to be said next and how to articulate it as a hook. Developing two or three words they want to focus on for the chorus, it becomes a process of finding that special hook. It has to be catchy and not too complicated. Laura shares that Becky is usually the “hook queen” and commonly takes out half the words to develop that section.

Inspiration, for both ladies, has changed as well. Although both released solo projects in their 20s, marriage has changed their perspective in their 30s. Becky got married a year and a half ago and has never been so happy in her life. “It’s not super inspirational because I’m exactly like Adele. I’m too happy to write.” Laura married two years ago and looks back at her 20s as a time where they were figuring stuff out. How are they finding love? How are they handling heartbreak? What the F are they doing?

“We’ve both been through heartbreak and really hard sadness. I finally feel like a stable, healthy person and am able to talk about it in a way that I wasn’t in my twenties ’cause I wasn’t in a space that was mature enough.” ~Laura Lou

Currently they are able to step back and speak about bigger issues. They both know who they are and can write for others. They get encouraged by larger issues and hope others can feel inspired and connected to their songs.

The new album will be a variety of songs and themes. There are songs about depression, feminism, and what it means to be a woman right now; songs about being happy with where you are, rather than being focused on looking ahead.

The Rope

“The Rope” starts out with story about a farmer. Laura was reading a mental health book that was giving prompts to think about the people in one’s life. It told the story of a farmer and, historically, a time where they used to tie ropes from their barns to their house. In the dead of winter, when storms happened, they could follow the ropes to feed their cattle and get back. The book prompted the question of “Who is that person in your life that gets you through things?”

“And though the blizzard is strong

and though the night is long

he counts on his rope to guide him home”

Laura thought of herself and her dedication to figuring out who she was for the sake of her relationship. Then the next person she envisioned was her partner Patrick. She wrote the song for him with the intention of singing it to him on their wedding day. It was her gift to him and a reminder of the rope they’ve developed and will need to hold onto through tough times. The rope represents binding love when you can’t see anything or when things are hard. Who brings you back from hardships?

“Through our years of weathering storms

We’ll have to make sure to tend to frays”

While working at a radiation oncology clinic, Laura saw couples who were dealing with the concept of being in a relationship while also dealing with the fact that life throws you things you can’t predict and over which you have no control. The second verse speaks on the inevitability of hard times and how to get through them. It speaks about becoming that rope and strength to get through.

“Oh my love, I’ll be the rope

That guides you home through this great storm”

The outro of the song is a swell of harmonies and reverb. A swirling storm of voices and lite percussion, it’s a gentle yet strong reminder to find that rope that can pull you through. Beautifully recorded, “The Rope” carries an important heartfelt message of the power of love.

Lonely To My Bones

“There was a time when I was a lone ranger

I stayed away from boys and I kept my heart from danger”

Before Becky met her husband, all her best friends and siblings were finding the person who they were meant to be with. Becky was like, “I have my dog…which is great.” She had just loved two individuals but wasn’t really in a relationship with either of them. She had all of this love and no one seemed to want it. There was a dark place where she was feeling extremely lonely.

“If I could, if I could, I’d reinvent myself

move across the seas,

find that missing piece to find love, true love”

There are definitely places in a person’s journey when we are unhappy and truly lonely, where we imagine our lives and how we can change them. What if we moved? What if we ran away? The song deals with the realization that loneliness isn’t solved by dealing with regrets. It takes the ability to learn lessons and internally shift behaviors.

“I’d be lonely straight to my bones,

and that ain’t good”

“Lonely To My Bones” showcases Becky’s talent of writing a hook that engages and brings the listener back to the core message. It also sheds light on the pair’s genre versatility. Becky’s voice has twang and she credits The Highwomen for pushing boundaries on what country music can be. Becky states, “If women were more in front of the country world, I think that more people in the indie communities would listen to it.” 

Photo by Bump Opera

Song Production

The Twins of Franklin are approaching the production of the new album in a new way. Their live band is not really a part of the recording process. The past singles they have released have been done with different producers, who bring in the musicians based on the song. They have relied on the producers’ expertise and vision in finding musicians that support the core vibe of the song. They translate those ideas and allow the band to run with their gut instincts.

“I know the end result I want, but the way it gets to that point doesn’t matter as much. I’m very trusting of the people working on that music,” Becky shares.

“It’s nice to just be able to say, this is ours and we get to invite people into this art that we’ve created. That’s really affirming and powerful for us,” Laura adds.

Their team has consisted of producer Bryan Shackle (Nick Carter, Avril Lavigne), Tom Beaupre on bass (Florida Georgia Line), Tom Bright on pedal steel, and Richard Medek on drums. As they have leaned into a more Americana sound, the mandolin has been a welcomed addition. You might think that having a mandolin and ukulele may fight each other in tone, but The Twins of Franklin found a way to have them complement each other.

Photo by Erika Osterbur

Currently, The Twins of Franklin are leaning towards a February 2020 release at the Icehouse. Catch them at Twin Spirits Distillery on Halloween and brunch at the Icehouse on November 16th.

Smouse curates two series on Music in Minnesota. You can check out his work on the website, Facebook, or follow his articles on Instagram.

Smouse
Author: Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.

Written by Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.

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