Country Next: Walker County
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Walker County.
Photo Courtesy Walker County
Walker County has been working hard on its musical craft for many years. Hailing from rural Sulphur Springs, Indiana, sisters Ivy Dene and Sophie Dawn formed a family band with their father, Billy Walker, in 2007. With Ivy’s soulful lead vocals and Sophie’s angelic harmony and hard-driving rhythms on drums, nothing quite compares to the talent of Walker County.
After bringing their modern-traditional sound to Nashville’s Lower Broadway, the sister-duo struck a deal with Warner Music Nashville and quickly began making a name for themselves. Their music also caught the attention of Kelly Clarkson, who Tweeted them and invited them to appear on her show.
After making their national TV debut on The Kelly Clarkson Show with their bubbly track, “Bits & Pieces,” Walker County released their single, “Liar,” which features a bluesy rhythm alongside relatable, self-penned heartache lyrics. Their most recent track is called “You and Jesus,” featuring accompanying vocals by singer/songwriter Greylan James.
“As children, I think one of the very first songs we ever learned was ‘Jesus Loves Me’ – and I think that’s probably true for a lot of people!” Walker County’s Sophie Dawn shared in a press release. “We are so excited about this ‘You and Jesus’ because it involves two of our greatest loves: country music and Jesus. It speaks to the idea that Jesus accepts us no matter who we are or what we’ve done, and the love we receive from others is a result of his love for us. We can’t wait for y’all to hear this special duet with the incredible Greylan James!”
Walker County, who has shared the stage with Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Martina McBride, and Old Dominion, caught up with Country Now to talk about their journey in country music, working together as sisters, and current music.
Read on to find out more about Walker County in this exclusive Q&A below.
How did you begin a career in country music?
Ivy Dene: We started playing music together as a family when I was 12-years-old, and Sophie was 9-years-old. I had sung in church a little bit. But, we hadn’t done anything too serious. Then we went to Nashville, and dad said, ‘Hey! To say, ‘We did it,’ let’s open up the guitar case on Broadway and street perform.’ So we did. Sophie and I sang a few songs that we had learned from our dad. After that, he was like, ‘Gosh girls! You made yourself like ten bucks. Do you want to come back and do it again? Whatever you make, I will let you split the money.’ So Sophie and I were like, ‘Heck yes! We are hooked!’ So, we started coming to Nashville about once a month to street perform. That quickly turned into us going, ‘I think this could be something real.’ So we started playing back home at fairs, festivals, churches, and anywhere they would listen to us. We played in a family band all through middle school and high school. So, we have been playing country music together for about 14 years.
Was it easy to juggle music and school, growing up?
Sophie Dawn: Growing up, we played music every single weekend. Unlike other kids, we missed all of the football games and dances. But, we were also having so much fun because we would get to travel and meet tons of new people. Ivy and I just fell in love with the lifestyle of music. Luckily, our school was very kind to us. They let us out whenever we had to play a show. They supported us, knowing that it was a career that we were serious about. So we are very thankful for that. We grew up in a small town, as Ivy said. So, our school was small. It was different from what other kids were doing, but they were so kind about it to us.
Did you know from the beginning who would play on drums and who would sing?
Sophie Dawn: It was a very natural thing, honestly. Ivy has this amazing vocal talent. She has been singing since she was five at church. She also sang on karaoke tracks and stuff like that. So when we started our band, we knew Ivy was the lead singer, and I would sing along quietly with her. But, we started out doing bluegrass. So I would play mandolin, and eventually, we were like, ‘I don’t think people want to dance at weddings along with bluegrass music.’ We were not getting that vibe. So, my dad surprised me with a sparkly Pearl Vision drum kit. I was so excited. I thought it was the coolest thing. I thought it was so cool to be a girl drummer because you do not see that much. And, so I sat into that over the years. I learned more and developed more of a way to go about the drumming and stuff. And it has been so much fun! Also, seeing other little girls inspired to become drummers now too because of seeing a Walker County show is the coolest thing to ever happen to me.
How long have you been in Nashville? I’m assuming you made the move?
Ivy Dene: Yes! So, we moved to Nashville in 2014. We have now been here for eight years. We moved when Sophie was a Sophomore, and we had a record deal at the time. Moving was, for us, God’s way of telling us, ‘This is where you need to be.’ We had gotten the deal with Warner Music Nashville. So we were like, ‘This is happening.’ When we moved here, we fell in love with Nashville. We love where we grew up, but Nashville is just – if you are in the music business, it is the place to be. We have met many amazing writers and artists and have grown and learned so much from the community. So, I think the way we did it is perfect. We’re planning on staying in Nashville for the future. So we love it here!
What artists inspire you?
Sophie Dawn: I am a big ‘80s rock fan. One of my favorite bands is Skid Row! I also love Motley Crue, and Tommy Lee was a big part in inspiring me to put on more of a show when I am drumming. So, I think you can hear that influence at our shows. I rock out. I never hold back. I think it’s because of that inspiration that Tommy Lee or Lars Ulrich is just so talented, and I love watching them because the people and their fans come to see them just as much as they come to see the lead singer. So, I look up to them as a drummer.
As sisters, what is the dynamic when you’re getting ready for a show? Do you ever disagree on the small things, like what clothes to wear?
Ivy Dene: Oh, for sure! Sophie and I are your classic sisters. We are each other’s best friends, but we fight over the littlest things a lot. But we get over it pretty quick. But, a lot of the time, it is over, like, I wanted to wear those shoes today, or if you’re wearing that, I can’t wear the outfit I planned. We do have similar styles in the music aspect, though. So, when we are about to go and record music or if we are writing, a lot of the time, we agree on a lot. There are rare times when we’ve disagreed on a song, which is a blessing that we have the same taste in music. I guess the biggest fights would be over clothes! (Laughs).
What is the inspiration behind your recent song “Liar”?
Sophie Dawn: We wrote that song with David Garcia and Hillary Lindsey. The idea for it came from an honest conversation between Ivy and me. We were riding in a car, and I asked Ivy if she was over this guy. She was like, ‘Oh. I’m so over him.’ I was like, ‘You are such a liar. I know when you’re lying.’ And she wrote that idea down on her phone for a song. We brought that idea to David and Hillary, and, of course, they knocked it out of the park with the track, and the lyric is just so perfect. We wanted it to be a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ take on a serious situation of not being able to get over somebody.
Do you always draw from personal experience with the songs that you write?
Ivy Dene: A lot of the time. We have listed in our phones these different song titles that have come to us throughout life that we have heard people say or things that happen to us that speak to us. We’re like, ‘Oh! That would make a great song.’ And it’s cool too because we write with so many great talented writers. Sometimes we’ll go in thinking, ‘Oh! We’re going to write about this idea today.’ But then the writer says something that brings in a new idea, and you’re like, ‘Oh! That’s so good! Let’s write that.’ So it all depends on the day and who is in the writing room. Also, Sophie and I are super into visuals. So with almost every song that we write, we’re thinking of music video ideas for it or a photoshoot that would go with it. We love that side of being artists as well. So with all of the videos that we put out, we’ve been super involved in the creative process. So, we’ve loved every part of being an artist and putting out music.
You made your TV debut with ‘Bits & Pieces’ on The Kelly Clarkson Show. What was that experience like for you? It seems like Kelly is such a huge supporter of your music.
Ivy Dene: Yes! So, Kelly found us on YouTube, which is insane! I remember getting that tweet where she tweeted about Walker County. Sophie and I were crying over it. We were in tears. After that, we were like, ‘Wow. That’s so cool that she even knows about us.’ Then, we got the offer to be on her show, and we were just dying because Sophie and I have been fans of her for years! We remember our mom would let us stay up past our bedtime when I was in second grade to watch American Idol because she was on it. So for her to be the first TV show that we appeared on was so exciting. She was the absolute sweetest. We were nervous. We were like, ‘We don’t know what to expect.’ And she immediately calmed us down and was just so down to earth. So, we’re so excited about how that all happened.
Have you stayed in touch with her, and does she continue to offer any advice to you?
Sophie Dawn: She hasn’t reached out yet. But I do think that we will probably be back eventually. It was such a wonderful time, and we do have mutual friends, and she is so sweet. We are very blessed that she had us on her show and, at the very least, tweeted at us. It’s incredible to watch her as a young child and then experience this full-circle moment to be there standing next to her, and she’s so kind.
If you could reflect and go back to ages 9 and 12, what would you say to your younger selves?
Ivy Dene: That’s so good! I think Sophie and I are blessed to have parents who encouraged us to be our individual selves. They were always pushing us. I would reiterate that more to my younger self. I’d tell her, ‘Hey. Don’t let high school get you down. Don’t let school be the only thing you’re worried about in life because that comes and goes so quickly.’ I worried about our music and whether or not it was going to be the popular stuff that we were hearing? And, I still come back to, you know, just be yourself and remember the music you started making and what you fell in love with.
Sophie Dawn: I’d honestly go back to my younger self and say, ‘Just hang in there!’ A lot of times, the business is amazing and great. But there are also times when it’s hard, you know, you are working on your passion. This is something that we are both passionate about. It’s something we have a deep love for. So when things don’t go right, it definitely gets you down more than a regular 9-5 job would – that you’re not so passionate about, and you’re just going through the motions with it. It does get you down extra bad. So, I would go back to myself and say, ‘Sophie. Just hang in there. The tough times are so worth all of the highs and peaks of the career.’
What’s next for you?
Ivy Dene: We have new music to share, and we are so ready to put it out! Over the last couple of years, we have been writing a ton, just a lot from our hearts and from our personal experience. So the music is – we’re very eager to get it out there. So, be looking forward to music very soon. We also will be performing at Stagecoach this year, which is a bucket list for us!
Fans can keep up with Walker County on Instagram.
Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Country Now, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.