It’s a cliché that often you must travel the furthest distance only to discover what was right under your nose all along. Yet this was precisely the experience of Ryan and Kaylee Williams, who together form the Seattle-based, brother-sister duo, The Native Sibling.
A couple of years ago, Kaylee was exploring a scholastic pursuit in a quaint town in rural Ireland. Already an accomplished singer, she found herself quickly assimilating with local musicians and singing traditional acoustic folk music at local pubs. Ryan, taking a break from his normal grind as a touring and session guitar player, came for a visit not knowing what to expect from new and unfamiliar territory.
These two siblings had clearly missed one another, and needed an outlet to rekindle their closeness. What happened next was a spontaneous flurry of songwriting that neither had anticipated. Inspired by their new surroundings, they spent many late nights crafting songs and discovering how seamlessly their voices harmonized into a singular sound and vision. “When I came to visit, it was the first time we had ever performed together. The foreign and musical environment sparked our curiosity to play a few songs together at a pub. It felt as if we had been singing for years,” said Ryan.
It was obvious to both that they should continue making music together, so they brainstormed a fitting moniker. “Ryan and I had finally met in a place where we wanted to make the same kind of music. The response assured us that our journey needed to continue as a combined effort,” said Kaylee.
Growing up beside the inspiring backdrop of the Santa Cruz mountains, Ryan and Kaylee shared a childhood blessed by a nurturing family, but also marred by tragedy of their mother’s death just five years ago. They credit her for instilling in them a passionate spirit and a love of music. Ryan and Kaylee are also heavily influenced by Joy Williams (of the Civil Wars), who was part of their community growing up in Santa Cruz, CA.
After releasing their first EP, recorded by a close friend in Santa Monica, the duo toured up and down the coast, which served to tighten their bond and hone their abilities. In an effort to build upon their momentum, they sought out New York producer Daniel Mendez (Noah Gundersen, Dashboard Confessional, Heart) to make their first full-length album. Ryan and Kaylee took a leap of faith and holed up at Mendez’ Brooklyn studio for a full two months. Fortunately, it was the precise chemistry they had been looking for. As Ryan explains, "Daniel listened to what we do naturally, found the best parts and brought them to the forefront of this album. He gave us the perspective to realize what we are capable of creating. I'll never forget him saying, ‘If I do my job right, nobody will know I was even here.’”
The result is the meticulously crafted and sonically beautiful 'Letters Kept To Ourselves.' The 10-song album is minimal in its acoustic instrumentation, but lush with harmonies and endlessly rich with emotive lyrics. The music seems to conjure up diverse images of sun-drenched California days, the vastness of the ocean and the emptiness of a cold, windy day in Ireland.
Lyrically, this deeply personal album examines family, meaningful relationships, the pursuit of dreams, overcoming loss, and remaining together through it all. On the powerful and anthemic opener Darkest of Night Skies, Ryan sings, “Flames staring at your face, hollowing your eyes, telling you what you aspire.” Its chilling melodies and cavernous bass drum serve as a perfect backdrop to the lyric. As Ryan explains, “Carrying out dreams can often put distance between an individual and their friends and family. In the discomfort of loneliness we can find strength in the experience.”
Another standout track, Evening’s Wake, features the two singing forcefully over a warm and driving bed of piano and acoustic guitar: "With the weight of winter's hint, we try so hard to bury it. I won't go back, back to them, until the evening awakes." Their haunting harmonies conjure up shades of Emmylou Harris and Graham Parsons, or at times Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. “This song acknowledges our own patterns and tempted behaviors. Falling back into them and striving to break them each day,” said Kaylee.