Watch out for Walker County. The two-sister duo from a family farm in Indiana are the perfect gift for country radio, all wrapped up with a pretty little big-haired bow.
I saw Walker County at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds‘ Anderson Music Hall in Hiawassee, Ga. as they opened for Martina McBride. Often openers can be filler acts who are talented, but don’t have the “it factor”- that magical thing required to make it big in Nashville.
After a song or two, it became clear that Walker County has “it” down. The duo wrote every song on their upcoming album, and even co-wrote “The Real Thing,” track number five from Martina’s latest album, “Reckless.”
I’m actually kind of giddy to share Walker County with you now, when they’re on the way up, because I’m pretty sure you’ll be singing along to one of their hits this time next year, when they’ve already gone and made it big.
The sisters, Ivy Dene Walker, 22, and Sophie Dawn Walker, 19, took command of the stage like seasoned pros, all doodied up in rhinestones, big hair and fringe a la Dolly Parton.
But it was their self-penned songs, ones that sound like they must already be a hit, that made it clear that Walker County is destined for country stardom.
The sisters have a soulful sound, with harmonies and a cool factor that remind me of Little Big Town.
My favorite song they sang, and the one most likely to be a hit single, in my opinion, was “Time Machine.”
Their voices swell in harmony as they detail the power of a country song that takes them back to when they were with a long lost love. The chorus ends wistfully, “…who says there’s no such thing as a time machine?”
The duo has an album in the works on Nashville’s Warner Brothers label, tentatively set to come out this fall, and when they’re not writing in the studio, they travel the country, opening for other big-wigs including Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam.
Ivy Dene and Sophie Dawn grew up on the Walker family farm in a small town in Indiana, and began traveling to Nashville with their family to perform as street musicians at the ages of eight and 11.
I spoke with them, and their proud mama, Janis, after their Hiawassee performance. Now based in Nashville, the girls travel with Janis, and their daddy, Billy, who plays guitar for the group.
Growing up on the family farm, Ivy and Sophie were always close to family.
“Our Great-Grandpa Walker, he owned the farm, and all of our cousins lived like a field away from each other,” Ivy said.
The Walkers raised soybeans, corn and “then we had some cows for a little bit.” Ivy said. “We grew up in 4-H and FFA and all of that.”
A Nashville family vacation began Walker County’s journey toward careers in country music.
“Sophie was eight and I was 11 years old, and we actually went to Nashville on a family vacation, and my dad was like, ‘Hey, do you girls want to street perform, just to say we did it?'” Ivy said.
“So we started street performing and making some money and we started going down once every month and doing that. So we started doing that, and we went back to Indiana and started playing local churches and festivals, and it just grew from there,” she said.
Ivy said the family started performing together “about every weekend all through middle school and high school,” and “would play everywhere we could and everywhere they’d listen to us.”
The hard work has paid off for Walker County. Three years ago, the group signed with Warner Music Nashville, joining well-known artists including Blake Shelton, Kenny Rogers and Randy Travis, among many others on the label.
Songwriters and performers, the duo spends the first half of each week writing in the studio, and weekends opening for acts like Martina.
Ivy said when they got the call that Martina would like to record “The Real Thing,” penned along with co-writers Hailey Whitters and Adam Wright, “it was one of the coolest things that happened when we first moved to Nashville. It was awesome.”
The duo said they grew up listening to “a lot of traditional country,” which inspires their writing.
“We always try to pull in a little bit of that, even if it has more of a newer country feel, we try to keep one foot in the traditional world always,” Sophie said.