Interview with the Sisters of Ten Bartram
Local sister-songwriting duo Eleanor Angel and Rebekah Angel Rapp made headlines when they broke the iTunes top 10 on the singer/songwriter chart with their EP, In Tandem, last fall. Here, CityScope catches up with the sisters about their musical background, inspirations, and plans for their band, Ten Bartram.
Interview by Maria Oldham | Photos by David Angel
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CS: How would you describe your music in five words?
RAR: Folk, harmony, sisters, siblings…That’s a good question. We’ll work on that one. [laughs]
CS: What were the first song(s) you learned?
RAR: We grew up with our parents jamming in the living room, and it was always Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan, and all these old folks songs. We learned a lot of those pretty quick.
EA: My mom used to sing us old lullabies.
RAR: Oh yeah. Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine, I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine. I don’t even remember the title, but it was one that our mom sang us to sleep with. We’ve performed it.
CS: Your whole family plays music?
EA: Well, like we said, our parents always exposed us to the music of their day. Our two older sisters sing and play guitar, but didn’t really pursue it like we did. Our brother is actually really good.
RAR: Our grandmother, Beverly Webb Nichols, lives on Lookout Mountain. She played the piano when I was little in Ten Bartram, the house we grew up just loving. She has a great voice. We’re trying to get her up on stage.
CS: Who writes the songs?
EA: Each song is different. Sometimes Bekah will just come up with something and say, “Here’s the words, here’s the music – let’s go.” Or I will. That’s actually where In Tandem comes from. The bikes are called in tandem bikes and you can’t do it by yourself.
CS: What kind of themes do you follow?
RAR: A lot of it has to do with what we’re going through. One of the songs, “Hemmed up Hopes,” is me processing a trip that I went on to Vietnam. Maybe someone will be moved by it, maybe not, but I wanted to share that. Music isn’t just about fixing things or making it better. It can uplift us, but a lot of it is about helping you be real with where you are.
EA: I feel like the reason we struggled to write originally was because we were constantly comparing. We thought: how do I write like that or like that? But it was when we just said, “Alright, this is me, this is what I’ve been through, this is my experience. Relate to it or not, but this is my music.”
RAR: That’s a huge struggle in life too. How do I relate to people? But if you make that your goal, you’re distracting yourself from the main point, which is about letting yourself be moved and touched by things and people and allowing yourself to do the same for others. We’re hoping to do that with our music—kind of let people in. And if they want, they can be a part of it.
CS: What’s your goal for Ten Bartram?
RAR: We feel like it’s out of our control in some ways.
EA: We didn’t even expect it to go as far as it has. We were always like, “What if it went somewhere?”
RAR: We were sixth on iTunes for a day and calling each other saying, “What if?” And then it was, “OK, what are we going to cook tonight?”
EA: It’s kind of surreal and I think we’re still getting used to the idea that this is something because it wasn’t for so long.
CS: What about upcoming shows or albums?
EA: Hopefully we’ll get some open mics around Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga.
RAR: We’d love to get a show at the H*Art gallery where I’m working. We want to bring people in and expose them to music and homeless art.
EA: An album, maybe in the next year.
RAR: Eleanor’s got some slower songs she’s working on and I’ve got some upbeat ones. And Beverly Webb Nichols will be on stage one day.