After spending some time writing songs and waiting table in Austin in the mid-2000s, the sister duo known as the Hello Strangers headed back home to Pennsylvania. However, rather than settling into a familiar routine, Larissa Chace Smith and Brechyn Chace were inspired to create more music — and to figure out new ways of getting it out there.
In 2012, the duo won a recording session in a contest sponsored by Airplay Direct. They headed to Franklin, Tennessee, and spent three days recording their new, self-titled album with producer Steve Ivey. Offering a satisfying mix of smart songwriting and memorable melodies — not to mention the undeniable sibling harmonies — the duo’s music usually falls into the folk-pop realm but without alienating avid Americana listeners. As for “Ruined,” it’s 100 percent honky-tonk.
“To be honest, I wrote this after I got in an argument with my fiance,” Brechyn tells CMT Edge. “It was a really stupid argument, and I don’t recall what it was about, but it was one of those things that happens when you and someone you love — whether it’s a friend, your significant other or a sibling that you are in a band with — just aren’t hitting on all cylinders, and you take things that are bothering you in other parts of your life out on them.”
She continues, “Well, we got in this argument, or as we like to call them, ‘discussions,’ and I felt like I had ruined the evening. The song is a little more dramatic than what actually happened. No one was trying to show someone to the door or left out in the cold, but what better way to harness those feelings after a fight than to write a honky-tonk song?”
As Larissa explains, “Our fandom surrounding classic country didn’t truly begin until we moved to Austin, Texas, in 2003. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, we weren’t exposed to anything aside from pop country on the radio. When we moved to Austin, we both waitressed at a restaurant on South Congress Avenue called D&L’s Texas Music Cafe. It was all about Texas cooking and Texas music. Dale Watson was a regular, and it was right next to the Continental Club.”
She adds, “The music on the sound system made its way into our psyches as we served customers, as did the live music they had regularly there. As Northerners, the laid-back swagger of classic country went perfectly with the Southwestern environment we were suddenly inhabiting — the city of Austin but also the vast desert of West Texas. And then we learned to two-step at the Broken Spoke, and we were hooked on honky-tonk and that classic country sound. We’ve never looked back.”
The Hello Strangers have several shows coming up in Pennsylvania in the coming weeks, including a record release party on Nov. 8 in Shippensburg. Raise your bottle and check out “Ruined.”