Television commercials can be annoying. Many of them seem to run ad infinitum. You know the ones. Madison Avenue equivalents of fingernails on a chalkboard. How could the advertisers not know how annoying they are? Which of course, is exactly what was intended in order to make the message remain in your mind. But once in a while, a commercial runs that is so soothing, I actually look forward to seeing and hearing it again and again. You know the one. A whale shark has been constrained by a fishing net, and scuba divers are unselfishly setting it free, all to the tune of a plaintive chanteuse that is so soothing I feel like I’ve just been dropped into a trampolined bank of heavenly cumulus clouds. So when I finally researched the music, I had no idea the song was Tomorrow Will be Kinder, performed by one of my favorite Americana singing duos, The Secret Sisters. The stunning harmonies of real-life sisters Laura Rogers and Lydia Slagle from Muscle Shoals, Alabama have been compared to The Everly Brothers. Which makes it seem so amazing that they came so close more than once to not being in the music business.
Like many of their southern peers, Laura and Lydia first learned to harmonize through singing a cappella at their hometown church, but never considered a singing career as a duo, with Laura going off to college in Tennessee to pursue a career in business, while Lydia was considered the “real” singer of the family. When they did start to audition for others, (first Laura, then adding Lydia as “the secret sister”), it wasn’t long before producers sat up and took notice, and the girls were signed in 2010 by Universal Republic Records, leading to their self-titled debut album. However, after a second album that drew mixed reviews on the production and songwriting, The Secret Sisters were dropped by their label. Facing bankruptcy after the loss of their label, unable to pay their band’s touring expenses, and enduring a lawsuit with a former manager, the girls suffered an artistic block, and returned to their home in Alabama and considered giving up music altogether.
As fate would have it, during the fall of 2015, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile invited the Rogers sisters to open shows for her, including two notable hometown Seattle concerts. During soundcheck, Laura and Lydia tried out “Tennessee River Runs Low,” a new song that would eventually end up as the lead single from the You Don’t Own Me Anymore album. Carlile had been listening from the auditorium seats and shouted her enthusiasm, encouraging the duo to share the rest of the songs they had recently written. Soon, Carlile was producing their next record. In order to fund the new album, the sisters launched a successful PledgeMusic campaign that raised 50% of their goal in just 48 hours (and exceeded it in just over a month) with nearly 1,500 fans coming forward to personally help them rebuild. The Secret Sisters went on tour in 2017 in support of their new record, and the album eventually garnered the duo’s first Grammy nomination, in the category of Grammy Award for Best Folk Album, further proof that with the right help from others, tomorrow truly can be kinder.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that idea this morning in the wake of the crushing news that one of my life inspirations Anthony Bourdain took his life this morning in a Paris hotel. This coming on the heels of designer Kate Spade’s suicide last week after a long battle with anxiety and depression. My wife and I have long believed that we don’t have a clue at this point for how to effectively deal with depression in this country. And it touches all of us one way or another. School shootings. Relationship disasters. And now the loss of one more shining light who simply yet profoundly lost the ability to cope. And we also believe that in this modern age, even with all of the communication technology that we have available to us, we’re more out of touch with each other fundamentally than we’ve ever been. And although the idea gets thrown around a lot, this has nothing to do with religion. If anything, that just seems to muddy the waters even further. I truly believe we’re losing our ability to be human. So in Tony and Kate’s honor, let’s try working to be better with that idea. If someone close to you is suffering from depression, do everything in your power to help them. And never stop understanding that their battle is real, and can’t just be pushed under the rug or prayed away. If you’re a faith-driven person, there’s nothing wrong with praying for them. Do everything. But go the extra mile and help them in other ways too. That should be the biggest part of being human. We all deserve to have the chance to experience a kinder tomorrow. Have a wonderful Friday and weekend everyone. And practice being human.