There are a lot of things that stand out regarding Nashville-by-way-of-L.A. duo Miss Willie Brown. There's the fact that they are two attractive women, of course, to start. There's also the tremendous amount of energy they bring to a live performance, the fact that they're obsessive (and talented) songwriters, and that they're just plain a lot of fun to watch and listen to.
However, there's one thing that really puts them above the pack. What's that? People love to take chances on them.
It's a rare quality, and it's been proven again and again with the duo's history and rise to where they currently shine in the Nashville scene. Having started out as waitresses in the Los Angeles area, Amanda Watkins and Kasey Buckley have now managed to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live twice, open for Dierks Bentley on tour, and put out a swingin' single written by Mutt Lange (reminder: that's Shania's ex) and produced by Nathan Chapman (reminder: that's Taylor Swift's producer). Not a bad resume for a young outfit; not too shabby at all.
"We're very lucky, that's very true. That's been a big part of our past," Watkins admits. She adds that she and Buckley never even planned on starting a band when they first met.
"Kasey's from Texas, and I'm originally from West Virginia. We moved out to California for different reasons--she came out to do acting act, I came out to do music," she explains. The two met at the barbecue joint where they both waited tables and discovered they shared an affinity for songwriting.
"What happened was really interesting," Watkins notes. "We didn't really plan on having a band, or anything like that, but once we started writing, our friends were like 'oh, that sounds good!' and it kind of snowballed."
From that point on, the pair decided to throw themselves into attracting crowds to their live shows around town, figuring it would be the best way to start a buzz. "We would do everything from making the funniest flyers you've ever seen; to when we were working, we'd talk to every single customer asking them to come to the show," Watkins says. "The next thing you know, we're pulling 200-300 people a show, and we're a country band from Los Angeles, and people are like, how are you pulling this many numbers? I really give it to the fact that we were waitresses and we worked really hard."
It wasn't just hard work at play. The girls had a goofy sense of humor that, combined with their charm and musical ability, no doubt helped attract fans. Buckley recalls a memorable flyer they designed for one show: "We had this one of this guy--we got it from Google Images--sitting on a toilet on his porch. And he's going to the bathroom. And he had a mullet and a beer in his hand...while he was basically taking a poop. On it we wrote, 'This guy's gonna be there. Are you?'"
How could anyone resist?! Watkins agrees. "We tried to let everybody know they were coming for a party--we're going to have an uptempo show and have a good time. We did it with the goal to get as many people at every show that we could. It was a big deal making a buzz around town."
That "big deal" did turn out to be a big deal, literally. Jimmy Kimmel's talent booker happened to be at a show one night, and was sufficiently impressed to put the girls on the show a mere month later, despite the fact that they had no record contract or album out. "We were actually the first unsigned band to play late night," Watkins notes proudly. "It was a feat and an honor, and we're very grateful for it."
About this time--and, signed to a record deal at this point--Watkins and Buckley decided it would be wise to pack their bags and relocate to Nashville. "We waited for the business to be ready to have us," Watkins explains, nothing that they'd already been traveling extensively to Tennessee in order to write and record their self-titled EP, which was released in March of 2011. However, once they arrived, they set about making personal inroads much the same way they did in L.A.--simply getting out there and having fun meeting people.
"We got lucky, we have a great label behind us that shoots to get the best people possible to work with us," Watkins says, relating that the pair met producer Chapman via songwriting sessions, and was hooked up with Lange after the head of their label played him some of their music. "He liked our stuff, and that's how he came up with [first single] 'You're All That Matters To Me." It's just from networking and being out here and talking. Pretty much that."
Another fortuitous break came when Dierks Bentley selected them to open for him on his 2011 Jagermeister tour. "We didn't even have an album out, yet he took a chance on us. When we had nothing, nothing at all," Watkins says. "He was so great to tour with because he really set an example for up-and-coming musicians about how to treat the people you work with. He's very down to earth, humble, and considerate. He got up early to do his soundcheck to make sure we would have a soundcheck. Normally opening bands don't get a soundcheck. But he gave us 30 mins every day that we were on tour."
So what is it exactly about Miss Willie Brown that makes folks instantly fall in love with them, so easily, so effortlessly? Buckley thinks it has a lot to do with their overall attitude towards their career, lives, and being strong women in country music. "We just think it has a lot to do with being truthful and being honest about how you feel and what you believe--and how you communicate what you believe," she explains. "How you treat your art and respect people you work with. It so happens that we are strong-minded women. Fight hard, and love hard, and we party hard and play hard and work hard. And we like to sing about it!"
Watkins and Buckley will be embarking on tour with Jon Pardi and Frankie Ballard October 4, playing select dates around the country through December. You can check to see if they're coming to your town here.