An Article by Johnny Cole
Photos by Stephen Anderson
Earlier this year on the evening of Sunday, March 24, I was introduced to the music of Aerial Grace “A.G.” and Skyler Rose Smith, a.k.a. the KneeOn Sisters, at the Alabama venue, The Listening Room of Mobile. Prior to this musical engagement, I had learned of these young sisters from the lineup at the 2018 Mississippi Songwriters Festival. The Tupelo, Mississippi-born sisters have spent the last few years in Colorado with their family learning and improving their skills as songwriters, musicians and performers.
Aeriel and Skyler’s love of music can be traced back to a very early age when they decided to start singing and playing music. Like many music artists, some of their earliest experiences began at church. Those skills led them to form the duo of Aerial on guitar and Skyler on bass. Their diverse sound, original songwriting and ability to tap into an array of genres have drawn much praise from several industry insiders, fellow musicians and venue owners.
“These girls have a bright future and are always welcome to perform at The Listening Room of Mobile.”
– Jim Pennington (The Listening Room of Mobile)
“I had the opportunity to conduct an on-camera interview with the KneeOn Sisters, coupled with filming their live set of original songs at the Listening Room of Mobile. They spoke wisdom beyond their years and through their writing and vocals, they grace the stage with the same maturity of those who had already lived a lifetime.”
– J.B. Lawrence (photographer/videographer whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone and Guitar Player magazines)
“Their familial harmonies catch your ear immediately, but then, you hear their musicianship and writing that is beyond their years. Catch the KneeOn Sisters now and you’ll be able to say, ‘I knew them when’… Oh, and they have Lucedale roots.” – Darwin Nelson (Mayor – Lucedale, MS; Founding Board Member – Mississippi Songwriters Festival)
“It was a pleasure photographing Aerial and Skyler. During the photo shoot, they remained disciplined and focused, especially, for such a hot summer afternoon – real troopers.”
– Stephen “Andy” Anderson (Chief photographer – The Southland Music Line)
Several things impressed me about the sisters: their sincerity, passion and devotion to their music and career. At 15 months apart, A.G. (age 17) and Skyler (age 16), are mature beyond their years. They also show a balanced view of things, obviously from having a loving and caring family. Being homeschooled and avoiding the distractions of the outside world, they can concentrate on their music – yes, they’re not your typical teenage girls, but are fine examples of what it takes to reach one’s (or in this case, two musicians’) dreams. “On a personal note outside of music, they also enjoy riding dirt bikes”.
Recently, The Southland Music Line met up with Aerial, Skyler and their mom in Ocean Springs, Mississippi to discuss their music and future plans. The following are a series of questions posed to Aerial and Skyler:
☆ 1. Tell us about the reason behind your names – “Aerial & Skyler” and their spelling. Could you explain their origin?
Aerial – “Our dad is a pilot and my name ‘Aerial’ is spelled that way because of the aviation reference and Skyler as in ‘the sky’. He wanted us to be like air show pilots so when people would look up into the sky they would say ‘Oh wow! There’s Aerial Grace and Skyler Rose’.”
Skyler – “They have like a nice aviation ring to them.”
☆ 2. Secondly, the name of the duo – “KneeOn Sisters”. Could you give us the inside scoop about where the name came from?
Aerial/Skyler – “We were thinking of the word Neon, as in something colorful, youthful and bright. Our Dad suggested maybe a different spelling of the word. Since we are Christians, we decided on ‘KneeOn’ as in you’re ‘praying on’ – kind of a special meaning behind the name.”
☆ 3. I know you began playing instruments and singing at an early age, but when did you first realize you wanted to do this “whole thing” – seriously writing songs and performing as a career?
Aerial/Skyler – “It’s coming up on two years ago when we decided to take things more serious. After attempts at forming a band with others, we decided to do so as sisters since we knew we could rely on one another – we have a good bond.”
Skyler – “We used to play in church before deciding to become KneeOn – it led into what we are doing now.”
☆ 4. Two part question: What best describes your sound to others? Secondly, as songwriters, where do find your inspirations?
Aerial – “At first it was more country and contemporary, but we gradually became more ‘roots rock’….. we like to just rock out with our drummer. Larkin Poe call themselves ‘roots rock’, yet play about everything. We strive to do that as well.”
Aerial – “As for songwriting inspirations, my songs are often based on emotions and what’s happening in life. For example with ‘Face Pace’, was written when things in life were picking up and moving along. Alternatively, ‘Slow’ was just the opposite and inspired when things were moving slower than we wanted. A lot has to do with the circumstances we are experiencing at the time.”
Skyler – “I, too, can say my emotions factor in, but I also write a lot about subjects that interest me. For example, I have an untitled song that I’m presently calling the ‘Mental Illness Song’ because the subject interests me.”
Aerial – “You know how songwriters have other artists write with them? Well, it’s cool because we often write songs with our Dad as a trio sharing ideas for songs. When one person has an idea, we will bring it to the others.”
☆ 5. How do you balance a career between being a music artist, having school work and spending time with family and friends?
Skyler – “Of course, we have our responsibilities, yet music is the main thing we do. Plus, we spend lots of time working on songs with our family to incorporate them in our goals.”
Aerial – “Music is our passion. Even our outside family is a part and show support for us. When we go to gigs, we will often meet up for dinner before the show so we spend a lot of time together in an effort for a good balance.”
☆ 6. Two part question: who is your inspiration in music and secondly, in life?
Aerial/Skyler – “Presently our inspiration in music are certain ones like Larkin Poe, Dorothy, and Dea Matrona.”
Aerial – “As for an inspiration in life, that’s a difficult question to answer because there are so many but to narrow it down, I would say Skyler gives me a lot of inspiration because she has a cool head about stuff. I often get worked up about things and she has a way of cooling me down.”
Skyler – “I feel the same way towards A.G. because she is so organized and helps me keep things together.”
☆ 7. You’ve already named some music artists so adding to that, what kinds music are you presently following?
Aerial – “Classic rock, indie rock stuff. Skyler listens to slightly different music than me.”
Skyler – “I like classic rock stuff like the Rolling Stones, but I also like dark indie pop stuff – even a bit creepy.” (laughs)
☆ 8. Both of you are becoming more seasoned as professional music artists. How would you describe the process?
Aerial/Skyler – “Well, at times it feels natural, but often it comes in phases when you’re practicing something. Sometimes when writing a song, it can be hard or you have writer’s block, but then at other times, it easily comes together – it’s like ‘yeah yeah, we got this’.”
Aerial – “We often go up to our room when something just clicks and we will begin with harmonies. When we first started, we had trouble with harmonies so we had to work hard at it. As with most things in life, you work hard at it and then boom, you got it.”
☆ 9. Your family has lived in both Colorado and Mississippi. What are the differences between performing to audiences in these two locations?
Aerial – “Well, the #1 thing; it’s definitely the temperature for outdoor gigs. It’s much warmer down here in Mississippi. There are a lot of similarities and we enjoy performing for both, but if there are any differences, it’s that the Mississippi crowds tend to listen more while the Colorado crowds seem to rock out with you.”
Skyler – “Mississippi audiences listen more to the word whereas, Colorado audiences are not so much worried about how the song originated.”
☆ 10. What have been some of your favorite places to perform?
Aerial – “We enjoy performing at lots of places. One in particular was on the 4th of July at Riverside Park in Salida, Colorado because there was a good mixture in the crowd. There were those really listening and then others dancing. It was a whole lot of fun. Plus, it was our largest crowd to perform in front of.”
Skyler – “We also enjoy performing at The Listening Room in Mobile, Alabama because of the intimacy and people are so attentive.”
☆ 11. I’m going to ask this next part to you separately (Skyler leaves our table first, while Aerial gives her answers). I’m going to say a name or term and ask what is the first word(s) or thing that comes to mind.
▪︎ Rock & Roll?
Aerial – “Rolling Stones”
Skyler – “Rolling Stones”
Aerial – “Playing on the stage with people having a good time.”
Skyler – “Devotion to music; music is their life.”
Aerial – “Mountains”
Skyler – “Mountains and scenic beauty”
Aerial – (about Skyler) “Easy going”
Skyler – (about Aerial) “Someone I can rely on”
Aerial – “A SF15 Excalibur; the first plane I remember my dad flying when I was young.”
Skyler – “My dad flying his plane.”
Aerial – “Family and home”
Skyler – “The blues and water”
Aerial – “A way to express”
Skyler – “A way to express feelings”
▪︎ Role Model?
Aerial – “Skyler”
Skyler – “Our family; closeness of our family”
☆ 12. What are your plans over the next six months to a year?
Aerial/Skyler – “One of the biggest short-term things is to have a better internet and social media presence. Even if not big production stuff, we would like to find various ways to get our music out there on You Tube, Instagram and Facebook. Also, to show more of our personalities. We want people to get to know us.”
Aerial – “We do want to get back in the studio, because we have lots of songs. Lately, I’ve also been interested in home recordings of our original songs. For example, I recently did a song of ours on a home recording and even though I would like to eventually do a major production on it, for now I would like to release it to show the progress on it.”
In July, The Southland Music Line named The KneeOn Sisters as one of the “15 Artists to Watch” for the remainder of 2019. A year ago, they released the excellent 4-song EP “Take One” and are constantly working on new material. In September, they returned to The Mississippi Songwriters Festival and will be performing at The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs for the Mississippi Songwriters Alliance “Songs & Stories” live show on November 21.
It was a pleasure to spend an afternoon with the KneeOn Sisters for the interview and Stephen Anderson’s photo shoot. They are two very impressive young ladies with a neon bright future. The Line looks forward to following their promising career and feels strongly that we will be hearing a lot more from the KneeOn Sisters in the coming months and years.
You can expect more of The Southland Music Line’s 12 Q&A Series in the coming months. Our thanks to Aerial, Skyler and their parents for their participation and we wish them all the best. Please also check out the KneeOn Sisters photo collection by Stephen “Andy” Anderson.
Click Here for KneeOn Sisters Official Website.
Click Here to follow KneeOn Sisters on Facebook.
Click Here to follow KneeOn Sisters on Instagram.
Click Here to follow KneeOn Sisters on YouTube.
Video of KneeOn Sisters by J.B. Lawrence:
Jim Pennington, The Listening Room of Mobile, J.B. Lawrence, Mayor Darwin Nelson, Mississippi Songwriters Alliance, Mississippi Songwriters Festival, Gulf Islands National Seashore, City of Ocean Springs, MS and L&N Railroad
Page designed and edited by Johnny Cole
Additonal editing by Cindy Thamert & Brenda Germany
© The Southland Music Line. 2019. All rights reserved