Acoustic duo Jill Pickering and Kate Rapier have spent long enough in the shadows. Now, it is their turn to shine.
Mind you, the duo never minded being in the shadows. Travelling the world as back-up singers for pop star Kelly Clarkson, performing for tens of thousands of people on a weekly basis isn’t so bad after all.
But all the while they were performing as a part of Clarkson’s band, Jill and Kate quietly amassed their own arsenal of original material.
Since 2005, the duo’s simple, folk-pop inspired songwriting has been featured on four full-length efforts: Finding My Own Way, East Coast Bound, Songs on the 17th Vol. 1 and Heart Of Stone. Their most recent release is Acoustic Covers, a seven-song EP that sees Jill & Kate performing acoustic renditions of songs by Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry and more.
But all of this might not have been had fate not intervened and brought Jill, a New Hampshire native together with Kate (who called Colorado home) together at a music program in Martha’s Vineyard.
“We met at a music program where we were paired up to co-write a song,” Kate says. “When we performed the track for our peers, a lot of people told us how well our voices blended together and so we figured we should keep working together.”
Following their graduation from college, Jill and Kate decamped to Los Angeles to see where the music business could take them. It was there that they met Clarkson who caught a performance from the duo based on the recommendation of her manager.
“We played a show at this tiny venue which Kelly ended up seeing,” Jill says. “A couple of weeks later, Kelly asked if we would be interested in singing backup for her which was just amazing as we weren’t necessarily seeking out an opportunity like that. In fact, it never really crossed our minds.”
Jill and Kate’s first gig with Clarkson would be a trial by fire of sorts, performing in front of 250,000 people at the Daytona 500. The show marked the beginning of a prosperous six years with Clarkson.
As they travelled the world with Clarkson, Jill and Kate were writing original material. They seemingly had the best of all worlds: The duo was writing their own songs, playing shows and releasing records when the opportunity was present all the while maintaining their roles as a part of Clarkson’s band.
“There was definitely a certain amount of security, being a part of Kelly’s band,” Kate begins. “We were given this amazing opportunity to pursue our own thing while taking in being a part of this amazing group of people on the road.”
“It was almost as though we were getting paid to learn from the best,” Jill picks up from her songwriting partner. We were so grateful for the experience.”
Grateful as they were for the opportunities they had been given, both Jill and Kate feel it was somewhat inevitable they would eventually leave the comfort of Clarkson’s world in order to pursue their own career.
“I think we knew that it would come to me and Jill going off to do our own thing at some point,” Kate says. “Kelly was always incredibly supportive of what we were doing on our own but her career is huge. Being a part of her world meant we weren’t able to focus on the songs that we were writing as much as we would have liked.”
After informing Clarkson and her bandleader of their decision to strike out on their own, Kate says that the duo experienced a mixture of excitement and sadness. She says that the latter was understandably prevalent during the sound check of their final show with Clarkson.
“We felt good as we had been given this huge platform to step off of. We arrived at the end of an album cycle with Kelly and felt it was the appropriate time to step away. Our final show with Kelly was at Wembley Arena in London, which was awesome. All three of us cried during sound check but managed to keep it together in the show itself,” Kate laughs.
“To go from a steady paycheque and a consistent schedule to doing things on our own, where our success is all on us has been really freeing in a way. It has been fun to call the shots. It has been a good challenge,” Jill says.
Having recently completed the recording of their next studio album in their home base of Nashville, there is no doubt that Jill and Kate are in it for the long haul.
Although they haven’t even yet arrived in Moncton, the city already holds a special place in their hearts, as their parents will be travelling from the United States to see them perform at Casino New Brunswick on Monday evening.
“I grew up in New Hampshire and though our parents were initially going to come see us in Montreal, they decided to come to Moncton instead,” Jill says.
“Once my parents heard that Jill’s parents were coming up, they wanted to get in on it too. This tour with Jann Arden is the first time we are opening a bunch of shows so it’s kind of a big deal for us,” Kate laughs. “Our parents have always been great with respect to us pursuing music so they are coming to show their support in Moncton.”
What: Jill & Kate, special guests to Jann Arden
When: Monday Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets are $63.28 (service charges and taxes included). Advance tickets are available at the Casino New Brunswick Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca