Sisters take love of tunes on the road

Enlarge Image Buy This Photo
Von Grey will open for Company of Thieves Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Newport Music Hall. Tickets are $15/$17. Visit

The Von Grey sisters have a record deal, have toured the United States and Canada, opened for Sarah McLachlan and earlier played a festival in Florida that also included the likes of Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith and Suzanne Vega.

And they still rehearse in the basement of their Atlanta, Ga., home. Oh and their mom drives their "tour bus" -- a Honda Pilot carrying the four girls, their mom and their host of instruments.

Annika Von Grey (at 16, the second-oldest of the siblings) told The Beat that, from the time they started music lessons through the past few years since formalizing their creative efforts, the sisters have benefitted from a perfect balance of hands-on and hands-off support from their parents.

"(Having us be a band) is a huge commitment for our whole family," Annika said.

"We're thrilled that our parents have taken an interest in what we're doing and have a love for it, but they've never intervened in the creative process," she said.

"But when we were younger and just starting out on our music lessons, our mom was always with us, sitting with us while we practiced."

Each of the girls started with Suzuki violin training when they were about 5 years old, and have since added a variety of instruments to their individual repertoire, from guitar, banjo and mandolin to cello, keyboards and bass pedals.

Annika said they began trying out different styles of music, playing cover songs of Irish tunes, bluegrass and country music and pop and folk songs, inspired first by Annika's foray into Irish fiddling, but also by their father's extensive music library.

"We were just learning all of these songs, listening to a huge variety of music," Annika said. "We never really sat down and decided to be a band. It was just organic."

As the four sisters continued to play together, they also began to write their own songs, led by Annika and Fiona, 14, who also share lead vocal duties, as well as play guitar and violin. (Annika also plays banjo and keyboards; Fiona also plays percussion; oldest sister Kathryn, 17, plays cello, bass, mandolin and keyboards; youngest sister Petra, 12, plays keyboards and lap steel guitar.)

"Sure, we have your typical teen angst-y stuff, but we also read a list, and watch the news, so we draw on a lot of other things for inspiration, too," Annika said.

"I'm only 16 and I may not have a lot of life experience, but we do look to others for inspiration."

Von Grey's modern folk/acoustic alt-pop songs -- Von Grey's self-titled debut EP was released last fall -- benefit from the sisters' extensive musical training, but also from their natural vocal harmonies.

Annika confessed that familial harmony is not always natural. "We have that traditional sister dynamic," she said with a laugh.

"But we have a shared creative vision that unites us. So we leave that stuff upstairs."