New Country Duo Picking Violets Is Changing Lives On The Other Side Of The World
Over a decade ago, Erica Stone and her husband moved from a small town in southwest Missouri to a small town in southeast Missouri. Upon settling in to their new home, they started attending a local church. It was at a church sponsored picnic that she met Kelly Weston.
“We met in church, and started singing together in church,” said Kelly. “We realized pretty quickly that we wanted to do something together.”
In addition to pleasing the congregation with pretty harmonies, the duo also became good friends.
“Sometimes you just make that connection with someone and you know there’s a reason that you’re supposed to do something together,” said Kelly.
After eight years of singing together in the choir, fellow church members started to coax the two girls into taking a chance on Nashville.
“When we would sing in church, everyone was already bombarding us with ‘you guys sound so good together.’ So that kind of put a little thought in our head. ‘OK, let’s run with that,’” said Kelly.
And run they did. The duo packed up and moved to Music City—but it took a while for the wheels to start turning.
“It’s not exactly a promising industry,” said Erica. “You get here and you don’t know what you’re doing.”
It took the girls several years to really learn the ropes.
“We spent the first couple years just trying to figure out how it works,” said Kelly. “It’s such a small, tight-knit group. You’ve really got to prove yourself as artists and find yourself as artists, as far as who you want to be represented as.”
While the learning process might have taken longer than expected, however, there were some pleasant surprises about the community in Nashville. Both girls were impressed with the small-town feel of the music business.
“Everyone is extremely helpful. A lot of people have been where you are,” said Kelly. “That’s one of the first things I noticed about it.”
Finding a Purpose
Erica never envisioned herself as being someone with a cause, and when she decided that she wanted to adopt a child from Sierra Lione, it wasn’t because of some huge charitable revelation. She just wanted to adopt, and she settled on Sierra Lione because the adoption restrictions were relatively lenient. What ensued was a battle for her daughter.
“I brought her home after a fight. We were in front of government officials and it took us three years and two trips to bring her here,” said Erica.
While fighting for her daughter, Erica saw firsthand the effect that a ferocious revolution was having on Sierra Lione—and it couldn’t be ignored.
“Through that, we saw a lot of the poverty and struggle in Sierra Lione,” said Erica. “You can’t go over there and see something like that and it not affect you.”
Erica had found a purpose.
Upon returning to the states, Erica enlisted Kelly. The duo started to do fundraising projects, the first of which helped a family move out of a refugee camp and into a new house.
Eventually, other people started getting involved—including the Nashville songwriting community. Once Erica and Kelly started a non-profit called “The Raining Season,” they enlisted the help of their songwriting buddies. They organized a charity show and the hit-makers came out. Liz Rose, Jeremy Spellman, Barry Dean, Bryan White and others offered up their help to the organization.
“From that benefit alone, we raised six thousand dollars and we were able to put 40 kids in school,” said Kelly. “It was just amazing to see how into it they were. They were there because they really wanted to be a part of it.”
Choosing a name, a sound, a direction
This summer, Picking Violets did a little bit of soul searching. For one, they changed up their name. Formerly known as EzraJane—a name inspired by a shopping trip and jean brands—Erica and Kelly decided that they needed to change it to something more reflective of their values.
“Over the last several years, we have grown into not only who we are as artists, but who we are as people,” said Erica. “So, through that we were trying to decide if our name really fit who we were.”
The inspiration for Picking Violets came to Erica on a plane ride back from Africa. A little piece of paper slipped out of a magazine that she was nonchalantly flipping through. “It is my hope that every flower enjoys the air it breaths,” it read.
“That whole concept of the flower enjoying the air it breathes just reminded me of the kids we had just visited in Sierra Lione and how they are beautiful and unique, how they are worth something, and how they are special,” said Erica.
“We felt like Picking Violets represents who we are artistically, but it’s just a much broader description of what we are really about.”
With the new name came a new sound, as well.
“We spent this last year in the studio trying to really expand our sound. We knew what we wanted and we finally got it with the production team we’re working with now,” said Kelly. “The name and the music all just mesh together really well.”
Picking Violets describes their sound as having both pop and country influences.
“It has it’s leg in country music but it leans pop in the respect that it’s very acoustically driven. It’s kind of Snow Patrol meets One Republic with the melodic piano and stuff going on,” said Erica.
Both Erica and Kelly admit that what makes the music country is the lyrics.
“I’d say what makes it country is what our songs are talking about. They are still telling stories, building on a notion,” said Erica.
“When she writes,” adds Kelly, “she’s writing these stories that you are just hanging on every word of, and when you combine that with this more pop side of the sound, it’s just a really good combination.”
Right now, Picking Violets is close to a major label deal. Several record labels are waiting to hear more material before making a decision, but the duo likes the position they are in.
And in roughly a week, the girls will actually make another trip back to Africa for The Raining Season. How will they balance Africa and their careers?
“It is a hard balance, because it’s very polar opposite. The entertainment industry can be extremely self-absorbed and you kind of have to be selfish. It’s brutal,” said Erica. “The other side is so not. It’s completely outside of ourselves.”
But while the two things may differ greatly, they both serve similar purposes.
“They both drive each other. We use our music and our platform for those kids,” said Kelly. “And when we start to get really frustrated with the music industry, the kids fuel us. They both just fuel each other.”
“When it comes to a personal thing, music feeds my soul—so do the kids,” said Erica. You feel like you are on this earth for something more than yourself. It all just ties together very well.”
- Picking Violets – “What I’m Standing Here For” (Download — 3.1 MB)
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