I recently spent some time in New York, and I was so lucky to spend a good deal of time with the fiercely independent solo artist—You’re Sister (Megan Braaten). We shot photos, shot the shit, and shot down some nice glasses of water.
Having just released her first full length album “Keepsake” on May 1st, that was written, performed, and recorded herself in her own bedroom—Megan has so much to be proud of. From the first moment you press play and the dreamy ambient sounds pour from whichever speakers you choose; you are sure to be transfixed. The entire album so gracefully walks the line between bedroom pop and indie folk. I’m unabashed to admit that I had listened to the album many times before our photo session and chat.
Megan also has an almost non-existent social media presence. I knew hardly anything about You’re Sister, and that includes even a good idea of what she looked like. The allure of the mystery had me intrigued. In general, I am predominantly drawn to things that somewhat have their hand or foot in the unknown, so wanting to know more about the 22-year-old female behind the articulate sound of this album wasn’t unusual. After arriving to her home fresh off the train, I was ready to get some answers.
From the overall vibe of the album I was expecting a quiet, sullen character. But when she opened the door, I was greeted with a big ole smile, a “WHAT’S UP DUDE?! IT’S SO NICE TO MEET YOU!,” and followed by a giant hug. Not what I was expecting, but still the most adorable thing ever. We walked upstairs to her apartment, had the usual get to know each other chats and then got straight to work. We went over outfits, and then we quickly decided that shooting in her home and nearby was the best choice. Since all of the work is created in her safe space—why make the photos any different? So once we started making images, I started asking some questions.
You’re Sister has been playing music since she was 7, but she is mostly self-taught. After starting high school and getting to experience other sounds besides Christian music or the occasional teenage pop album, her taste really started to grow beyond her family’s. She said, “I didn’t have the pleasure of hearing any classic rock music in the house while growing up, haha. I always joke when I say that my parents probably couldn’t name a single Beatles song. Anyways, I got to high school where someone made me a mixed CD with musicians like Animal Collective and The XX. This is when I finally opened up and realized what music could be — I knew it all along, but the exposure wasn’t there. I sort of got sucked into a trance and had an “Allegory of the Cave” moment.”
In 2013 she put her first melody online and after receiving encouragement she kept going. Yet, one of the most interesting things about the album is that she has been creating it since that same year. You’re Sister said, “The album “Keepsake” is essentially a collection of songs that embody my favorite work thus far as a solo musician. The songs were made between 2013 and 2018, presented in no particular order. I suppose you could say I’ve been working on the album for 5 years, but it was rehashed and recorded within only 3 weeks.” To work on pieces of an idea for that long and having brought it to fruition in such a short period of time is such a great example of the complexities of the creative process. As an independent artist, I can absolutely relate. We discussed long term projects and how we both work in our mediums alone and are very selective when letting others, if anyone, into our process. Although I have subjects, everything I do is just my camera and me. You’re Sister agrees, “I take pride in my ability to write, perform, and record all of my music on my own. Ultimately, You’re Sister is Megan Braaten. It is who I am in my most vulnerable state.” People have asked me how I know when I’ve completed a project, which sometimes it’s a deadline, or sometimes it’s that final overwhelming feeling that I have nothing left to say. I was curious if the songwriting process was at all similar. So, I asked You’re Sister and she said, “I have never approached writing my music with any intention. I write songs with a stream-of-consciousness method in which I essentially mumble sounds that resemble words over a guitar part I like until I start to form words. Sometimes the words don’t come and the song slips away, never to be heard again. The songs that make up the album were the ones that stuck. The words poured out of me and I did not change them. Typically I do not initially feel connected to the songs I make. It isn’t until months later, when I’m playing a song for a friend in my bedroom, where the tears start to flow and I have an ah-ha moment. I suddenly realize how the words reflect the exact moment the song was born. It’s quite a beautiful feeling. It has allowed me to make music without any exceptions or limitations.”
Throughout our session, vulnerability kept coming up and remained key. She was being vulnerable for me as my subject and with the answers to my questions. I am forever grateful for that. As an artist, I genuinely understand that putting yourself out there is the hardest thing to do—especially when realizing an album or complete collection. It’s insightful, intimate, it’s you. She says, “It is a very intimate piece of work. I touch on a whole range of emotions and reflect on a variety of situations and personal experiences. I deeply hope to touch people with these songs through such vulnerability.”
Please check out her album “Keepsake” - youresister.bandcamp.com