Beyoncé watches YouTube just like the rest of us. In December 2013, a week after she released her self-titled masterpiece, sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey uploaded a cover of “Pretty Hurts” — and soon found themselves signed to Bey’s Parkwood Entertainment label.
“We literally were flipping out, because as young girls, of course everyone looks up to Beyoncé,” Halle, 17, says. Since the musically self-taught siblings began posting pop covers in 2011, they’ve racked up a formidable résumé: a performance for the Obama White House, a song in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, an opening stint on Bey’s Formation World Tour, and roles on Freeform’s black-ish spin-off series, grown-ish.
They’ve notched another major achievement with their debut album, The Kids Are Alright, a 16-song set of electro-infused R&B they mostly wrote and produced themselves. “This generation, we’re not afraid to speak up,” Chloe, 19, says of the project’s themes. “We got this: The kids will be alright.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get started playing music?
HALLE BAILEY: I think we got the bug of singing when we were five and seven years old. We had this summer camp that we went to at Spelman College [in Atlanta] and there was a talent show that we signed up for. I remember we were singing in front of all of our friends. That was the first time I was like, “Whoa, this is so cool. Maybe I can do this for a while!” As we grew up we continued to sing together around Atlanta. It was funny because people always told us to do YouTube covers and we never really thought anything of it. One day we decided to record and sing one of our favorite songs, “Best Thing I Never Had” by Beyoncé. We got a fan base. From there, our cover that Beyoncé saw was “Pretty Hurts.” We decided to record it because we loved the message of the song.
Did you receive any formal music training?
CHLOE BAILEY: My sister and I were self-taught. It’s been so much fun exploring and figuring out different things. With technology and the internet, all you’ve gotta do is search it and you’ll have your answers. That’s how we learned. Even with me and my production, if I had a question, I’d go online and I’d learn and I’d gather information that way. I feel like you always learn best when you do it yourself and experience it firsthand.
How do you choose the songs you want to cover? How long do they take to arrange and record?
CHLOE: Whenever we do a cover, it’s because we really, really love the song and we heard another arrangement in our heads and we just had to get it out. Harmonies and arranging come easy for us. Whenever we actually tape the cover we do like 30 different takes. I’m probably exaggerating, but we do so many because we just want it to be perfect! We’ll watch it back and see that we did one thing wrong. If we were too sharp or too flat, we’ll do it again.
What’s your creative process like?
HALLE: Our creative process is very simple. We’re just in our living room. Sometimes we’re sprawled out on the carpet just chilling. We have our mics, Chloe has her whole setup with her keys, I have my guitars in the room. Chloe sometimes just starts playing something — maybe it’s this really cool 808 that she’s playing and then we just vibe off from there. Something we always are so sure of is that we never want it to feel formulaic. If it feels forced, we step away and we run around outside or something to clear our minds. But it’s definitely really fun and something that we love to do because it’s talking about everything that we’re going through right now.
How did you choose the title The Kids Are Alright?
CHLOE: It really means so much to us. Not only personally. We’re growing into young women and every day we’re like, “Oh my goodness, we’re going to have to take on this whole big world! Will we be OK? Will we be alright?” But the answer is, “We will be alright, we will be OK.”
Do those themes extend to the lyrics?
HALLE: Yes, absolutely. What was really important to us was that everything really reflected exactly what we are going through today in our lives. One song on our album is called “HiLo.” Basically, it’s just about loving your highs and loving your lows, even though there may be those insecurities that you feel some days and maybe with everything going on in the world you just feel down. You have to learn to love those downs. There’s a song called “Everywhere.” Basically it came about because we are believers in the power of manifestation and knowing that what you speak out will happen. We wanted to attract wealth, so we made this song. In the hook it goes, “I got money everywhere, far as you can see,” which was fun for us to sing but also at the same time really exciting.
What have you learned from touring and performing with Beyoncé?
CHLOE: We are always in such awe when we see her, whether it’s just in person or even when she’s performing and killing it on the stage. Something we learned from her is that she’s always giving a thousand percent, no matter what it is, no matter how many times she’s done the show. We love that so much about her. Something she’s always instilling in us is to just trust our intuition and our gut and let the world catch up to us. To just continue being ourselves.
HALLE: She’s just so inspirational. Being able to have her as a mentor in our lives is something that’s really special and that we just cherish.
How special was it to have your song “Warrior” featured in A Wrinkle in Time?
CHLOE: That experience was exciting and crazy for us. That was our very first music placement. Halle and I, we were so excited when Ava reached out to us to even consider having us do a song for the film. We’ve always been such big fans of her and her art and everything she stands for. It’s been so very exciting. I can’t believe we got this opportunity.
Being siblings and bandmates, do you ever get on each other’s nerves?
CHLOE: My sister and I, we love each other to death. We are each other’s best friends and I just love how we get to be on this journey together and create and experience this life with each other. Like with all sisters, we might argue over clothes. “You have my coconut oil!” But it never lasts long. Whenever I’m apart from my sister, I feel like my other half is missing. Even though we’re not twins, I really feel like we’re twins!