Country music's favorite sweethearts are singing a different tune these days as they come out from behind the counter of their boutique.
|Janis Gill and Kristine Arnold are
returning to the spotlight with the release of their
latest album Beautiful Lies, and they'll hit the
road for the first time in two years when they open for
the Statler Brothers in a three-month tour starting in
The tour will include selected dates in Hershey, Pa; Kansas City, Kan; St. Louis, Mo; Columbus, Ohio; Green Bay, Wis; and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Janis and Kristine - better known as Sweethearts of the Rodeo - can't wait to get in front of a live audience again. "Anyone who has ever performed onstage knows the feeling of craving it," says Kristine. "We missed it very much."
It's 11 years since Sweethearts of the Rodeo took country music by storm. The pair had seven Top 10 hits from their first two albums including "Midnight Girl/Sunset Town" "Satisfy You" and "Blue to the Bone."
Their latest Sugar Hill Records release was produced by Janis, and is chock-full of stirring songs and the sisters' soulful harmonies.
"From a producer's standpoint, it was incredibly exhilarating," says Janis. "The amount of freedom I felt at the helm of this project allowed all those musical ideas I've had since high school to come out. Even the song choices.
"We're at the point where if we think it sounds good, we cut it. We don't worry about radio anymore, we just go with it."
Kristine adds: "Recording the album was almost a blur because it seemed like it all went by way too fast. There we were, in the studio with this incredible band and everything was so much fun. We were giddy throughout the entire process.
"When we first got in the music business, it was so exciting, wonderful and new. Now we are savoring, treasuring every moment. Every time we go onstage or in the studio we approach it like it may be the last time."
Her sister adds: "We don't plan to stop recording, but you never know what's going to happen in life. That's why we don't record anything unless we really love it."
But music isn't the Sweethearts' only love. In 1995, they opened their store in Franklin, Tenn. Gill & Arnold sells women's apparel from classic evening wear to casual resort wear, as well as accessories and gifts.
"We created this store ourselves," Janis says. "We made all the purchases and designed the store, and we are extremely proud of it.
"The business is a real partnership. I buy the merchandise and put the collections and concepts together. Kristine has to make it all work on the floor - a very complicated task."
"What I do fulfills my creative urges," explains Kristine. "Being a merchandiser, doing window displays and arranging things on the floor is very creative. I love working with color and design.
"Janis had a very specific vision. She wanted a sophisticated, fashionable woman's store much like the way she dresses herself.
"I would have gone along with whatever concept she wanted to do, because she has the right instincts and style. My talents are in running the store."
"Just like in music, we each fell into these roles," Janis explains. "Kristine hates to shop, but I am a shopaholic. I can go five days straight, from 8 in the morning till 6 at night.
"In the days before we had a record deal, we supported our music habit working day jobs in department stores and boutiques in Southern California.
"We did it for years, on and off - but we always had the dream that someday we would have our own shop.
"I think we've done really well for the short time we've been in business, and right now things are really starting to click."
Their families - including Janis' superstar husband Vince Gill - fully support their second careers.
"Vince is happy that I'm involved in music and the store," Janis says. "He's happy that I'm happy. He kids me sometimes, like when I said, 'Honey, we're going to open a store.' He looked up at the ceiling and smiled.
"But when he walked in the store for the first time, he cried. He was so overwhelmed and he was so proud of us. He said, 'You've got a cash register and everything.' It was the sweetest thing and he wasn't even trying to be funny. He's been so supportive of anything I've wanted to do."
"Leonard and I have been married for 17 years," adds Kristine. "I'm sure he's felt like he's been married to both me and Janis because of our career in music and retail, but he's always been extremely supportive."
Janis' 14-year old daughter Jenny, and Kristine's daughters Mary Del, 14 and Annie, 7, are also proud of their moms' efforts.
"Annie comes down to the store and pretends she is a clerk," Kristine says with a laugh. "She'll go off and do inventory and I'll find these check marks listing all the sizes and items that are in stock. Janis' daughter Jenny has asked us several times if she can come down and work. Mary Del doesn't have much interest in the store yet... she's not into clothes at all."
The duo now face the challenge of balancing their dual careers as they prepare to go out on the road.
"I haven't been on the road for a long time," Kristine says. "It'll be hard on the kids for their mamma to be gone."
"In our household it's always been like that," Janis says. "Vince and I have both been on the road for at least 10 years, and Vince even longer because of his Pure Prairie League days. It's always been a jumble. But we have key people in place all the time to help out."
They also count on each other during the hectic times.
"We are very fortunate that we're best friends," Kristine says. "Ever since we were little, Janis, as the older sister, would let me hang out with her. When she was playing guitar, I'd come along and say, 'Wow, can I do that too?' and Janis would say, 'Listen, you sing this part and I'll sing harmony.' She always let me hang out with her."
"I need you!" Janis says as she hugged Kristine. "What would I do without you?"
Story by Tamara Saviano - Used with the permission of Country Weekly Magazine.
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