The sister duo Chasing Lovely catch up with She Shreds on identity, sisterhood and creating music.

When Chloe and Taylor Turner have something to say, people listen. The Minnesota-bred, Atlanta-based singer/songwriter duo known as Chasing Lovely have been publicly making music together for nearly a decade, since their eponymous style blog became something broader and began experimenting with the art of audience connection. While the Korean-American sisters bend genres from folk to soul to suit each song, their humanitarian beliefs are a constant presence in their lyrics. Taylor, 25, plays guitar and does the bulk of the writing, while Chloe, 23, is proficient in guitar and mandolin, is learning piano, and jokes that they can fake their way around a banjo. Strong harmonies underscore their convictions with raw vulnerability.

She Shreds caught up with Chasing Lovely to talk about working together as sisters, performing with passion, and navigating perceptions of identity and orientation.

She Shreds: At Mile of Music in Appleton this summer, you held court in front of a not-necessarily-young, mostly white Midwestern audience, talking and singing openly about the refugee crisis, gender identity, and environmental stewardship. Is it hard to play to a room that seems unlikely to embrace you, or is it a welcome challenge?

Taylor: We’ve found that the likelihood of an audience embracing us or not has very little to do with their demographic. If an audience is not ready or willing to be thoughtful, have a meaningful conversation, or get in touch with their emotions, then they’re probably not going to connect. But if the environment is right and people are listening and open to receiving what we have to offer, that’s when the magic happens.

The first time we debuted our song “Always & Never Enough”— which touches on slavery, homelessness, the refugee crisis, and very subtly on climate change—we were at a venue in Georgia and were very uncertain about how the audience would react. Living in the south, there’s a noticeable difference when it comes to values and beliefs (versus our progressive-leaning hometown of Minneapolis). We kind of gave each other a look backstage like ‘here goes nothing.’ But the audience got it. So we’ve learned to expect the unexpected.

Chloe, you’ve mentioned that when you perform “Slow Dance,” the person you’re picturing depends on whom you’re crushing on that day, whether it’s Shemar Moore or Emma Watson. Do audiences seem more chill with that now than, say, five years ago?

Chloe: I feel like when I would crack the joke about Emma Watson back when I presented (as) more feminine, people took it as that: a joke. They didn’t think twice about it, which is mainly a result of heteronormativity, which is so strong that people don’t really believe you even when stating otherwise.

In the last couple years, with the shift in my outward presentation, people have automatically made an assumption regarding my sexuality—which is usually wrong—but it doesn’t generally assume straightness (still working to educate people on how gender identity and gender expression do not determine sexuality).

That being said, when people simply see me, their expectations of my sexuality are already determined. I doubt most people look at me and think: straight. I’m essentially confirming the queerness everyone seems to assume already. So if they stick around after that to listen to what we have to say, even if they’re non-affirming, they’re not surprised.

The increase in visibility for the queer community has definitely helped with acceptance, and I hope to continue to expand that. Because each queer person’s story is different. Their identities are different. Most of us were given basic stereotypical narratives to place certain groups into, but often those stereotypes are wrong. I’m just echoing the words of other queer people when I say: I didn’t even know I could exist in the world like this until I saw another human living their truth.

For as long as you’ve been making music, you’ve been up-front about deeply personal topics—”Colors” being a notable example, written about a young girl shunned because of her orientation. And still, you’ve heard some static about your latest music being “too political.”

C: I think the beautiful thing about art is that it belongs to the consumer as much as it belongs to the artist. The whole point is for the listener to hear part of their own story, or part of our collective (human) story within each song. It’s interesting to see how people have been perceiving what we’ve been doing for the past five to seven years. They’ve been telling their own stories along with our songs, but as our world has been bringing so many things to the political forefront, it has changed how others perceive our work. But at the end of the day the music hasn’t changed. It’s their stories and our world that are changing.

T: I think the shift in public perception comes from the changing political climate. It’s become so tense in the past couple of years and a lot of people are waking up to certain issues. I also think people are much more sensitive—especially if they feel that their values, ideals, or morals are in jeopardy. We were performing “Colors” back in 2012, when there still wasn’t marriage equality in all 50 states. Maybe the references in the song were going over people’s heads? Or maybe, at the time, they didn’t feel threatened by it. I’m sure if we had released the song on June 27, 2015 (the day after gay marriage was legalized nationwide) the reaction would’ve been much different. We’re not trying to pretend that our music is not political. It is. But it’s always been that way. People are just now realizing it.

How do your songs come together: does your sister telepathy come into play during the writing process, or do you have to check it at the door and let each other create their own thing?  

C: When it comes to writing, Taylor does most of it. She’s been writing since she was a kid, so her lyrical ability has never come as a shock, but I have no idea where the knack for writing melodies came from. I write with her from time to time, though, and if we’re lucky our telepathy will pull through. When it’s present in our music, it’s usually because we’re experiencing a similar feeling, and since we are so alike, we perceive it in a very similar way. When we’re spending a lot of time together we’re living a pretty parallel life, having thoughtful conversations, and that shows up in our music down the line.

T: I generally have to have a song started before we collaborate. It’s difficult for me to come up with a song from scratch when another person is in the room. I get self-conscious. The author John Greene described it best: “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”