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Dynamic singing duo has others seeing red

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Grace and Sophia mirror each other. They are both whip-smart, wise-beyond-their-years songwriters speaking the same throwback folk-Americana language that eludes most others at their tender age of 17, their pristine but pillow-soft voices folding into immaculate harmonies to the envy of even the most vetted musical collaborators out there.

And as identical twins, that just so happens to manifest itself physically, too.

“Make sure to say Grace is the uglier one,” Sophia Babb said to a burst of laughter from her mom, Anne, and her sister. “Headline, even.”
But when the two lock eyes on stage, they don’t see their twin, sister or friend … they see a musical soul mate and a means to make their dream of a music career a reality.
“It’s not a selling point; at least, it shouldn’t be,” Sophia said. “I don’t want to be gimmicky, like, ‘Look at these twins singing.’ We want to be artists.”
Sophia is the John Fullbright-obsessed purist, digging into classic bluegrass and early red dirt where Grace favors the indie-leaning side of roots music. Together, it’s a modern classic sound that suits these modern classic ladies just right. As longtime fans of Allison Krauss and other classic folk luminaries, it made sense to channel all their feelings into something that so many of their heroes had had before them, laying Annie Oakley’s foundation.

Communication is key to making collaboration work, though as the sisters would tell it, it’s less psychic connection than brutal honesty.

“I do think it’s different. You might be a little more inhibited with a stranger or even a friend,” Grace said of writing together. “We can be cutthroat.”

And that has been essential to the exponential growth Annie Oakley has exhibited since first playing publicly to the Songwriters Association of Norman (SWAN) under the suggestion of their guitar teacher Frank Lawrence in 2011. They’ve continued to learn from SWAN over the past three years.

A self-titled debut EP came in late 2013, though with the addition of two new members (violinist Nia Personette and Gabee Rolla-Danley on mandolin).

“Our EP doesn’t even really represent us all that well anymore,” Grace said. “We are really figuring out what our sound is.”

Folk has always been the music of the people, a megaphone for voices that would get lost in the conversation otherwise, and the Babb sisters are quickly finding themselves using songs to sipeak up as well.

That came to a head with the #YesAllDaughters movement and protest in Norman, raising awareness of the bullying and sexual harassment and spurring conversation about rape culture.

“I was writing a song about that, partly before the protest,” Grace said. “After we left, it practically wrote itself.”

“It’s not in your face and obvious,” Sophia added.

“It’s the type of songs that you think about what they mean and then they start to have an impact on you,” Grace finished. “And that’s our goal: To write songs that have an impact.”

And at the end of the day, it’s about equality, be it condemning cat-calling (new song “Hey Honey Hey”) or just letting young girls know that if they want to follow in Annie Oakley’s footsteps, they can. Annie Oakley performs Friday at Bricktown Brewery and a pair of post-Christmas shows at The Deli.

Print headline: Ugly Grace, Twins Grace and Sophia blend pillow-soft voices with blazing work ethic in Annie Oakley.

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