Milwaukeians come home to play with Alanis Morissette, Brandi Carlile
Cedric LeMoyne had the third longest tenure of any touring musician in Morissette’s band. Supporting her on bass since 2005, Jackson, Mississippi, a native of Milwaukee since 2017, will play with Morissette at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater July 23.
Then on August 5, Brandi Carlile will be at the Fiserv Forum, with Milwaukee-born, Nashville-based sisters Chauntee and Monique Ross singing backing vocals and playing violin and cello, respectively. The two sisters are well known in the local music scene for their band SistaStrings — who plays a free show Aug. 1 in the Musical Mondays summer concert series in Lake Park.
“Seeing our dream come true, playing music with amazing people, was just amazing and wild and almost always very unreal,” Monique Ross said.
Travel the world with Alanis Morissette
LeMoyne’s first break into the music industry was playing bass from 1989 to 2003 for alternative rock band Remy Zero. The band hails from Birmingham, Alabama, where LeMoyne grew up.
When the band broke up, he moved to London “to heal my grief and started composing for film and TV”. One of his compositions, the theme song for the FX series “Nip/Tuck” by Ryan Murphy, brought him to Los Angeles after being nominated for an Emmy.
While working in session in town, he learned that Alanis Morissette’s bassist was leaving to join Garbage. LeMoyne was one of the few bassists invited to audition, and he got the gig in 2005.
“I will stay by her side as long as she has me,” LeMoyne said. “She’s kind of a global icon, so the treatment we get, I’ve never experienced anything like this before, from staying in a palace in Portugal, to opening for the Rolling Stones in a giant stadium. … For a growing up in the South dreaming of playing the guitar for his life, to do so on such a stage is like a dream come true.”
“I love the way she treats me. I love the feeling she engenders in her community,” LeMoyne continued. “She provides an environment where her musicians can contribute creatively and she invites feedback. … She’s in a position where she doesn’t have to consider anyone’s ideas. She’s a brilliant creative mind , songwriter and producer. But she invites collaboration from people she trusts.”
Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” tour – a 25th anniversary celebration of her seminal album, the tour kicked off in North America last year and crossed Europe earlier this year – was “perhaps the best touring experience I’ve ever had, in terms of the audience raising the vibration.”
A second North American leg, which includes Morissette’s first show in Milwaukee since 2008, is underway now.
“Milwaukee has been such a cocoon away from the music industry,” said LeMoyne, who also fronts famed indie rock band Warpaint in Los Angeles. Coming home for the Morissette tour “will be kind of a clash of worlds. I think I’m going to find it nerve-wracking because some people know me here from a totally different background. … But it’s going to be fun to play on this stage and show to my friends and family this side of me.”
So how did LeMoyne end up in Milwaukee?
He actually met his wife, Gina Barrington, through a mutual friend at a Remy Zero concert in Milwaukee, as part of a 1999 tour with the band Travis. The two became friends and started dating when they both lived in Los Angeles.
“We eventually parted ways but remained close friends,” LeMoyne said. “Twelve years after our breakup, we found ourselves single and married.
By the time they tied the knot in 2016, Barrington had already moved back to her hometown, so LeMoyne moved to Milwaukee, where the two also play in the band. Western Rose.
“It’s equally nourishing and important to me,” LeMoyne said. “I’m really proud of this work.”
One of the Journal Sentinel’s Wisconsin artists to watch for 2020, Rose of the West is about to enter the mastering phase of her second album, which will be released next year.
“I was in LA for about 20 years when I moved here,” LeMoyne said. “It was a much needed move. … With Alanis, I travel a lot. It’s nice to be back in a quieter place.”
The Ross sisters are wanted in Nashville
While the Ross sisters are in a similar phase of their careers, their journey is almost the opposite of LeMoyne’s.
They were born and raised in North Milwaukee, where as children they performed in schools, libraries, churches and city nursing homes in a string quartet, Sisters of Praize, with their sisters. Elders Charice Ross on fiddle and Rickena Johnson on viola.
The group disbanded when the sisters grew up and left for college. After Chauntee and Monique finished school, they moved back to Milwaukee in 2014, created a new SistaStrings duo, and began performing and recording with Milwaukee artists like Peter Mulvey, Mike Mangione, and Klassik.
It was while on tour in 2019 that they felt the need to move to a new city, Monique said. When the pandemic hit the following year and their jobs as music teachers were affected, the need to relocate became more urgent.
“It was Chauntee who actually set a date and said, ‘I’m moving on June 3. If I don’t set a date, it will never happen,'” Monique said. “I was like, ‘If you leave, I leave.'”
In 2019, their parents moved from Milwaukee to Jackson, Tennessee, so the sisters settled in Nashville so they wouldn’t be too far from their family.
“We didn’t have a job planned,” Monique said of her move to Nashville last year. “Miraculously, it worked where, within weeks, we were performing.
Before the sisters traveled to Nashville, Mulvey, now based in Boston, reached out to contacts there to let them know about the Ross sisters.
That’s how Monique ended up playing in Allison Russell’s band, whom the sisters had previously met and befriended at a gig at Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson.
Chauntee eventually joined Russell’s band too, but before she did, less than a month after moving to Nashville, Monique was able to perform with Russell at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island – and with Carlile, who joined Russell for a duet.
“Afterwards, Brandi came up to me and said, ‘I need you in our group,'” Monique said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I can tour, and I have this amazing sister too,’ and I gave her and her wife a card and wondered if I’d hear anything. ‘them.”
A few months later, Carlile’s manager offered the two sisters to join the band.
“It’s really beautiful,” Monique said of playing with Carlile. “We all eat together, we all sit together and have conversations. With Brandi, it becomes another family. When you get to know each other as humans, I think it just makes the music better.”
It’s been a whirlwind for the Ross sisters. They’ve performed at the Grammys, Elton John’s Oscar Party, “Austin City Limits” and other high-profile gigs with Carlile this year, in addition to shows — and “Ellen” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” appearances – with the booming Russell.
On top of all that, they have a new album coming out August 12 with Mulvey, “Love Is the Only Thing,” with hopes for a winter tour.
“Hearing people’s response to the notes we play has been really invigorating, honestly,” Chauntee said.
And being able to come home to perform at the Fiserv Forum “feels like a complete championship moment,” added Chauntee – and the sisters are excited to spend some much-needed down time with friends in Milwaukee between gigs.
“We worked, we trained hard and we networked as much as we could from where we were,” said Monique. “We are so happy to have taken this leap of faith.”
If you are going to
Who: Alanis Morissette with Garbage (Cédric LeMoyne will play bass for Morissette)
When: 7 p.m. on July 23
Where: American Family Insurance Amphitheater, Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Drive
How much?: $22.50 to $175 at the box office and amfamamp.com.
Who: Brandi Carlile with Lake Street Dive and Celisse (Chauntee and Monique Ross will play ropes for Carlile)
When: 7:05 August
Where: Fiserv Forum, 1111 N. Phillips Ave.
How much?: $61 to $131 at the box office and fiservforum.com.
Who: SistaStrings with Chauntee and Monique Ross
When: 6:30 p.m. August 1
Where: Lake Park Summer Scene, 2975 N. Lake Park Road
How much?: No cover.