Never underestimate the value of that family vacation you take each year, or the memories you make when your children sing along with the radio during those long drives. You can't tell where that trip may ultimately take you.
Certainly Dave and Robyn Osborn never envisioned it, but fast forward 15 years from a fateful journey across the Nevada desert with their six children and you'll see.
A huge crowd jams the curbs and sidewalks along the quaint Main Street on a mid-December morning, many of them toting cameras, some hoisting small children upon their shoulders to get a closer look at the stars in front of them. A float decorated in Christmas colors makes its way into the town square, and down its spiral staircase walk three beautiful sisters, dressed in winter coats and scarves despite the 65 degree temperature of Orlando.
When Kristyn, Kelsi and Kassidy Osborn stepped onto the Magic Kingdom plaza at Walt Disney World last month to tape a portion of the Disney Christmas Day Parade (which aired on ABC December 25), it marked another lap in the full circle of their incredible journey as country music stars SHeDAISY. After all, they began singing harmonies in the backseat of a station wagon when they were on a family trip to Disneyland in the 1980s.
"It really started for us many years ago when we sang together on that trip to California," Kristyn recalls. "We were just outside of Las Vegas, and an oldies station was playing 'Chapel of Love.' Kelsi started singing, Kassidy jumped in with the high harmony and I started singing low harmony. We sang it all the way to Anaheim, driving the rest of the family nuts. We've been singing together ever since."
Today, their ride to "all things Disney" is very, very different than that initial station wagon journey -- but still very much a family vacation.
SHeDAISY has been delighting loyal fans since they started singing as The Osborn Sisters in the late 1980s. The girls performed at county and state fairs, in LDS Church cultural halls (each is a devout Mormon), and at many community events and amusement parks. Then, as now, the rest of the Osborn family was there to show their support. Kelsi was the lead singer initially, having made her professional debut on stage in "Annie" at age 12 at the Sundance Summer Theatre. Kassidy soon got the performance bug as well, singing in local stage productions, and when songwriting Kristyn joined in, the girls were on their way. Soon they had gigs in Las Vegas, California and New York City. But the best was yet to come.
"I think we always knew the girls had the talent and heart to be successful at this," father Dave reflects. "We were very supportive of them as long as they stayed focused on what they wanted to do professionally and personally, and they have." Dave knew, as did his wife and daughters, that the group's next move would be challenging, but necessary. "They always loved country music and the values it stood for. That was their first love from the beginning."
So in 1989, the sisters moved to Nashville, even while Kelsi and Kassidy were still in junior high. They lived there full time during the summers and one week each month during the school year, with either Dave or Robyn flying to Tennessee to stay with them. When it came time to change their stage names, a brother-in-law suggested "shedaisy" to them, a Navajo term meaning "little sister." "That seemed like a good fit," Kassidy recalls. "We were sisters from a loving family, and we liked the family orientation of the name." And so SHeDAISY was born.
In the fall of 1989, they signed a recording contract with RCA on the same day that superstar Martina McBride inked her first contract with that label. They attended a music video school with her, and finished their first album in 1991. RCA never released it. The girls have no regrets about that decision.
"We weren't ready," Kelsi says looking back. "We had a lot to learn about all aspects of this business. It could have been a disaster to have released that first album." So for the next five years they continued to hone their craft, performing at Nashville's many country music venues at night, working at a department store during the day, sharing an apartment and a car.
The family business in Utah also helped support the girls as they lived far away from home, something "we've never forgotten. Family was wonderful -- it always has been," Kassidy says. Kristyn took classes in business at Middle Tennessee State to learn the management skills she still employs as business leader of the group today. Against all odds, they persevered, and in 1997, after auditioning in the offices of three recording executives, the sisters signed a new contract with Lyric Street Records, a fledgling label owned by, naturally, the Disney Company.
Eighteen months later they released their first album, "The Whole SHeBANG." The album was a winner out of the gate, produced four top-10 hits, and went on to sell more than 2 million copies (double-platinum). It spent 99 weeks on Billboard magazine's Top Country Albums chart, and led to SHeDAISY nominations from the Grammys, the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music, the Blockbuster Music Awards, and the American Music Awards. Soon their photos graced industry magazine covers, as well as USA Today's weekend insert in nationwide Sunday newspapers. They sang on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," performed at the Orange Bowl and on numerous country music and awards programs. The Utah born-and-bred beauties have played themselves on "General Hospital" and "The Drew Carey Show," were celebrities on "Hollywood Squares," and shared the stage with the likes of Ray Charles, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Boz Skaggs, Reba McEntire, Cher and Huey Lewis. For almost three years, fans clamored for a second album, and Kristyn began the task of writing songs for a new release. But as often happens in the world of entertainment, the girls were about to be detoured.
In 2002, SHeDAISY's second album, "Knock on the Sky," was released. Though critics loved it, radio stations did not. A combination of factors led to negative reactions, and the album's sales were disappointing. For many Nashville music observers, criticism of "Knock on the Sky" seemed unwarranted.
"I personally thought it was a better album than 'The Whole SHeBANG,'" says Peter Cooper, music editor for The Tennessean, Nashville's daily newspaper. The girls had worked so hard to produce "Knock" that the result was devastating. But as has been their trait since arriving in Nashville, they moved forward rather than looking behind.
"We were hurt, obviously," Kassidy says. "It was hard. But that's always the risk. Every album's a risk." After working on "Knock" for more than 18 months, the sisters refocused. They toured after "Knock on the Sky's" release with just an acoustical band, and in the process, found simplification.
"We were meticulous recording 'Knock,'" Kristyn recalls. "We scrutinized everything. The songs were complicated...our lives were complicated. Everything was complicated." The process was too intense. "You can suck the joy right out of the music when you start dissecting every drum pass," she says.
So when work on the group's third album, "Sweet Right Here," began two years ago, the girls simplified things. Kelsi says recording sessions were more laid back and easygoing. Attitudes changed as life's complications abated, and this past summer, SHeDAISY struck gold again when their first single off the album, "Passenger Seat," climbed into the top five on the charts. Critics quickly hopped back on the SHeDAISY bandwagon.
"I think SHeDAISY has gone from being perceived as a fluffy pop country act to a group that is presenting inventive, highly melodic music," critic Cooper says. "I was surprised that the last album didn't do better commercially...With the success of 'Passenger Seat,' it looks like SHeDAISY is getting some well-deserved respect once again."
And visibility. They've performed twice in the past five months at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. They've entertained for President George W. Bush so many times that after one recent performance at a Tennessee air base, Kassidy joked to the president "We're not stalking you!" You can hear SHeDAISY on the soundtracks of "Sweet Home Alabama" (in which long-time SHeDAISY fan Reese Witherspoon starred) and "The Santa Clause II." Recently they've been recording the song "Baby Mine" from the Disney classic Dumbo for release on "Disney Mania 3" in February.
Their continually-rising star has reached new heights recently as their video "Come Home Soon" peaked at number one on GAC-TV in mid-December, and they've been nominated for a People's Choice Award for favorite Country Music Group. That award, voted on by the general public and for which they are competing against Allison Krause and Union Station, Brooks and Dunn, Lonestar and Rascal Flatts, will be presented on CBS January 9th. (You can vote for SHeDAISY via the Internet at www.pcavote.com, or at the www.shedaisy.com.)
Despite all the success, family remains the top priority for Kristyn, now 34, one of Nashville's most talented songwriters; Kelsi, 30, the only married member of the group who lives in Nashville with her Utah-born husband Steve, and Kassidy, 28, the lead singer who has won accolades for her talents.
Dave and Robyn Osborn still live in the West Valley home where their six children were raised. The girl's brother Cade, 30, is the human resource manager for Cobblestones Apparel, the Osborn family-owned company in West Valley. Younger brother Clayton, 22, just returned from an LDS mission to Missouri and is a sophomore at the College of Southern Idaho where he's redshirting in basketball. And little sister Karli, 20, is a junior at Lipscomb University in Nashville, where she's a guard on the basketball team.
Every member of the Osborn clan keeps in touch with one another daily. When Cade (a former collegiate basketball star himself) Clayton or Karli are on the hardwoods, their three famous sisters make every effort to be in attendance, or at least follow the games. SHeDAISY has sung the national anthem at a number of those games. The sisters make it home to Utah once or twice each year, "and that's not nearly often enough" says Kelsi.
Was 2004 the year of the comeback for SHeDAISY? That depends on who you ask. After all, they never really left the country music scene, even if their visibility diminished temporarily. That's changed now, and with a newfound success, increased focus and more popularity than ever, it appears certain the future is bright for the beautiful, talented sisters who make Utah proud of these home-grown "daisies."