Last year, local singer-songwriter Maddie Partida released the song “A Very Merry Christmas.” This festive, upbeat Christmas-rock sing-along did surprisingly well.
Partida’s father dropped off CDs at several car dealerships he works with—he does business development for an insurance company—and heard some of them playing the catchy tune in their showroom the next time he swung by.
“A Very Merry Christmas” was only the second song Partida had ever written. She did, however, get help on the track from her older sister Jacklyn Kohls—who contributed guitar and bass work to it—and Hollister-based Ryan Loomis, who played the drums.
In April, Partida brought another song to Kohls. She’d written “Selfish,” a soulful, heartfelt song of pain, just before her Christmas anthem, and hoped Kohls could work her magic on that one, too. Kohls had also been working on her own acoustic pop song, “Up In The Clouds,” which needed vocals, so she asked Partida to help her on her project. Eventually, it dawned on them that there was no reason to separate their creative endeavors if they planned on collaborating anyway. And like that, Maddie and Jackie was born.
“We decided to join together, since we were doing it anyway,” says Partida. “Before she was mainly doing guitar work and I was doing the vocals. She’s singing more now. We’re both playing guitar. We merged together a bit.”
In October, the duo released their debut EP, Closer, which includes “Selfish,” “Up In The Clouds,” and three more light-rock indie-pop songs the two worked on. To record it, they went to Santo Recording Studio in Oakland and worked with renowned producer Dale “D-Wiz” Everingham, whose credits include Destiny’s Child, En Vogue, Luniz, Too Short and E-40. Everingham was a connection Kohls made some time back when she played in the metal band Requiem.
“He’s super easy to work with,” says Kohls. “He just gets what we want right away. The recording process is really quick with him.”
Though Maddie and Jackie is the duo’s first official collaborative project, the sisters have been playing music together for a long time. Kohls started her first band, Jackie Rocks, when she was 11. For the next seven years, she played roughly 500 shows. Right out of high school, she joined horror-punk band Stellar Corpses and went on a national tour, then later joined Requiem. While she was playing in these heavier bands, she started an indie-pop outfit on the side called Dressed In Roses. She roped in Partida, 11 at the time, to play keyboards, an instrument she didn’t know how to play.
“I had all of these acoustic songs. We lived together. I was like, ‘There’s a keyboard there. Why don’t you learn how to play it?’” Kohls says. “I would come up with these ideas and teach it to her. She would pick it up so fast. She would sing backup and stuff. But she was pretty shy about it. I didn’t know she could sing really well until just recently. Her voice has become so powerful. It was a big shock.”
Even Partida was unaware of her vocal abilities—that is, until last year when she recorded a video of herself singing Ariana Grande’s “Moonlight” to Instagram and got a great response from her friends on social media. That gave her the confidence to write the song “Selfish,” and then “A Very Merry Christmas.” But of course, she did to her sister exactly what she did to her—told her to play guitar.
“She’s probably one of the greatest female guitarists there is. That’s why I wanted her to add solos, because she’s really good,” Partida says. “I was like, “Maybe I can make a living out of this.’ And then [with] Jackie’s solos, you know I could create something different. We’d be able to make a living off of our music. We each have our own strengths.”
In addition to their debut EP, they will be rereleasing “A Very Merry Christmas” as Maddie and Jackie. It’ll be available on Nov. 14, just in time for the holiday season.
For more information, check out maddieandjackie.com.