It’s getting awfully difficult to keep up with the avalanche of accomplishments Chauntee and Monique Ross — aka SistaStrings — have earned since moving from Milwaukee to Nashville (goodness knows we’ve tried). It’s even harder to rank them. But one would imagine the honor they received Wednesday night is toward the top of the list.
At the 22nd Americana Music Awards, the duo were named Instrumentalist of the Year by the Americana Music Association, leading a category that included Isa Burke, Allison de Groot, Jeff Picker and Kyle Tuttle.
The incredible moment started even before their names were called by folk artist Dom Flemons, a member of Carolina Chocolate Drops and an accomplished multi-instrumentalist in his own right. As he worked his way through the nominees, the crowd at the historic Ryman Auditorium noticeably upped their response for SistaStrings, eliciting a chuckle and a “Hey now” from Flemons. The reaction was equally raucous when the win was announced, with the Ross sisters wiping away tears from joyful smiles as they made their way to the stage.
That emotion carried over to their acceptance speech, which saw them reflect on their big bet on themselves when moving to Nashville, fighting for inclusion in Tennessee, and the good advice they received from their parents and grandfather about doing more than just thinking about the things you want to happen.
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“Being able to speak on our careers and talk about our goals together and work hard and manifest it feels so amazing,” Monique said. “And I cannot wait to continue this journey with you, sister.”
Below, you can watch their big moment (jump ahead to the 11:10 mark if it doesn’t automatically start there) and read the full transcript from their acceptance speech.
Chauntee: How much time do we have? Cuz I could talk for a looong time. Wow, you guys. About two years ago, I came to my first Americana Awards. I was sitting, like, right over there. And Monique was playing with Allison Russell.
Monique: Thank you for giving us one of our first jobs after moving here!
Chauntee: I remember seeing my beautiful sister, Allison, and all these beautiful women playing. And I was sitting over there, and I was like, “One day, I’m going to play there.” And I remember the next year after that, our friend Larissa Maestro won this award. The year before that, Meg Coleman, another close friend of ours — the first woman of color to be nominated in this category. And just the beautiful spirit of inclusion and seeing folks for who they are, how it’s becoming more celebrated. And we’re fighting, we’re fighting real hard in Tennessee. I’m proud of us.
Monique: We’re in the mother church, so we gotta preach just a little bit.
Monique: Our parents are pastors, and they raised us always talking about manifesting things and working hard and don’t just pray about it, but speak on it. Our grandfather would always be like, “Pray on it, and then say thank you. Just say thank you.” So being able to speak on our careers and talk about our goals together and work hard and manifest it feels so amazing. And I cannot wait to continue this journey with you, sister.
Chauntee: Yes! And speaking of thank yous, we just want to throw a couple of them out there, and then we’ll get out the way because it is the beginning of an incredible night. But a huge thank you to our parents, who are here, who woke up really early in the morning. There’s mom, there’s dad! All those years of lessons. I wanna thank … we already thanked our lovely Allison Russell, our big sister, our mentor, neighbor [laughs]. We wanna thank Brandi Carlile, our band leader.
Monique: And our small but strong and mighty team of Tracy Gershon.
Chauntee: And guys, we’ll be back at the Ryman next month, Oct. 25, opening for Brandy Clark. So I hope to see some of y’all there. We love you, Nashville. Thank you, Americana Awards. We out!