Photo Credit: Ben Humphrey

Hey, Soul Sisters

The Castellows trio has swirled up from Georgia like a hurricane from

the Gulf, taking audience by storm on their current tour.

Story by Cara Clark

castellows three girls on horses as children

Heredity or environment? That’s a long debated and studied question about how musical genius passes through family generations — phenoms Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were from families with musical aptitude. Whether or not a scientific conclusion has been determined, the inherited precipitous rise to acclaim The Castellows trio is experiencing in the music scene is a gift of grace performers Eleanor (Ellie), Powell, and Lily Balkcom attribute to genetics and early lessons from a talented family.

“Our grandmother on my dad’s side (a skilled musician) taught us how to play piano when I was pretty young,” says Ellie. “We were all homeschooled, and music was our extracurricular activity growing up. I started playing guitar when I was 12, and then Powell picked up the banjo, and Lily started singing, and I taught her how to play bass. She taught herself to play guitar. I woke up one day, and she was just playing, and I thought, ‘She’s really good.’ 

“It’s something we’ve always done, but we were never thinking of it as a career — we just loved music and loved singing and playing together.” 

Being self-taught, the Castellows (pronounced cast-ah-lows) have developed their own style. Powell plays banjo on their records, and Ellie plays guitar while they all lend their voices. 

“I think being self-taught has really helped what we’re doing in the sense that we have our own sound,” Powell says. “We all have different strengths that we bring to the writing table. Ellie was the one who first started writing, and we’re very new to the whole writing scene, but we love it. We all come up with lyrics and melody lines. We all come up with chord progressions. In Nashville, there are very formulaic ways that you work, and so we've written a lot of good songs the Nashville way, and we've written a lot of good songs, not the Nashville way. The cool thing about writing a song is there's no wrong way to do it.” 

Perhaps the most harmonious part of the band is the relationship among the girls, self-confessed home bodies who are adjusting to lots of time on the road. 

“I’m so thankful for my sisters,” Ellie says. “I think of solo artists and musicians on the road alone, and it just makes me all the grateful for my sisters because I just could not imagine doing this without them.” 

Just back from a four-week tour in a 14-passenger van with a trailer in tow, the young musicians were tired, but invigorated, happily embracing the opportunity to make joyful noise and feel the reverb of  fans clamoring for me.  

“We had a great time with it,” Powell says.  

Powell and Ellie, 20, were born triplets with a brother who isn’t as into music as the girls. Lily, the youngest at 19, is possibly the most daring. She’s a licensed pilot who loves slipping earth’s surly bonds to dance “the skies on laughter-silvered wings,” as Shakespeare put it.  

“I do miss flying,” Lily says. “I was back home and flew for the first time in four months, and I was asking all of my family to come up with me, but everyone said, ‘No. You go ahead.’ I just got up there and flew by myself for an hour and a half.” 

Freedom such as that is heady stuff, especially after nights under hot stage lights, followed by hotel rooms, and long hours on the road. But the three enjoy those times as well, laughing over shared memories of an already hectic year and over the way the country music world has warmly embraced them.

“I think country is in our roots, but we all have different musical tastes and love lots of styles of music,” Powell says. “Lily did theater for a while and loved that, and Ellie loves rock music. I went through a big bluegrass/folk stage. Singing in church was obviously very important to us.That’s a huge part of where our influences come from. It’s cool to see what we’re doing now with our live shows, and all three of us enjoy the crowds. It’s great because we all have different ideas, opinions, and likes to offer to the band.”

That blend of ideas and influences has led to a country-rock sound that often surprises people. The Castellows’ release cover-version of Levon Helm's Hurricane, brings together traditional and modern with an edgy video that’s as much rock as country. 

“One of the sound guys at a venue said, ‘Y’all are a whole lot more rock than I thought you would be,’” Ellie says. “We get up there with our cowboy boots and guitars, and people feel like we’re about to play a bunch of country music, which we do, but we love listening to rock, and we like to make our concerts feel like a combination of the things we love. It’s not a rock show, but it’s got to be entertaining.” 

With their fusion of music, they’re also adapting and growing along the tour and taking their nearest and dearest with them on the wild ride. 

“All of our band members are our friends from college, and we met them in church worship groups or ministries and college,” Ellie says. “They all moved up here with us. It’s really awesome to be on the road with a bunch of guys that we're familiar with. And they're just good, Godly men. We're just having a good time.” 

Some of the most rewarding moments on the gigs, Powell says, is feeling they’re making inroads with pass-along positivity. 

“I love seeing young girls in the crowd saying our songs are dear to them,” she says. “It’s so important for us to good role models for younger girls. Our faith is very important to us. We think about that in the way we present ourselves and work with each other. When I see young girls in the crowd having a good time and seeing us at the meet in greet, it’s so satisfying.”  

“These girls are so excited when you hug them, but I’m just as excited, if not more, to see them singing all of our songs with us,” Lilly echoes. “We’ve had a couple of young girls give us bracelets, and it’s so sweet and such a blessing. One little girl had made a bracelet with No. 7 written on it, and when we played the song, she handed the bracelet to me.” 

No. 7 is one the girls wrote, and it’s resonating with people of all ages. They’re playing sold out shows in Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, and Indianapolis, to name a few — places quick to pick up tracks these Southern girls are laying down. 

“We have cousins and friends and family show up when we play in the Southeast, but to have people in states where we’ve never traveled who are so thrilled to hear us is amazing,” Powell says. “Selling out a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan — I don’t know anybody there, but all of these people came out to see us. It’s crazy. And it’s awesome.” 

Right now, the girls aren’t looking for the next big thing but focusing on keeping it real and appreciating the core family values that made them who they are.  

“I think it’s important for us to stay grounded and stay close to each other and close to the music we’re making,” Powell says. “We want to keep writing better songs and recording better songs. We want to live in the moment.” 

“We’ve seen over the past year what a small amount of time can do,” Ellie says. “You just have to take it one day at a time and then you look back at the year and can't believe all that happened. It’s so exciting.”  

The Castellows signed a record deal with Warner Music Nashville & Warner Records in 2023, and their most recent EP, a seven-song project called “A Little Goes A Long Way,” was created as they began this sling-shot ascent to fame.  

“The songs kind of are all cohesive but all different in their own way,” Powell says of the EP put together as they transitioned to living in Nashville from a small town. “I think what it does is capture that moment of us totally not knowing what we were doing, but it being cool. We were adjusting, and it came out beautifully.” 

Follow their journey @thecastellows on Instagram and catch their new song 'Miss America' out 6/28.