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The Hickman Sisters' Songs of Joy

Lili and Io follow into the family business

By William Harries Graham, 5:25PM, Tue. Aug. 27, 2013

Sisters of the Moon: (l-r) Lili and Io Hickman
Sisters of the Moon: (l-r) Lili and Io Hickman
photo by Lance Schriner

If you’ve met Sara Hickman, her daughters won’t surprise you. Lili, 17, is a junior at McCallum High School. Io, 13, is finishing her last year at O. Henry. The sisters – full of energy and joy – raise their voices in song effortlessly.

I met the siblings this summer through Chronicle photographer Todd V. Wolfson’s music series at the Monkeynest. Since then, Io and Lili have become regulars at my Proper Nang Nights. Lili’s been in movies and is already an accomplished artist, but music remains her passion.

“I started doing live shows before I could really put sentences together,” she says. “My mom would pull me out onto the stage and sing me to sleep in front of crowds as big as the headlining stage at Kerrville. Then later, once I started showing an interest in singing, she would let me sing at her kids shows.”

Io realized she wanted to play music five years ago when she joined the school choir. Last year, she got serious about her ukelele playing.

“Before that I wouldn’t even sing for my cat,” she laughs. “Movie soundtracks inspire me. When I see a good movie, it always has great music, so I’ll just listen to that by myself, in my room late at night, and write down whatever comes to me.”

About Lili, Io says, “Most sisters our age fight a lot, but I consider her more like a best friend. Lili teaches me a lot. I get a lot of my music and book tastes from her. I try to keep up with her on so many levels.”

When Lili talks about growing up with a musician parent, I can relate to the absence that brings, given that both of our parents tour a lot.

“It’s been hard but also priceless,” she admits. “I grew up faster, yet in the best kind of way – knowing what the world is really like past the boundaries of my home in Austin.”

Music is in the future for the half sisters.

“I just want to be in a band, doing what I love,” says Io.

“My future is a big clean slate,” she Lili, who plans on releasing her first solo album next year. “Anything could happen. And that’s what really puts a smile on my face. The music industry has become a very tricky and sly business.

“It’s a huge machine of a beast that’s both enticing and terrifying. The best advice anyone’s ever given me is to be myself, and to know that memories are made to be remembered and forgotten, so just live in the moment.”

Lili performs Friday at Strange Brew along with my band, the Painted Redstarts, Grace London, Ramona Beattie, Payton Keller, and a few others. Io and Lili will be back at Maria’s Taco Xpress on Sept. 14 for a Proper Nang Night.

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