Sisters Eleanor (Ellie), Powell and Lily Balkcom, known by their band name, The Castellows, are bringing fun country performances to downtown Athens.
The sisters are from Georgetown, Georgia, a small town on the border of Alabama. The three were homeschooled and worked on their family’s cattle farm for most of their childhood.
“We started playing music from a very young age because we were all homeschooled. We had a lot of time to devote to playing together and practicing,” Ellie Balkcom said.
Not only do the sisters sing, they each play multiple instruments.
“Eleanor and I took guitar lessons at the same time, and she picked up guitar way faster than I did,” Powell Balkcom said. “I felt like it was better for me to pick my own instrument, just because I didn't take to guitar as well as she did. So I was like, ‘What's similar to a guitar? Banjo.’”
The need for extra sound in their performances also influenced the types of instruments the sisters played.
“I was the lead singer for about two years,” Lily Balkcom said. “Eleanor knew I had the potential to play an instrument, and we needed more instruments. She told me, ‘You're gonna play the bass.’ So, she taught me a little bit and it was really easy to pick up — it took me a week.”
About four years ago, the three began playing music together for their church and smaller events around their hometown. Their musical talent and on-stage chemistry were undeniable, so officially forming The Castellows was the next step.
“Castellow is a family name of ours. It was my great-grandmother's maiden name. It's also the name of the street that we live on,” Ellie Balkcom said, “It’s called Castellow Road because all my family lived on that street. The band name ‘Castellow’ connects us back to our home.”
The Castellows were presented with plenty of opportunities to perform in their hometown and soon began developing a great reputation.
“One of the most fun gigs that we've ever done was when we played at a home for [diasabled] kids. That was kind of what got the ball rolling a little bit,” Powell Balkcom said. “We had just started, so we had cheap sound equipment and a bottom-of-the-barrel performance, but they absolutely loved us.”
Everything began to fall into place for the new band the more they played together.
“We opened for Mill Jam in Alabama, which was such a fun experience. We were singing ‘I Will Wait,’ and the crowd was singing along with us. That’s when I knew I was going to love performing with my sisters,” Lily Balkcom said.
Soon, performing became almost second nature for The Castellows.
“I think the first time we played a wedding I was very nervous because I was like, ‘Oh, I'm playing guitar while she's walking down the aisle. That's terrifying. What if I mess up?’ But I think once you go through the motions a little bit, no nerves,” Ellie Balkcom said.
The Castellows are unlike any other band in Athens currently. Because they are sisters, the three give light-hearted performances and a unique sound.
“As sisters, our relationship goes beyond just being best friends. Our voices mix well because we’re related. I feel like that is one way that we are different from others is we do a lot of harmonies,” Powell Balkcom said.
The Castellows have big dreams for their band.
“I've been writing a lot of songs that we're going to try to get to the studio pretty soon because I'm proud of it. I've been writing more music lately. I've been pretty inspired by Eli Cain by watching him and performing with him,” Ellie Balkcom said.
Cain, a country singer-songwriter from Watkinsville, Georgia, has performed with the sisters and is also making his way into the Athens music scene.
“If Ellie writes something, chances are Powell and I can relate to it and help her with the process of writing it. We're connected in that way,” Lily Balkcom said.
In addition to aspirations for The Castellows, the sisters have their own personal goals to further enhance their sound.
“One thing that Eleanor bugs me about is practicing banjo. I've kind of gotten to a standstill with my playing. I figured out how to play anything I want to pretty easily, but I do need to keep practicing,” Powell Balkcom said.
Each of the band members has their own unique interests that they plan on pursuing simultaneously while jumping into the music industry headfirst.
Eleanor, Powell, and their brother, Henry Balkcom, are triplets. The triplets are sophomores at the University of Georgia and are hoping for their younger sister, Lily, to join them soon.
“I am working towards my pilot’s license at Middle Georgia [State University],” Lily Balkcom said. “Powell is an agriculture-business major, she wants to take over our family farm back home. Ellie works with the football team and wants to go into sports science and analytics.”