It takes a bit under an hour to drive the 60 kilometres from the family cabin on Ennis Road in Cape Broyle to the Ennis home in St. John's. But the miles are filled with melodies that have taken the Ennis Sisters all the way to California, 5,500 kms from home.
"We used to have singalongs on the way home from (weekends at) Cape Broyle," Karen Ennis said over the phone from St. John's this week. "Our parents didn't want us to fall asleep in the car or we would be up all night. So we sang along with (groups like) the Irish Rovers on the radio."
At the time Karen thinks she was maybe five. The youngest Ennis, Teresa, would have been four, the eldest, Maureen, six or seven. They would exchange leads, sing in harmony and learn many of the traditional folk songs they now perform in concerts.
"We did it then because our parents wanted us to do it. We do it now because we want to," Karen said.
Now, at 20, 21 and 23, Teresa, Karen and Maureen - on the verge of releasing Ennissisters, their fourth CD, in St. John's on Tuesday - are East Coast Music Awards laureates, the 2001 winner of the traditional/roots category.
In the last four years, riding on their close harmonies and even closer sibling vocal colour, the Ennis Sisters have been touring well beyond the road between Cape Broyle and St. John's.
"We sang at Merlefest in North Carolina in April," Karen said. "It was our first time playing in the States, and one of the biggest festivals we ever played."
"We did a 25-minute set in front of 60,000 people - we were singing for Mary Chapin Carpenter's audience - she followed us."
"They gave us their complete attention - it was the most incredible feeling. In Newfoundland we are comfortable, we know that we are accepted. It was the same way in North Carolina, then in California and Cleveland. We sold over 1,000 CDs."
The new CD is their first under their contract with Warner Music (Canada), announced in Charlottetown at the ECMAs eight months ago.
Saturday, the Ennis Sisters will sing a 22-minute set at the Kitchen Party in Windsor's Production School House in a double-bill with Acadian singer/songwriter Ron Bourgeois.
Concert time is 3:45 p.m. and the show can be heard on the Internet (www.novascotiakitchenparty.com).
Karen says that Not About You, the single from the new CD will be in the Kitchen Party set. Since it was released in September it is weekly being added to radio playlists, with the video set to screen soon on MuchMoreMusic and CMT.
The 11 songs on Ennissisters are all originals and the sound is markedly country/pop for a group primarily known for their roots/traditional repertoire. "We didn't mean them to be love songs, but if people take it that way, it's OK," Karen said. "Every song on Ennissisters is a positive message we are sending out. But we're not ever going to leave our traditional songs."
The new songs come from the shared experience of three sisters in their early 20s, no longer children but still a close family, who can still say "Wow!" when they walk into a record store in St. John's and see a bath-towel sized poster of themselves on the wall.
Their songs reflect their close connections to each other and to their parents. "October Wind comes from our first time on tour without mom and dad - telling them we were still connected, still looking at the same stars," Karen said.
Another song, Kiss Him, came from sitting around talking about boys. But the Ennis sisters aren't really thinking that way. Too much is going on.
"Maureen is spoken for but Teresa and I are still young, and it's difficult to sustain a relationship in this business."
With their heads full of touring plans, and the thrill of having a major company working their songs through the radio playlists, Karen says sometimes she can't sleep at night.
"We're just three sisters. We never dreamed or planned this could happen. It's so exciting and surreal. But we have to calm down. We have to just enjoy it."