THIEF RIVER FALLS -- The Jensen Sisters expected their first gig to be their last.
Their fans are glad it wasn’t.
During the past few years since Kendra and Kansas belted out “Good Hearted Woman” at a high school talent show, they’ve wowed fans, friends and neighbors, from their hometown of Goodridge, Minn., population 130, to Nashville, Tenn.
Now, the sisters’ recently released Highway Hippie EP has introduced their music to an even broader audience.
“It’s been crazy. Our support comes from all over the country,” Kendra said.
Kendra, 19, and Kansas, 16, are grateful for, and a little awestruck by, the recognition they’ve received. Though they sang along with the recordings of country artists like Dolly Parton and the late Waylon Jennngs from the time they were toddlers, they never planned to sing professionally.
“The love of music really started at that talent show,” Kendra said.
After that first performance at Goodridge High School in 2016, they started getting requests to perform at area events.
“When we got done, everybody was asking, ‘Can you sing at this?’ We were like ‘We’re not singers,'” Kansas said.
“It’s something we never anticipated and it kind of blows our minds, so we’re really thankful,” Kendra said.
In fact, Kansas had to talk her reserved older sister into entering the Goodridge High School talent contest. Both started getting the jitters before they performed and would have backed out if their mom, Kelsey, hadn’t told them that wasn’t an option.
“I told them you have to do it once. If you hate it, you never have to do it again,” Kelsey said.
But instead of hating it, Kendra and Kansas loved singing in front of an audience. As they do in other parts of their lives, the sisters draw support from one another when they sing.
“I couldn’t do it without Kansas,” Kendra said.
“I couldn’t do it without you. We’re meant to be together,” Kansas said.
The sisters, also best friends, enjoy going on the road together with their mom; their dad, Erik; and three dogs.
The Jensen Sisters don’t have an agent so they book their own performances, manage their social media accounts and maintain their website. Their parents give them help when they need it and offer moral support and guidance.
“They make mom so proud,” Kelsey said.
Not only is she proud of her daughters’ success, but also because they sing simply because they enjoy it. They don’t have plans to enter any major competitions to further their success, Kelsey said.
“They want to build it fan by fan, show by show. They’re fine without fame,” she said.
The first performance Kansas and Kelsey were paid for was the 2016 Grygla Fall Fest. It was at that event the sisters also got their stage name.
“When they handed us the check, they said ‘The Jensen Sisters.’
”We said. ‘I guess that’s our name,’” Kendra said.
Since that performance, the sisters have performed at events across Minnesota and North Dakota.
“We do everything from bars to festivals to hockey games," Kansas said.
During the winter when Kansas is attending college in Thief River Falls and Kendra is in high school in Goodridge, the sisters stick close to home. Their performance schedule ramps up during the summer. This year, the sisters will be on the road for three months doing shows in Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
Besides their “lucky charm” song “Good Hearted Woman” and other older country songs, Kendra and Kansas also perform their own songs. Songwriting, like singing, evolved after the talent show.
“We started singing, then we started performing and then we started writing,” Kendra said.
The Jensen Sisters don’t know what the next step will be. They’re OK with that.
“Wherever the wind takes us,” Kansas said.
“We’re just going to do this as long as we can,” Kendra said.
“It makes us happy to see people happy,” Kansas said.