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  • The Cimorelli sisters' CimFam EP – the cover is seen at left – debuted at No. 6 on Apple's iTunes pop chart earlier this month. The sisters honed their style singing in musical theater and at Kings games and the State Fair. "Each one of them has a unique voice and unique tone. You wouldn't look and say, 'That one is the star.' They are all stars," said Chloe Roberts, who signed them to a record contract.

  • Cimorelli family, 2010 / Courtesy photo

    The Cimorelli sisters – top, from left, Lisa, Katherine and Christina, and bottom, Dani, Amy and Lauren – built a following for their music on the Internet. Now they're working on their first full-length album.

6 Sacramento-native sisters become YouTube singing stars

Published: Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 30, 2012 - 5:21 pm

A lifetime of Christmas wishes may soon be coming true for a sister act of six Sacramento natives trying to turn YouTube fame into big-time record sales.

After years of cultivating an energetic Internet following by singing other artists' songs, the Cimorelli sisters released their first original recording earlier this month.

The CimFam EP – which included five cover songs and the original track "Million Bucks" – debuted at No. 6 on Apple's iTunes pop chart. Cimorelli – the sisters use their last name for their group – was a Twitter trending topic. And the release even got a quick blurb on Ryan Seacrest's pop culture blog.

"As soon as it came out it started charting everywhere," said Christina Cimorelli, 21, the oldest sister.

The album has eased back down the charts, but the success of "Million Bucks" and the buzz it generated seem to foretell good things for the sisters, who are working on their first full-length album.

Influenced by their mother, Laynee – a graduate of the music program at California State University, Sacramento – the Cimorelli sisters grew up around music.

"We started doing music together when we were really young," Christina Cimorelli said.

The three oldest, Christina, Katherine, 19, and Lisa, 18, worked their way up in the Sacramento music scene before being joined by Amy, 16, Lauren, 13, and eventually Dani, 11.

Over the years, they did musical theater and sang at a Sacramento Kings game and the State Fair.

But their big break wouldn't come from working the club scene. It came from the online video hosting site, where they began posting videos of themselves singing popular songs.

One fan happened to be the daughter of Sarah Stennett, the head of the London-based Turn First Artists agency.

Chloe Roberts, a Turn First executive, recalls Stennett's sense of urgency as Roberts was rerouted from a visit to Los Angeles to the Cimorellis' El Dorado Hills home.

"I felt a bit like 'The Sound of Music' when the nanny comes to meet the family," Roberts said of the visit, which also included meeting the five boys.

Roberts said she was "blown away" by the sisters, who in addition to singing, write music, arrange their own songs, play instruments and at this early stage produce and post their own videos and manage their social media accounts.

Like a growing number of modern artists, the sisters used the Internet to build an audience and visibility before being "discovered."

"If you live in a little tiny village … where no one is going to find you, YouTube gives you a chance," Roberts said.

Before YouTube and before it, artists had to spend money to produce a decent-sounding tape and then try to get the tape into a label agent's hands, said Mike Schneider, general manger of Skip's Music in Sacramento.

"It just allows you to get in front of a lot more people with a lot less effort," Schneider said of YouTube. "Now with a few keystrokes these artists can get in front of tens of thousands of people while they are still drinking their coffee."

To date, the sisters' videos, featuring their wholesome, Disney-like brand of pop, have generated nearly 119 million views and 442,000 YouTube subscribers.

Christina said other agencies and labels tried to persuade the Cimorellis to conform to the vocal group norm by picking one lead singer. Assured that would not be an issue with Turn First, the group signed and soon had a record deal with Universal Island Records.

Lisa Cimorelli said she was happy to have a label that trusts them.

Roberts said the sisters' ability to feature different lead singers from song to song was a strength.

"Each one of them has a unique voice and unique tone. You wouldn't look and say, 'That one is the star.' They are all stars," Roberts said.

With the record deal in hand, the family moved to the Los Angeles area in 2010, where the sisters are putting the finishing touches on their debut full-length album.

Roberts brushed aside questions about whether their squeaky clean nature made them harder to market, pointing to the Jonas Brothers.

"They are the girls next door. Their appeal is in who they are," Roberts said.

"It's no coincidence that they have so many YouTube fans," she said. "There is clearly a demand."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ed Fletcher

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