Sibling Superlatives: The Petersens

John FarrellBy John Farrell8 Minutes

Ellen Petersen Haygood is one of four siblings that make up two-thirds of The Petersens, a family bluegrass and gospel band specializing in American roots music based in Branson, MO. She sings and plays the banjo while also leading the band’s marketing efforts on YouTube, social media, their website, and elsewhere. You may also recognize her from Season 14 of “American Idol,” where she made it into the “Top 48.”

Joining her in The Petersens are her older sister Katie (vocals, fiddle), her brother Matt (vocals, guitar), her younger sister Julianne (vocals, mandolin), her mother Karen (bass), and family friend Emmett Franz (vocals, dobro).  Currently, they perform live three days a week at the Little Opry Theatre at Branson’s IMAX – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Their Wednesday performance is their Gospel Show. They will begin their Christmas Show the first week of November.

As a member of a somewhat large family, Ellen agreed to provide a little insight on her and her three siblings by answering some superlative questions about the four of them.

Read part one of my interview with Ellen: The Petersens’ Ellen Petersen Haygood: Masters of Bluegrass and Gospel (Part 1)


John Farrell: Between you and your three siblings, who was the best behaved growing up?

Ellen Petersen: That is hard. I’m going to say me. I’m the middle child, so I’m going to claim that for myself.

JF: Who was the best student?

Ellen: I’m going to say me again. This is fun. More questions, please.

JF: Alright. You can interpret this next question however you want. Who is the most talented?

Ellen: Katie and then Julianne. It’s hard to tell because Julianne is really coming into it. But as far as musically gifted, Katie can hear chords and notes and play stuff that I would never consider. And she actually helps me come up with vocal lines to sing. So Katie, for sure.

JF: Outside of music, who is the most talented?

Ellen: Matt is the best at the most things. So, the most well-rounded is probably Matt.

JF: Of the four of you, who has the biggest fan base — and not your mom, because I know she has a huge fan following?

Ellen: Yeah, my mom, for sure.

Katie and Julianne might be a tie. They have very different fan bases. That’s a hard one. Katie and Jules get an equal amount of creepy letters in the mail.

JF: (Laughter) Sorry, I didn’t expect your answer to go that in that direction.

Ellen: I can’t choose which one of them has it worse.

JF: So, moving on, who’s the loudest?

Ellen: Probably me. I don’t like to claim that, but between the banjo and for some reason my voice is just louder. I get that one.

JF: Who is the funniest?

Ellen: Easy answer is Matt. Julianne: to be determined. If she starts speaking more — she’s more introverted than the rest of us — she would rival him, but Matt takes it for now.

JF: She’s a low-key comedian?

Ellen: She’s secretly funny.

JF: I would imagine she’s probably not as introverted around you.

Ellen: Sometimes. The rest of us, I would say, are extroverts. Jules is the only one who’s an introvert.

JF: Fair enough. Maybe you all are just intimidating. Who knows?

Ellen: Doubt it. (Laughter).

JF: Who is the most athletic?

Ellen: Matt again. Matt’s a really good runner and just overall good at sports.

JF: Who’s the most accident-prone?

Ellen: I’m going to say me. There are several pictures of me on stage with crutches playing the banjo out there.

JF: Who is the best cook?

Ellen: Katie is a great cook as of 2020.

JF: I watched a video where she was making something and it was the first time she had made it.

Ellen: Yeah, she made Chicken Scampi. She had never touched raw chicken before, but she videotaped herself making it and it was so entertaining to me. So, yeah, chicken scampi and Katie for the win.

JF: Who has the worst taste in music?

Ellen: Maybe me. I probably listened to it the least and I’m always finding out about new people I like through my siblings and Emmett. So, I’m going to say me.

JF: Who gets into trouble the most?

Ellen: Matt, for sure.

JF: No hesitation. (Laughter)

Ellen: Matt’s for sure going to take that one.

JF: When it comes to music, who is the most focused?

Ellen: Katie. Katie practices and is able to hear things and listen at a different level than I will ever be at.

JF: Who’s the most laid back?

Ellen: Hmm. Laid back musically or laid back as a person?

JF: However you want to interpret it.

Ellen: That’s a really hard question. I think we all enjoy achieving at things in different ways. Maybe me. I’m going to say I enjoy relaxing the most, so maybe I’m the most laid back.

JF: Fair enough. Who’s the most random or unpredictable?

Ellen: I’m going to say Katie. She’s very quirky and fun.

JF: Who’s the worst driver?

Ellen: (Laughter) Julianne, a hundred percent.

JF: Again, no hesitation.

Ellen: No, Jules gets that one.

JF: Who’s the biggest prankster?

Ellen: We’re not really big prank people to each other. Maybe Jules? Jules does funny stuff on social media. So, if that can be considered a prank, I’ll give it to Julianne.

JF: Who has the best memory?

Ellen: Not me. I’m going to go with Katie.

JF: Last question. Of the four of you, who is most likely to break out into a solo career?

Ellen: I really don’t see it happening. That’s really hard because I could see solo projects by Katie who’s written a lot of songs that don’t necessarily fit our group. They’re more ukulele or piano style.

JF: Like “The Ring Song”?

Ellen: Yes, exactly like that. She has songs like that, that don’t necessarily fit the Petersons. And then Julianne also has songs like that, but I don’t know if they would break out and do their own thing. I would love for them to someday do a solo project of the songs that I really love but just don’t fit what we do.

For more information on The Petersens, learn more at

Featured Image Credit: Meet the Petersens