Interview: High Valley’s Mennonite Upbringing Fostered Their Success
High Valley, the duo made up of brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel, earned themselves a large fan following in their native Canada -- and two Canadian Country Music Association Awards -- before moving to Nashville and signing to Warner Bros. Records. The pair decided to relocate to increase their growing legion of supporters -- and it seems to be working.
"We had 14 singles out in Canada on country radio. We’ve had, thankfully, something like 14 Top 20 hits on Billboard up in Canada, so definitely enough to do 90-minute shows with people singing the whole time," Brad Rempel tells The Boot. "It’s awesome; it’s the best thing ever. Our fans have been super supportive."
What sets High Valley apart from other current country acts, other than their rich family harmonies, is their unique upbringing: Raised in a Mennonite community, the siblings' childhood experiences fostered their early dreams of a musical career.
"We grew up in a northern town, Blumenort, [Alberta]," Curtis Rempel explains. "We’ve got three sisters, and a brother, and a mom and dad. We’re a pretty tight family: We love getting together, and we always grew up singing a lot together, singing in church and every Christmas."
In fact, both men acknowledge that High Valley wouldn't even exist without the support and encouragement of their parents.
"I was four years old, and our family made a little gospel record at our church," Brad Rempel recalls. "Our dad was pulling the engine out of a tractor on the farm, and the phone rang, and it was some scam artist, basically, from Nashville, saying, ‘Hey, I saw your boys on MP3.com, and for $60,000, if you wire me the money, I can turn them into big stars.
"Dad always says, 'If he would have seen the tractor I was working on, he never would have asked me for $60,000,'" Rempel adds with a laugh. "But it got the wheels turning, and Mom and Dad mortgaged their farmland and flew us down here and spent a lot of money on helping us record and stuff. And then, six years ago, I moved here and started writing songs. We were completely independent there for a while, and wrote this song called "Make You Mine" and did the music video, and just, all of a sudden, a bunch of labels started taking interest.
"When it happened, it happened really fast," he concludes, "but it took a long time."
If we were doing something that was making people excited, but it didn’t feel like what we had always done, it would be a little bit of a letdown ... This just feels right.
Their early influences inspired High Valley's current single, "Make You Mine," which became a trademark of their live shows long before they had much commercial success.
"We’ve sold more records in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania because of the Mennonite thing," Brad Rempel shares. "That’s why it all clicked on "Make You Mine." You know how you can record a song and feel like, 'This sounds awesome in the studio, how are we going to replicate this live?' "Make You Mine" was like, ‘Oh. We know this.This is "I'll Fly Away." This is "I Saw the Light." This is every song we’ve sung in our entire lives. We just do it."
Written by Rempel, along with Ben Stennis and Seth Mosley, the uptempo tune is a good indication of what High Valley are all about.
"The first time we ever played it live, it was special, and we knew that we had something," Rempel recalls. "Now, we feel that we can do what we’ve always done, but somehow, people are calling it progressive, or they’re calling it throwback, or they’re calling it the new sound, or whatever. To us, it’s just what we’ve always done, but yet it’s brand new at the same time, and that’s what makes us the most excited about it.
"If we were doing something that was making people excited, but it didn’t feel like what we had always done, it would be a little bit of a letdown," he adds. "This feels like we’ve taken all those years and what we’ve done, to bring it to 2016. It just feels right."
High Valley are about halfway done with their freshman project, which is being produced by Mosley. Although not all of the songs will sound like "Make You Mine," the brothers are content to let that be their cornerstone.
"We use "Make You Mine" as the bullseye," says Brad Rempel. "It’s like these more extreme bluegrass songs are on the outside of the target, and the extreme pop songs are on the outside on the other side of the target, but "Make You Mine" is the bullseye.
"We’ve been recording on the beach quite a bit, in Pensacola Beach, Fla. We've been writing there," he continues. "We’ve been recording out in Franklin, [Tenn.]; I’ve booked this little farm house out in Columbia, Tenn., [in] which we’ve been doing some writing and recording. We’re everywhere, trying to get creative outside of the typical Music Row situation."
In between finishing their freshman record, High Valley will spend much of the next few months on the road, on their Make You Mine Tour.
"It’s about 40 dates," Brad Rempel says. "Some of it is us headlining; some of it is dates we had opening for other people already at festivals. It’s a mixture. A lot of dates in the U.S. -- probably 90 percent -- and 10 percent is Canadian stuff. It’s going to be a busy busy tour.
"We’re very excited," he adds, "because [at a recent show], people were already starting to sing "Make You Mine" back to us, and we were like, ‘Man, this is the real deal.’"
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