With a successful run in their home country of Canada, sibling duo High Valley set out to make their mark on the States this year. Their current single, “Make You Mine,” reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and the brothers—Brad and Curtis Rempel—are hitting on all cylinders with their new album, Dear Life.
“We liken it to an illustration of a target. You have the bulls-eye, and ‘Make You Mine’ is our bulls-eye. Everything fits on the same target, but there’s stuff that leans a little more bluegrass and there’s stuff that leans a little more pop,” Brad tells Nash Country Daily about the album. “Every song on the record, you can hear it and say, ‘That makes sense. That sounds like High Valley. That sounds like the same guys that recorded ‘Make You Mine.’ I love people who are real. I think Miranda Lambert recording ‘The House That Built Me’ was such a real thing for her to do. I think Florida-Georgia Line singing the big party songs is very real and authentic for them. I think High Valley singing songs about bluegrassy acoustic things, about family and farming and faith and all that stuff is very real for us. As long as people think our record sounds real, then we’ve accomplished what we were trying to do.”
Two of six children, Brad and Curtis grew up in a farm town in Canada 500 miles from the nearest airport. Wheat fields as far as the eye could see, the Rempel family was secluded from pretty much everything. With no TV and no radio, the siblings relied on records—they practically wore out—to fill their home with music.
“Our mom and dad loved music,” Curtis recalled to Nash Country Daily. “They grew up as Mennonites, like the Amish. No electricity. They rode a horse and buggy. They were very, very old school. When they finally got electricity, they fell in love with music. We had a record player with Ricky Skaggs, Buck Owens, and The Everly Brothers, and those were the three records that were wore out.
4 Things Brad and Curtis Can’t Hit The Road Without
BRAD: I take a diffuser for the bus, which is pretty important to me lately. I’m obsessed with smells, so much so that my wife has googled how to make your home smell like Whole Foods.
CURTIS: Emergen-C vitamins.
BRAD: It’s pretty important. Hair gel. Lots and lots and lots of hair product.
CURTIS: Pants. I never leave home without pants.
“We listened to so much Skaggs growing up,” Curtis adds. “Honestly, we didn’t have a whole lot of musical influence as kids and that was pretty much it. The acoustic vibes that he’s always brought impacted us hugely. We’ve just kind of kept that old school acoustic feel and brought that into the studio to our producer [Seth Mosley]—who’s a lot more hip and cool than we are. The combination just created what we have now.”
What they have now is Dear Life, their fifth studio album but their first major-label release. The album features 11 songs, three of which—”She’s With Me,” “Dear Life,” and current single “Make You Mine”—that were pulled from their previous album, County Line.
“When we were working on ‘Make You Mine’—that was before we had a record deal or anything—thankfully, the song caught enough action on YouTube and on iTunes that all of a sudden, record labels got interested,” said Brad. “What we loved so much about Warner Brothers, when they signed us, is they said, ‘Hey, we don’t want you guys to change anything. Keep going to your buddy’s house to record.’ That’s the only thing we could afford. They said, ‘Keep recording there. We want “Make You Mine” to be the first single.’ We were overjoyed. You here all these horror stories of bands signing record deals and all of the sudden losing all control and we have had the exact opposite. We’ve always tried to give our fans a lot of control, and thankfully, Warner Brothers has thought that’s the smartest way to do it, and they’ve allowed us to keep doing that.”
Allowing their fans to be a part of the record was important to Brad and Curtis. They even went so far as to allow them to pick the songs that would go on this album.
“We let our fans hear a lot of our music and demos ahead of time,” said Curtis. “From day one, we’ve always asked like, which t-shirt do you think we should print and have available at our shows? And they’ll vote. Or we’ll ask, which shoes should I wear to the awards show? Just things like that. Then we were like why don’t we ask them what songs they want us to record? So, we started letting them hear demos.”
“I think we played them 50 demos. Some were really bad quality,” adds Brad.
“We gave them a bunch of demos,” Curtis continued. “‘Make You Mine’ was definitely the highest voted—easily way higher than any other song. We knew that we loved it, but we let them hear it and our fan club just loved it.”
The title track, written by Brad, Ben Stennis and Seth Mosley, came from an everyday situation Brad found himself in when dealing with his children.
“I came home one day and my wife said, ‘Man, our kids are growing up so fast. I feel like we’re hanging on for dear life.’ I said, ‘Oh, wait a minute. I think that’s a song,'” recalls Brad. “I called Seth and Ben—my buddies—and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this title called ‘Dear Life’ and I want to write it like a diary. Our producer [Seth] and his wife and kids and Ben and his wife and kids and myself and my wife and our kids, we’d all go to the beach together. ‘Dear Life’ was the first song of the beach trip. We recorded it in Pensacola Beach—we wrote it and recorded it. The lead vocals that you hear on the record are the same ones we recorded on the beach the moment we wrote the songs.”
The Canadian-born brothers are currently on the road with Martina McBride as part of her Love Unleashed Tour as they gear up for their own headlining European tour kicking off in February 2017. As the duo winds down the year, they look ahead to what 2017 will bring.
“It looks busy. Very, very, incredibly busy. And I mean that in a good way,” says Brad of their busy 2017 schedule. “It’s what we signed up for. It starts in Europe and we got all the country thunders and country jam and country who knows what festivals. We’ve got so many great festivals coming up and a couple of them stand out to me—some exciting placements where we get to play right before Alan Jackson. I’m really looking forward to that. It’s going to be a busy year and it’s going to be the first year where I think we’ll feel like we can expect people to sing along to our songs. This last year, we were shocked every time it happened. We’re just psyched for it.”