Shootin' Stars

High Valley: Canadian Country Music Export


While country music definitely has its roots in the southern United States, geography hasn’t stopped Canadian artists from taking it and making it their own. The yodeling of Hank Snow, country and adult contemporary songs from Grammy award winner Anne Murray, over 85 million albums of country/pop music sold by Shania Twain. Now, the latest Canadian country music export, High Valley, is poised to follow with their own, a blend of traditional and contemporary sounds.

The duo can attribute their own sound to the fact that they had such limited musical references growing up. Brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel grew up in a remote wheat and canola farming community in Alberta, Canada. They didn’t have a TV, had just one AM radio station and a narrow selection of records in their parents collection, including music from Buck Owens and Ricky Skaggs.

“There’s a couple decade of music that we just absolutely missed because we didn’t have radio and TV growing up,” stated Curtis in a recent interview. “We kind of started catching up again in the 2000s.”

The minimal access to outside music helped the brothers come up with their own sound, an acoustic-based mix of bluegrass, pop and Christian music. High Valley’s current single, and the first for Atlantic/Warner Music Nashville (WMN), is “Make You Mine,” and co-writer Brad says the song gets reactions that range from “That’s so retro” to “That’s so progressive.”

High Valley first hit country radio in 2012 after already establishing themselves as stars in Canada, where they had gold records and 14 top 20 singles. Their first US single, “Love You For a Long Time,” came when the band was still a trio, brother Bryan left the group to raise his family back in his Canadian hometown. The song was not a chart success but was in included on an EP in 2013 from Tennessee’s Eaglemont Entertainment. The brothers bought themselves out of that deal and started to garner a lot of record label interest after Apple Music featured their songs.

After signing with Atlantic Records the brothers started another radio tour meeting with programmers they had met years before. Their success was much greater the second time around.

The single attracted much attention at Spotify which put them on it’s “Spotlight on 2016” artists to watch list, and CMT, featured the duo as one of it’s 16 “Listen Up” artists. The brother’s musical career came full-circle when Ricky Skaggs accompanied them on Make You Mine” at the Grand Ole Opry earlier this year.

By taking time between the releases of their US singles, the brothers felt like they had time to have country music get more comfortable with their sound. “I remember not that long ago feeling confused about how we fit when country was going more bro. We were like, ‘Man, how do we keep up with that? What do we do?” explained Brad in an interview earlier this year.

High Valley became a little more at ease with how they would fit in when they heard what they call bluegrass on country radio, and then when country started to release Chris Stapleton, Cam and more acoustic based music. The brothers have previously released four albums and now are working on what will be their major label debut for Atlantic. They are taking the sound from “Make You Mine” and using it as the foundation for the rest of the album, which is expected to be released later in 2016. And while the brothers may experiment a little with their sound, they definitely have a firm grip on who they are and the kind of music they play.