Country Duo High Valley On Ricky Skaggs, Faith & Growing Up Without A Radio
These soulful country singin' brothers recently landed a coveted spot opening for Martina McBride and have an album on the way.
Although brothers Curtis and Brad Rempel of High Valley are originally from the Great White North (we're looking at you, Canada!), the duo is thoroughly Southern in their mannerisms, love of biscuits and gravy, and warm country sound. We sat down with Curtis (the self-proclaimed comedic relief of the two) to talk about the band's recent success, breaking into the Nashville music industry, and the spirit of their new album.
High Valley's new album Dear Life is debuting in November. Tell us about the project.
CR: We've been working on this album for a while now, and we're just so pumped for it to release. The way I look at it is that when you find something that you love, you just want others to be able to experience it too. My brother, Brad, wrote most of the songs on the album. It's really and truly the High Valley sound. Dear Life is a summary of our lives.
We're very family-oriented guys—we are two of six siblings that grew up on a farm in Alberta, Canada—and we're all about bringing families together. We want to share positivity in our music by singing about what we believe in, whether it be faith, farming, or life experience.
How does being in Nashville influence your sound?
CR: Well honestly, we grew up in a tiny town so far north that we didn't actually have television or radios. And, when we finally had a taste of the AM stations, it was all about the price of wheat and canola oil. So, we missed two decades of pop culture and really, the stuff that was relevant in country music. Now that we're in Nashville, being twenty years behind, we're able to become educated in the industry and catch up on the current musical trends.
But, the lack of exposure over the past decades has definitely influenced our sound. We're working with a young, pop producer named Seth Moseley, so it's a magical combination when you mix our natural bluegrass sound with his modern one. It's an amazing thing that we absolutely love. Nashville's done a lot for us.
Was it a hard transition coming from up north and breaking into the Southern music scene?
CR: You know, I wouldn't quite say that it's been a ‘transition'. It's been a slow and steady thing over the years. Our first trip down to Nashville was back in 2000, and we'd done some independent records down here (which we're glad that you've never heard).
But, they were stepping stones for us. So, there hasn't really been a culture shock, since we tasted Nashville over the years. But then, as things started to happen, we decided that we needed to move here. It's been amazing for us. We signed with Warner back in November, and that's really what's been the biggest leap.
You grew up in a very, very small town. How did you decide to pursue music?
CR: Well, in a nutshell, my mom and dad were born in Mexico on a Mennonite colony. Through a crazy series of events, they ended up in Canada. And, of course, they had to start using electricity just to stay alive up here. They were exposed to the radio and introduced to country music, and then Mom bought a guitar and Dad bought a bass. As kids, we were exposed to what they were in love with, like Buck Owens and Ricky Skaggs.
We really grew up on that kind of stuff until we began touring around and were exposed to a more current sound. We were always surrounded with playing in church and covers that our parents would do. We have three older sisters that are naturally gifted with harmony, too. Honestly, country music was part of our family even before we decided to pursue a career in it.
Where do you pull your songwriting inspiration from?
CR: Most of our songs are written by my brother, Brad, but we bring all of the songs to the table and talk about which applies to us the best and what we both identify with. And, of course, a lot of the things that he's writing about I can relate to, because we grew up one bedroom down from one another.
You're currently on tour with Martina McBride. How's that been?
CR: We've done a couple shows with Martina already, and it's been an amazing experience. She's been so hospitable. She actually hosted a post-show party for us, and it was an opportunity for her band to hang out with us, the opening act, just so we could get to know one another. We casually had appetizers for, like, three hours after the show. It was awesome.
If you could only use one word, how would you describe your relationship with your brother?
CR: (Laughs) That's a hard one. I'd say that Brad is mostly business, and I'm mostly about having a good time. The combination of the two really works well. Brad's efficient, and I'm the comedic relief.
What's been your favorite part of being in the South so far?
CR: Can I say Amazon Prime? (Laughs) Just kidding. I love brisket sandwiches, fried chicken, and biscuits and gravy. The food down here is unbelievable. My sisters and my mom can make pretty much the world's best anything, but I think that the South is the place to be to have any kind of food experience.
And, of course, the rural country lifestyle. We live about half an hour south of Nashville, and you can see a hundred cows as you're driving down the road. You'll see trees and rolling hills. I also love that you can find country folks–your neighbor on one side can fix cars and your neighbor on the other side is raising beef. That's how we grew up, too. People take care of their own needs.
If you could do a duet with any artist, who would you choose?
CR: Well, my answer to this question used to always be Ricky Skaggs. We were able to perform "Make You Mine" with him at the Opry, and were just so blown away that our wildest dream had come true. But, if I'm being totally honest, I think it'd be really cool to duet with Taylor Swift. I'm a fan of her music and I just can't help it.
What's next for High Valley?
CR: Our album is about to drop, so we're very, very excited for the world to hear these songs that we're so passionate about. Long term, I'd say that our goal is to bring quality, family friendly music into the world. Our biggest dream has been to have shows where families can come together, where moms and dads are able to go to a show with their teenage kids, and everyone has a good time. We don't want anyone to be disappointed.
Elvis or Johnny Cash?
CR: So, funny story. I actually bought an old farm truck and the previous owner had reupholstered the entire ceiling with about forty pictures of Elvis' face. So, I drove here today with Elvis. But, if I had to pick one to listen to, I'd probably pick Johnny Cash.
Whiskey or beer?
CR: Neither. I drink lots of water and occasionally an ice-cold Pepsi out of a can.
CR: The main thing we always do is we get the whole band together and we pray and ask God to use us to inspire people.
Thing you miss most from the North?
CR: I'd say that my number one thing would easily be my family. My mom and dad, four of my siblings, and twenty of my nieces and nephews still live up there, and I love and miss them all.
Best way to eat grits?
CR: So, don't hate me for this—but I think I've only had grits one time. They were cheese grits, and they were pretty good, but we just didn't grow up with ‘em. But, I do love biscuits and gravy if that saves me at all.