Interview – Hunter Brothers

Canadian country music artists Hunter Brothers are nominated for two JUNO Awards.

On January 28, 2020, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) announced the nominees for the 49th Annual JUNO Awards and Saskatchewan’s own Hunter Brothers were nominated for two prestigious awards – Country Album of the Year (for their sophomore album State of Mind) and Breakthrough Group of the Year.

Canadian Beats had the opportunity to chat with the seven-time CCMA nominee and six-time SCMA award-winner Hunter Brothers about the garnering of their first-time two JUNO nominations, their reaction, their sophomore album State of Mind and much more. I would personally like to congratulate these fine and very talented gentlemen on their stellar year and their two JUNO nominations.

This is your first JUNO nomination. What was your immediate reaction upon hearing the news of your, not one, but two nominations?

When we first heard about the JUNO nominations, we were beyond excited and very honoured. The fact that our first nominations just happen to fall on the year the awards are being hosted in Saskatchewan is a really incredible feeling. That made it even more of a memorable experience.

When you found out about your nominations, who did you text first and did your phones blow up because of the announcement?

We were all in Mexico for a music event with Vision Travel Groups but were in different locations when we first heard the news. Hearing everyone’s story of how they found out was really exciting when we all came together. We received many messages from loved ones shortly after.

You were on the beach at Ixtapa, Mexico, with your fans for Boots on the Beach. This must have been a “big 1 – 2 punch” for not only you and your family but for your fans as well. What reactions did you receive from your fans, not only there, but everywhere? How was your day after you found out? 

We had the unique opportunity of performing not only a full band show in Ixtapa, Mexico but also doing multiple poolside acoustic sets for everyone in attendance. The news was given to everyone just before we stepped out on stage by the team at Pure Country 101. (We were singing above a waterfall on the poolside deck). Feeling the excitement of everyone around during the set was a moment we won’t forget. There couldn’t have been a better place to release the news.

Your sitting in your combines, flying your plane, doing what you’ve done your whole life – being on those wide, beautiful prairie fields, near Shaunavon, Saskatchewan – did it ever cross your minds that one day you would be nominated for your outstanding talent in even one, never mind two JUNOs? Can you even think about that transition – from working on the field to being a JUNO nominee?

I think when you’re a kid, growing up, you dream of the many things you want to do in life. I remember singing in the back of grain trucks, pretending I was on stage performing, and singing for the masses. I really didn’t know what to expect for the future, nor did I know we would have the experiences we have been able to have thus far. As these moments come around, they allow you to really reflect with gratitude on where you’ve come from, to dream bigger and realize that aspirations can become a reality.

You must that you are thrilled with just one nomination, but are so grateful to be nominated twice in two totally different categories. Is this a dream come true? How important is it for you to have been nominated for two JUNOs?

It really is a dream come true. The JUNOs were something that seemed so distant growing up. I remember (Ty) growing up and dreaming of having music submitted to even be considered by the awards as a kid, let alone actually receiving multiple nominations. You have to pinch yourself, and really take a few moments to just be grateful.

On the Breakthrough Group of the Year nomination – this is definitely an exciting and outside the country music box category to be a nominee. What was your first thought when they announced you in this one?

We are so excited to represent Country Music at the JUNOs. To be in a category that isn’t just limited to one genre is a tremendous honour.

This is a really exciting time to be a part of the Canadian country music genre. Things seem to be shifting in a good way; doors are being kicked open for so many artists, especially with the country music festivals becoming huge (and many that you have helped make so popular). What does it mean to you to represent country music in the Breakthrough Group of the Year and why is it important for you to be a nominee in this category?

Country music is definitely making waves all around the world right now. We only had one radio station growing up as kids, and it was a country music station. It’s still alive and well in our little town, and country music is deeply embedded in our roots, so it’s really special to be able to represent it at the awards.

This has to be a magical time for you. You’ve been on stage and country music recording artists for a few years now, with much success. With the nomination for Breakthrough Group of the Year, do you feel any added pressure, with possibly more at stake, which comes with this nomination? Has what you accomplished in the past prepared you for this moment in time?

We have really been reminded while stepping into this industry not to focus merely on the accolades. While it is a tremendous honour to be nominated, we want to ensure that we are doing the best job we can and remember that what’s far more important is that our music is connecting with people. Music heals, and the most significant part to us is that we get to be part of the soundtracks of people’s lives. With every performance, every track, every moment, we want to give it our all to those who enjoy and listen to our music. We are just so thankful to be able to do what we do and put smiles on peoples’ faces.

Now onto your nomination for Country Music Album of the Year nomination: here are a few facts about your sophomore album State of Mind.

It was released on January 25, 2019, and became the Number 1 selling country album in Canada for four consecutive weeks following its release. It has amassed over 10 million streams worldwide. The first single from the album, “Lost,” is certified Gold in Canada and became their first Number 1 single at Canadian country radio. “Lost” was also awarded Single of the Year at the 2019 Saskatchewan Music Awards.

This is quite an accomplishment and is why it has been nominated in this category almost one year to the day of its release.

When you were making this album, did it cross your mind at all, that it could be nominated for a JUNO?

We weren’t fixated on winning a JUNO at the time of making the record. It was all about recording the right songs, saying what we wanted to say and making music that would connect. The nomination really came as a bonus.

State of Mind is an amazing album. Can you tell us a little bit about the making of this 12-track album? Who did you work with on this album? Can you discuss your songwriting process on this album?

State of Mind is a compilation of stories from the two years leading up to its release. The songs reflect the many changes in our State of Mind while working through transitions of life. The album speaks to the things that ultimately matter the most to us as brothers. We worked with Seth Mosely and X O’Connor on the project specifically on the production side. However, there were many hands that helped in so many different avenues.  

State of Mind is available via all streaming and downloading services.

Click on the link to the Hunter Brothers’ music video of their latest single, “Silver Lining” here:

Speaking of songwriting … tell us about your songwriting process, overall. For instance, what comes first: the beat, the lyrics, the idea behind the meaning of the song?

Our songwriting process seems to be different every time. Even though we are all brothers, we have lived different stories and have unique perspectives to bring to the group. There are days we write altogether, and then others where we split up, and many writing sessions will be happening at once. The songwriting process seems to shift and evolve as time goes on. Sometimes, songs develop from the beat up. Other times, a particular lyric will hit us in just the right way at the right time. Then there are moments where we need to take multiple swings at a concept or lyric before we are happy with the finished product. Creating can be truly unpredictable, and it’s a really enjoyable process.

You are up against some other very talented country music artists in the category. I believe I know the answer to this question already, as the country music community is a tight-knit group, you are almost family to one another, but here it goes… is there going to be a competition between you and the other artists nominated or are you just really happy for them as well as yourselves to be nominated alongside them and wish them the best of luck?

We are truly happy for all the artists who have been nominated. We obviously have a close connection with our country music family; however, we are rooting for all the artists out there who are putting their dreams to action and spending countless hours in an industry that can be challenging, and unpredictable. Anyone who has been doing music as a vocation for any amount of time knows of the challenges that come along with it, so we are excited to see so many different artists being recognized for their abilities and work ethic.

I think it’s important to chat about something else besides your two nominations but also having to do with the JUNOs.

During JUNO Week (March 9 to 15), the Hunter Brothers are set to join the lineup of Canadian musicians who will take part in the highly anticipated JUNO Cup and JUNO Kick-Off Concert presented by CBC Sports. Proceeds from the event will support MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with CARAS and the JUNO Awards.

Tell us about these two events that you will be a part of? What days do they fall on and will your fans be able to catch these anywhere?

We have been looking forward to being part of the JUNO Cup for quite some time now. Being hockey players growing up, this is truly a unique experience where the sport we love and music get to collide. We have an entire line between the five of us including three forwards and two defensemen. The game will take place on March 13 in Saskatoon at the Merlis Belsher Place. We will also be taking part in the JUNO Kick-Off Concert presented by CBC Sports on March 12 at the Coors Event Centre where members of many different Canadian bands will be hitting the stage with some exciting performances. Both events will be a blast so come on out!

What are you most looking forward to, both during JUNO Week and the Awards Show (other than hearing your name as a nominee twice and hopefully hearing your name being announced as the winner)?

One of our favourite parts of being part of awards show week is connecting with our music family. As musicians, we all lead busy lives and quite often we are in and out of locations so quickly. We are excited to be able to see our fellow musicians and be part of all the festivities with them.

What does it mean to you that this year’s JUNOs are being held in your home province?

Any time that significant events are held in your home province, it’s an exciting thing. It really is incredible that our first JUNO nominations transpired the year the awards are being hosted in Saskatchewan.

Who are you most excited to meet during JUNO Week?

I think we are looking forward to meeting all sorts of people. It would be awesome to chat with Alessia Cara, however, I think she’s going to be pretty busy all week. Seeing her in concert made me a bigger fan of hers than I already was. She’s incredible and a class act.

Let’s move now to other questions that your fans would love to hear about.

Did you have someone to mentor you and/or inspire you? In the future, will you pass on your experiences and wisdom, and be a mentor, to young and up-and-coming artists that see you as their inspiration?

There are so many people that have mentored us or have been part of our musical journey along the way. The first two acts that come to mind are High Valley and Paul Brandt. They have given us a number of opportunities to help kick start many avenues of our career and we are beyond grateful to call them not only mentors but also friends. We want to be able to use our platform in whatever way we can to help others. We truly hope that our music can inspire young musicians along the way.

Your band is a band of brothers (plus one) and your fans and supporters have seen how you interact on stage, how the jokes fly and just how well to do perform together. How do you deal with each other on the road? Does it take a lot of patience because you each have your own personality and know each so well?

Being brothers and being able to experience this all together has been such a remarkable experience. We have our fair share of differences and have had our moments where we really need to sort through things. If you can get to the other side of those challenges, we believe you are stronger in the end. We really try to be aware of each other’s strengths, and how we can apply them to the band as a whole.

Over the last year, what have been the most meaningful and memorable moments for all of you? What has occurred that is important to you, both professionally and personally, and what your family is proud of?

There are more moments than we have time to go into detail about today that have been memorable the last year. Traveling across Canada on the Journey Tour with Paul Brandt, High Valley and Jess Moskaluke is something we won’t ever forget. Having the opportunity to hear people sing your songs back to you at festivals all over the nation is a pretty surreal feeling and I don’t think that will ever get old. The JUNO announcement was incredible, and another moment that comes to mind is finding out about “Lost” going Gold in Canada. On a personal front, Luke and I (Ty) both had baby girls this past year, and those were definitely the biggest highlights of the year.

This last question, I believe, is a great one to end this (thrilling for me) interview. Who would you like to thank at this very special moment in your lives?

We would truly like to thank God for the opportunities we have to make music. We try to soak in the moments we have to do something we are passionate about and we don’t want to take that for granted. We also want to thank our incredible wives and kids – they truly put up with a lot while we are away (and when we’re home for that matter). They really are MVPs and we are so grateful for them. We also are very thankful for our parents and the sacrifices they have made to allow us to have the opportunity to do music. The amount of hours they travelled around this country taking us to music lessons as kids and teaching us all about work ethic will never be able to be paid in full. We are very thankful to our team at Open Road Recordings and RGK Entertainment, the JUNOs organization, Canadian country radio, and all the many avenues that distribute our music. There are way too many to thank in this interview, but we are so truly grateful and honoured to work with such amazing people.

Canadian Beats would like to congratulate the Hunter Brothers on their nominations and wish them the best of luck on March 15.

The JUNO Awards will be held at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on Sunday, March 15. Canada’s biggest night in music will be broadcast live across the country on CBC, CBC Gem, CBC Radio One, CBC Music and the CBC Listen app. The awards will also be available for audiences outside of Canada to stream at cbcmusic.ca/junos at 8 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT).

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