- Publisher: City Light News
- Editor: Peter McManus
High Valley is a country duo make up of brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel of La Crete, Alberta, and they’re not shy about sharing their faith publicly. They’ve toured with Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire, and of course Canada’s own, Shania Twain and Paul Brandt. When Paul Brandt heard High Valley for the first time, he mentored the brothers and even invited them to play on his gospel album.
Brad chatted with me from Nashville where the brothers are busy gearing up for the upcoming Canadian tour which is set to launch on October 31 to promote their new album County Line released on October 14. For more information, visit www.highvalleymusic.com.
LHW: When did your faith become your own? When did following God stop being something your parents did and something you did out of your own convictions?
BR: I was 12 years old at a Bible camp in Peace River, Alberta called Riverside. I can’t remember a lot, but there was one kid I always picked on for some stupid reason in school and I felt strongly convicted to go and apologize to him for being such an idiot. That was the first time I felt God speaking to me asking me to be serious about living a life for Him and treating others as if I cared about them. Live life centred on Him.
LHW: I don’t hear any songs from High Valley about red solo cups, getting drunk on a plane, or alcohol. You’ve said High Valley is all about faith, family, and farming. Why focus on those things?
BR: Those are the three most honest things for High Valley. So, there’s a lot of country bands that really love partying and that’s a huge part, honestly, of their lifestyle. Country fans are very good a spotting a phony from a mile away and the songs that I love best on country radio are the ones that seem the most authentic and believable. For High Valley, those songs are about faith, farming, and family. That’s what’s important to us and that’s what’s real, and seems to be what connects with our fans.
LHW: High Valley used to be a family trio and now it’s a duo. Your brother Bryan is no longer playing with you and Curtis. What’s easier and more difficult without him around? Any plans to fill his spot?
BR: The easier part is that’s easier for Bryan because he live in La Crete, Alberta which is seven hours north of an international airport. It’s a lot easier for my brother, Curtis and I to say yes to more events and opportunities because we live in Nashville and don’t have to figure out how to fly him across the continent. We’re happy that he’s doing well. High Valley has always been about family, so it’ll just be us.
LHW: High Valley’s 2012 album Love is a Long Road won or was nominated at the Canadian Country Music Awards and the JUNOs as well as the Canadian Gospel Music’s Covenant Awards. Usually an album will appeal to one audience or the other, how did you pull this off?
BR: That’s a good question. We didn’t do it on purpose. I take it back to us being focused on being real. The honest truth is that there are a lot of rural families who love country music and lots who love Christian music and evidently lots of people who love both. We love that you can turn on a country radio station and hear something positive and encouraging. Our music was always way too country to get played on Christian radio. We tried hard to get played on Christian radio and it was an uphill battle to say the least. Kind of ironic that country radio is the first place to play our music heavily even though it’s very faith oriented. It’s been cool.
LHW: Do you feel country music fans are more open to hearing about faith?
BR: There’s definitely a connection between country music and gospel music such as I’ll Fly Away. Hank Williams Sr. wrote I Saw The Light [a gospel song Williams closed many shows with] and he was one of the biggest country stars ever. The Ryman Auditorium started out as a church and there’s still alot of gospel music played there. People like Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson have put out gospel records. One dear friend, Paul Brandt, has done a gospel record we were able to join him on. Anytime country music pairs with gospel music I’m a fan.
LHW: You were born in an old-order Mennonite community in Mexico before your family immigrated to Canada. What tools or strengths from your Mennonite roots have served you well in your public life?
BR: The Mennonite background is awesome because they work really hard, that’s a trait. Mennonites are also kind of stubborn and hard-headed and known to stay the same when the rest of the world changes. There’s been a lot of changes in country music about what the right thing is to sing about and what to write about and say. We’re going to stick with faith and family and farming.
LHW: You were 12 when High Valley started playing publicly, what advice would you give to kids starting out?
BR: Do something else. *laughs* If they are really, really… I mean are hard-cord into music, then they should go after it. If you only like music, don’t it professionally. It’s a tough business. You’ve to play for free, or pay to play, and find a way to connect with an audience. This is the first time we’ve ever headlined. When you’re the opening act, people expect you to suck so it’s a challenge to prove them wrong.