Five Questions With… The Hunter Brothers
These five Saskatchewan siblings were raised on farming, hockey and music. The latter is now their focus, as J.J. and Ty Hunter explain in this interview.
By Jason Schneider
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more Canadian group than the Hunter Brothers. The five siblings from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan—Luke, J.J., Ty, Brock and Dusty—have been turning more and more heads in the Canadian country music scene since the release of their debut album Getaway (Open Road Records) and its current single “Born And Raised.”
With its hard-driving, radio-friendly sound highlighted by group harmony vocals, the song pretty much encapsulates everything the Hunter Brothers are about: strong community ties and a solid work ethic. In fact, music was a big part of their lives growing up on the family farm, along with playing hockey, although when faced with choosing a career path, most of the brothers leaned toward tractors and blades rather than guitars.
That eventually changed when they found themselves drawn back to the time when they all sang and played music as kids, prompting them to form a band officially. Their first single, “El Dorado,” was created with production help from Brad Rempel (High Valley), Grammy award-winning producer Seth Mosley and Michael “X” O’Connor. The follow-up, “Long Way to Love You,” became a Top 40 country radio hit in late 2016, and “Born And Raised” fared even better.
Since arriving on the scene, the Hunter Brothers have been making the rounds on national radio and television, and are gearing up for a busy year of live shows ahead. J.J. and Ty took time to share more of their story, and you can find out more at hunterbrothers.com.
What led you guys to form a band together finally?
J.J.: Music has forever been part of our lives. We grew up with music always playing in our home. We had a grandfather who played multiple instruments and was always playing the piano or saxophone when were at his house. My Mom always loved performing and put all of us in piano lessons. As the years progressed, we continued piano lessons but branched out to other instruments like guitar, bass and drums.
Before Ty was even born 26 years ago, we were asked to perform at a local gospel festival, and that’s where we got our start. As we grew up, we would farm in the summer, play hockey all winter and then spend weekends during the summer months performing at festivals and various events throughout western Canada and in the US.
Over time, our junior and pro hockey careers finished, and we came back to the farm. A few years ago, we decided to transition from being a family gospel vocal group into playing as a country band, just as brothers. Our good friends High Valley helped us immensely along the way as they introduced us to their producers, Seth Mosley and X O’Connor, as well as Ron Kitchener and the RGK/Open Road Team that we eventually signed with. It's been a crazy journey with many ups and downs, but a ride that has been worth it every step of the way.
If you weren't playing music, what would be your preference, farming or pro hockey?
J.J.: Whew, tough question! I think it might differ depending on which brother you talked to. The oldest three, myself, Dusty and Luke, all had a burning passion for the game. For many years, it was what we pursued, played and hoped to make a living doing. At that time, hockey really was our preference. Dusty and Luke both sustained significant eye injuries while playing pro in the US which ended their careers—so their passion turned to the farm as hockey was no longer an option.
I was privileged to play in the AHL and ECHL with the Edmonton Oilers farm system for five years, and then with the Toronto Marlies and Manitoba Moose. I loved playing and if I were younger and in shape, would still like to play. However, now with a family, the farm is a fantastic place to raise kids and make a living.
Brock played junior hockey but didn't quite have the same passion as the older brothers. He is a pilot and LOVES to fly. Even with the music, he still crop-dusts for the farm. With the farm providing the opportunity to live his aviation dream, that probably would be his choice.
Ty broke his femur when he was in midget hockey, and although he was a good player, he didn't have the passion for playing hockey either. He's our creative and social mind. He has always been involved in our community, and I think with all he loves doing, he'd choose the farm over hockey.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
Ty: Some of them involved being on the road together and the spontaneity that came with it. We had an old two-toned van that carted us around to music festivals across western Canada, and we learned in a real hurry what it meant to travel close to one another. We would rehearse at home in mom and dad’s basement when we could, farm during the week, and hit the road on the weekend, often travelling through the nights to get to concert locations. Those days were insanely busy, but worth every second.
What should the rest of Canada know about Shaunavon, Saskatchewan?
J.J.: Ah, we love our hometown! There are many things that we like to let people across the nation know about Shaunavon.
First off, it's the hometown of five-time Olympic medalist and widely regarded greatest female hockey player of all time, Hayley Wickenheiser. Our new hockey/curling rink is named after her, and she remains a strong supporter of our community.
Shaunavon is also the hometown of Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Braydon Coburn. Braydon is one of the most qualified individuals and hosts a hockey school for local kids every summer here in Shaunavon. Staying in the hockey theme, we currently have different kids playing junior and pro hockey across North America including Kole Lind, who was drafted last year by the Vancouver Canucks.
We’ve also got our award-winning restaurant, Harvest Eatery, and the many other local attractions run by great people. We are proud of where we’re from, and that’s really the message behind our latest single “Born And Raised.”
What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
J.J.: We are quickly learning that the process of being a musician is much more about the journey than a destination. Goals are important, but enjoying the process is something we’ve talked about extensively as brothers.
We have been incredibly blessed to be part of the fantastic country music “family” and so everything from shows, festivals, meeting people, writing songs, recording, and having new experiences together as brothers and with our families, are all part of this journey that we are trying to soak up every day.
There are a few things we're pumped about. We will be working toward writing and recording new music this year, which is one of the most enjoyable processes for us. There are also some specific events that we are incredibly excited about, including Country Thunder here in our home province of Saskatchewan. We've known about this festival for many years, so having the opportunity to perform on the Main Stage is truly an honour. Whatever comes in 2018, we’re excited to meet it head on!