Brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel from the band High Vallley asked fans to decide which songs should make their latest CD

Country for the fans

In this interactive age, there’s no need for musicians to gamble on which songs to record and release to radio, in hopes of landing a hit. Why not just ask listeners which tunes they’d like to hear?

In this interactive age, there’s no need for musicians to gamble on which songs to record and release to radio, in hopes of landing a hit.

Why not just ask listeners which tunes they’d like to hear?

That’s the populist approach taken by Alberta country band High Valley.

When brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel were planning to record their last album, County Line, they asked fans to decide which songs should make their CD.

“I’d written so many, we went to our fan clubs. We sent a couple thousand fans a link to 20 to 30 songs that were on our list of finalists, so they could narrow it down to the Top 10,” recalled Brad Rempel.

Listeners made their selections and the songs with the highest vote counts made the album.

It was no coincidence that the top three favourites — the County Line title track, as well as Make You Mine and She’s With Me — turned into big radio hits.

“It makes sense, the way we did it,” added Brad, who doesn’t subscribe to the “I only make music for myself” philosophy embraced by some artists. “We don’t hold anything too precious about our ‘art.’ We make music for as many people as want to hear it.”

Thousands of fans are expected to fill the Centrium on Friday, July 17, when High Valley performs with The Road Hammers as part of Red Deer’s Westerner Days fair.

And Brad and Curtis look forward to putting on a high-energy concert in a dance-friendly, family-oriented setting.

“It’ll be dynamic,” promised Brad. “I think if you put people who have just attended a fair or rodeo, eating fair food, going on rides, into an arena, (the vibe) is going to be different than when people get all dressed up to go to a concert. …

“I’m not a big fan of people sitting down,” he added. “Our goal is to get people dancing. We’re going to keep everybody rockin’ with some good bluegrass tunes that will get you up on your feet.”

The best concert moments, he recalled, are when the audience is “freaking out,” cheering and singing along after the band plays the first couple bars of a familiar song. “We’re going to make sure it keeps happening.”

High Valley released its debut recording in 2001, but the Rempel brothers have actually been performing professionally since 1997 (and were a trio until brother Bryan left the group to focus on his family last year).

“I started when I was 12 years old,” said Brad, who grew up on a farm near La Crete, close to the border of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

He has learned much about music, the industry and life in the ensuing 18 years. “We’ve had some great teachers,” said Brad — including Paul Brandt, who took the group under his wing in the early days when High Valley went on tour with him.

“We’ve also played with Emerson Drive, Doc Walker, opened for Shania Twain and Alan Jackson. …” And Ricky Skaggs recorded with the group and took the Alberta brothers to the Grand Ol’ Opry.

“People in country music are so nice,” added Brad. He tries to be similarly encouraging to younger performers, such as The Hunter Brothers, whom he’s producing for. “I try to be a good example.”

Now a married father of two and living in Nashville, Brad continues to write music on most days. When inspiration strikes, he ambles down to “music row,” a street made up of recording studios, to do some formal songwriting.

Sometimes he is introduced to another writer he’s never met before but has been “set up with” through a mutual friend. “It’s like a blind date. You start getting to know each other, you talk about your backgrounds” and you wait for something to spark.

When the partnership is successful, it’s magic, said Brad, who was recently thrilled to have one of his tunes, I Remember You (co-written with Kelly Archer and Ben Caver) recorded by Trisha Yearwood for her latest album, produced by Garth Brooks.

“It was so amazing. … It was a surprise and a real treat.”

Just Posted

Schizophrenia a misunderstood illness, an Alberta expert says

Schizophrenia Society of Alberta campaign kickoff features TSN’s Michael Landsberg in Central Alberta

WATCH: Collecting coats and donations from drivers in Red Deer

Central Albertans made donations to keep children warm and neighbourhoods safe from… Continue reading

PHOTO: Fall Harvest Festival in Red Deer’s West Park

The West Park Community Association hosted the Fall Harvest Festival near West… Continue reading

Man dies in Hwy 2 collision near Ponoka

A 46-year-old man is dead following a three-vehicle collision on Hwy 2… Continue reading

Canyon Ski Resort aiming to open Nov. 10

The finishing touches are being put on Canyon Ski Resort trails just… Continue reading

WATCH: Blackfalds Fire teaches families about fire safety

An open house was held Saturday in support of Fire Prevention Week

Five things about what’s legal and what’s not in Canada’s new pot law

OTTAWA — Canada’s new law legalizing recreational cannabis goes into force on… Continue reading

4 men killed in shooting at child’s birthday party in Texas

DALLAS — An argument at a toddler’s birthday party in South Texas… Continue reading

German bus crashes on Swiss highway, 1 dead and 14 injured

BERLIN — A German bus crashed into a metal post on a… Continue reading

4 days after storm, large swath of Panhandle suffering

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Crews with backhoes and other heavy equipment scooped… Continue reading

Immigrants face hurdles to prove abuse by US agents

HOUSTON — Within hours of being booked at a Border Patrol station… Continue reading

Unicorns and pipelines: Notley and enviro-activist square off on Trans Mountain

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, with her arch pipeline foe sitting… Continue reading

A year into #MeToo, survivors’ stories resonate online and off: experts

Jenny Wright remembers scrolling through her social media feed a year ago… Continue reading

Emergency buzzer had been disabled in young man’s prison death: report

HALIFAX — An emergency intercom in the jail unit of a young… Continue reading

Most Read