The first inkling that Autumn Hill’s debut country album was taking off faster than you can name the duo’s latest hit, Fire, came via social media.
“One of the things I noticed was that people were tweeting our lyrics back to us,” said Mike Robins, who performs with Calgarian Tareya Green in the Toronto-based duo.
“It seemed like people were really relating to … the things we had written about. And that’s all you can hope for, that (fans) take these story songs we’ve created and make them their own,” added Robins.
When Autumn Hill entertains on Saturday, Nov. 8, at Cowboys Bar in Red Deer, along with featured artist Kira Isabella, you can bet Fire, Anything At All and Can’t Keep Waiting — Top 20 hits from the duo’s 2013 album, Favourite Mistake — will be on the play list.
The songs are getting a “phenomenal” reaction, said Green. “I was not expecting that kind of overwhelmingly positive response.”
Robins and Green co-wrote the tunes with songwriting mentors in Nashville. And their road trip south through five states was a “unforgettable adventure,” especially for Green, who had never left the country before.
“It was a 15-hour trip,” she recalled. “I remember feeling it was really hot.”
Arriving in another climate zone to write with renowned songwriters was definitely surreal — but then Green feels the whole country music process has been a dream come true.
Not long ago, she was creating animation for other people’s websites, as a graphic design graduate. “I can remember doing a holiday card for (country singer) Tim McGraw … and feeling like I was on the wrong side of this glass wall,” she said.
Since Green always aspired to be a singer/songwriter, she would record home videos and post them on Youtube. One time, she created a mash-up of songs by Heart and Roxette, recorded with equipment set up on a ping-pong table at her sister’s house.
She posted the video among thousands of others on the site. And as luck would have it, Wax Records co-founder Jamie Appleby heard her online vocals, and was impressed enough to track Green down and ask her to come to Toronto.
She packed up her guitar and keyboard, and took a leap of faith — which is how she met Robins.
Robins grew up just outside Toronto and aspired to be a new Jimi Hendrix, after listening to his father’s classic rock CDs.
He worked as a backup guitarist touring North America and Europe for a while, before trying to start a solo career.
Robins was also working at Toronto’s Wax Records when he began harmonizing with Green at a company party.
It was instant stage chemistry and their song Favourite Mistake, which was intended for Green’s solo album, instead became the title track on the duo’s debut album as Autumn Hill.
Robins believes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes the two performers a more powerful force together than apart. “People tell me we create something special.”
“I think there’s a lot of support there,” said Green. “We support each other’s ideas and basically put (ourselves) out there.”
The two are already collaborating on a second Autumn Hill album, which is expected to be released in the spring.
With his rock background, Robin feels it’s a fine time to be making country music because it has become a melting pot of different musical genres. “Every time a new door opens it’s exciting.”
Several tunes written for the next record will be tested out on the Red Deer audience, said Green, who admitted it will be nice to get fan feedback on the new material.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $20 from Cowboys, the Bell Fever Lounge, Wei’s Western Wear or the Black Knight Ticket Centre.