Following High Valley
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CHRIS LANE: Low-slung baritones are a country tradition; so are big, booming vocals built for twangy power ballads. Yet, as varied as the genre can be, it isn’t often that someone comes along with a take or a tone that shakes it to the core while still keeping that center strong and solid; someone so modern it's hard to find a point with which to compare. But listen to one moment of Chris Lane's signature falsetto, and it's clear there's a new range in town. In Lane's hands, mixing those earth-shattering high notes with banjo plucks and a danceable beat (whether that dancing is done in cowboy boots or Nike sneakers) has never felt more natural, or so unique. He may have some Girl Problems, as the title of his debut album suggests, but he has no problem at all weaving a fresh sound that both thrills country fans and encourages pop faithfuls to dip a toe into his side of the Mason-Dixon.
After touring in the past year with Dustin Lynch, Kelsea Ballerini and Rascal Flatts, Lane's been making a name for himself as one of the genre's most groundbreaking new stars: his first single, "Fix," topped the Country radio charts, has been certified GOLD in both the U.S. and Canada, and reached over 34 million streams on Spotify and over 9 million views on Vevo, making waves for how effortlessly it blends progressive pop and that sultry falsetto with his country roots. It's a record-breaker, too: the song has accumulated the most first week single adds from a debut male artist in Country Aircheck history, all while drawing praise from the likes of Selena Gomez, Lucy Hale, Daughtry and more. Now, Lane's ready to share Girl Problems with the world, the debut LP produced by Joey Moi (Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen) and released August 5th by Big Loud Records. His follow up single “For Her” is currently climbing the country radio charts and has already notched over 26 million streams on Spotify.
Originally from North Carolina but now residing in Nashville, Lane once thought his life was heading in an entirely different direction: an ace athlete, he played football and baseball until an injury sidelined him permanently. Looking for an outlet, he turned to the guitar – he'd always loved music growing up, and listened to everything from Garth Brooks and Usher to Justin Timberlake – and it quickly turned from a hobby into a downright passion. He started playing in a cover band and became a must-see act in town, all while starting to write his own songs, a talent that came unexpectedly easily.
"Once I got a taste of what it was like to be on stage," says Lane, "and more and more people came out to the shows, I thought, 'well, I should try and write my own music.' I sat down and wrote twelve songs. After that, it instantly felt like music was what I truly was supposed to be doing. I discovered a passion I never thought I could have."
Soon, Nashville came calling, and it wasn't before long that he found himself working with Moi, who was instantly drawn to his cutting-edge originality and ability to transcend genres. One day in the studio, Lane was singing an Usher song to himself while Moi was working behind the controls – including all of the high, falsetto notes that are impossible for most to even approach. And, suddenly, a light bulb went off: they realized they could integrate those vocal abilities into Lane's music in way that country had never quite done before. "I'm so glad we discovered that," says Lane. "It's out of the box for country music, and that's how I like to be."
Once Lane felt free to unleash those killer vocals, everything fell into place: it was the thread that laced together his diverse pop and country influences, and "Fix," written by Sarah Buxton, Jesse Frasure and Abe Stoklasa, was the first piece of that puzzle (and also the title of his debut EP). Girl Problems – named as an ode not only to the difficulties of romance but the beauty of learning from missteps and mistakes - takes the ride one step further, pushing even more boundaries, packing more surprises and, most of all, always remembering to make people dance or sing along. From the smooth, R&B vibe of "Who's It Gonna Be" that absolutely smashes with its infectious, eighties-pop infused chorus; to the twang disco of "All The Time"; to the mid-tempo "For Her," which Lane describes as his "Backstreet Boy" moment – if the Backstreet Boys played a little banjo – it's a contemporary ride from one exciting corner of the genre to the next, reinventing country with every octave.
Florida Georgia Line, in fact, has been a mentor of sorts to Lane – they recognized his talent early on and took him on the road before anyone barely knew his name. It was a good gamble – audiences loved his high-energy, captivating performances, and other artists like Rascal Flatts snatched him up as a tourmate, too. Lane has once again teamed up with FGL serving as the opening act on their massive, nationwide 2017 THE SMOOTH TOUR alongside Nelly including select stadium dates with the Backstreet Boys. Tireless on the road and always on all cylinders at every show, Lane attributes his work ethic to his years as an athlete.
"I guess I've gone from playing baseball in stadiums to singing in stadiums," Lane laughs. Either way, he's still hitting soaring homeruns.
HIGH VALLEY: Country fans are no strangers to the uncanny musical connection of a family band, but they’ve never heard anything like the duo High Valley – and that’s simply because brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel never knew how country was “supposed” to sound.
Growing up in La Crete, Alberta — more than 2,500 miles from where they now live in Music City — Brad and Curtis were completely cut off from the world of pop culture throughout their early lives.
“It’s not that we weren’t allowed to have a radio,” lead singer and songwriter Brad, explains. “We had radios, but you turned them on and heard a lot of static from an AM station 300 miles away. When it was cold enough you could hear the farm report, the price of grain and the occasional old school country song. We finally got FM in our town when I was in 10th grade.”
While their upbringing didn't exactly acquaint them with the Billboard 100, it’s that insulation that helped cement their musical ideals and love of simple, classic country, allowing High Valley’s music to feel simultaneously fresh and timeless. Dear Life, their recently released major label debut on Atlantic/Warner Music Nashville, is an album that fuses tradition with wide-eyed musical exploration, stays true to their family-first value system and celebrates resilient positivity.
High Valley learned to become skilled digital citizens, building an avid fan base that is actively involved in selecting the duo’s songs through the High Valley app and connecting with each other via social media. As a result, they have amassed more than 43 million song streams worldwide – including 22 million for first single “Make You Mine.”
Likewise, they are the first country act to broadcast live on Twitch.TV in the United States and their song “Young Forever” scored placement on EA Sports’ Madden NFL 17 Soundtrack. The band has been selected for “Ones to Watch” recognition by Rolling Stone Country, Spotify, Pandora, CMT and Taste of Country. And they’ve been profiled on CBS This Morning for their unique and inspiring story and performed on NBC’s Today Show.
“You could say it’s weird that we come from the upbringing we do and make this kind of music,” Curtis admits, “but if you analyze Dear Life and the messages on it, you can almost tell that we were brought up the way we were.”
“That’s why the record was called Dear Life,” says Brad. “Because that song for me was trying to write a journal entry to God and my life and say, ‘I really have loved every mile of this road.’”
Saying their biggest compliment is when a fan describes their music as “old-school and modern” at the same time, “Make You Mine” is an excellent introduction to the rest of Dear Life. For example “She’s With Me,” the newest single from Dear Life, is an anthemic opening track that begins as something ancient and ends ahead of the country curve, also announcing High Valley’s desire for their music to be positive and family oriented.
“My life is not perfect, but I’ve experienced dark things with positive results at the end of it,” Brad says. “The opening line of the entire record says ‘When the devil’s knocking at my door,’ and I wouldn't say that’s a very positive idea, but the conclusion of the whole song is ‘Holy cow, she’s been with me through the thick and thin,’ and that’s been my experience with my wife.”
“Families are a tough thing in today’s world,” Curtis agrees. “They fall apart all the time, and if we could leave our mark by doing our little part and trying to bring families together, I think that’s great.”
Meanwhile, the title track “Dear Life” is a foot stomping thank-you letter inspired by watching children grow, “Don’t Stop” offers steady encouragement to persevere and the hand-in-hand “Memory Makin’” asks the question, “Do you believe that there’s a meant-to-be?”
“Roads We’ve Never Taken” shows their energized and optimistic outlook with plucky, banjo-rolling abandon, while the chanting gang vocals of “Young Forever” were dreamed up during a family beach trip to Pensacola.
“Nothing makes you feel more young than chilling on a beach and throwing a football around in the waves,” Brad says with a smile. “It’s like ‘Man, if we could freeze this weekend and stay young forever, it would be perfect.’”
The Rempel brothers have already scored six Top 10s, three Gold certifications, played to 15,000 seat arenas opening for Shania Twain and earned multiple awards show wins – including Canadian CMA Group of the Year. And now with their major label debut, a fall tour with Martina McBride and a headlining U.K. trek on the way, it’s true that High Valley inhabit a much different world today than the one they were raised in. But some things remain the same, and that is the central theme of one of the album’s most powerful tracks, the hard-charging backroad rocker, “I Ain’t Changin’.”
“That was a very important song for me because of our upbringing,” Brad explains. “The chorus is like ‘I ain’t changing the way I talk, I ain’t changing the way I pray, I ain’t changing my last name.’ Yeah, I’m in a big city now, not in the middle of some field somewhere…”
“But that doesn’t change the core of who we are,” Curtis jumps in.
Brad continues. “I remember coming to Nashville six years ago and thinking about 100 different things that would blow my mind – and they’re all happening. I don’t want to wake up one day and say ‘Wow, I’m completely different than what I was.’”
If anything, Dear Life is evidence that Brad and Curtis shouldn't worry about losing their way. Their calling is a strong one – to bring positive and original family-friendly energy back to the country landscape – and they’re following it with passion.