The Hunter Brothers is a country band of five brothers who were born and raised in Shaunavon, Sask. I interviewed the lead singer of the Hunter Brothers, Ty Hunter. I was lucky enough to get an interview with him over Zoom before their Edmonton show. The Q&A has been edited for clarity.
How did you start the band and your career as well?
I would like to say I’m born into it because we literally have videos of our mom on stage pregnant with me, so it actually all started as a family group. No instrumentation, it was background tracks at a festival that was local here. I think J.J. was about 16 or so, and that’s where the starting roots formulated. And as time grew on, we continued to do some touring in Western Canada predominantly, but a little bit into the states and throughout Canada. Then, we just felt we needed to break off from the entire family union band, and we kinda ditched mom and dad. We loved them, but it became one of those points where it became just the guys, and so we actually had a couple of genre shifts before we landed in country. We realized that the narrative is so on point that we grew up listening to Rascal Flatts and Little Big Town and a lot of groups that had the harmonies. So we found ourselves at home in that narrative, then ended up signing a record deal eight years ago, and the rest is history.
You played Church Music, is that a big inspiration for you?
We grew up singing gospel music. That was what we sang — and we did a lot of acapella music, a lot of vocally driven music work, and that has carried into the country music career. We added instruments and added other dimensions, so not a whole lot changed stylistically. Things shift and life takes you through various twists and turns. We have a lot of fond memories in a lot of the chapters of our lives musically.
Could you tell me who is in your band and who does what in your band?
All of us played piano. We were put in piano lessons, and that was good for the technical aspects because our mom, she could play piano by ear, but couldn’t read sheet music. So, she wanted all her kids to understand the technical side of music. It started with everyone on piano, but it branched off into different instruments. J.J., my oldest brother, branched into acoustic guitar. Dusty is second oldest, and he is our drummer now.Luke, our middle child, branched off into bass guitar. Brock, the second youngest, went into electric guitar, then I kinda stayed on the keys until, eventually, I worked my way to the position that I am — the front man. I tend to have a lot of energy on stage, so I think it’s just that younger sibling energy. I am surprised that nobody had to arm wrestle for their instruments and everybody had their own vocal range from bass up to tenor and everything in between so that’s kinda how everything landed.
Is there a strategy between everyone’s personalities or is it mixed?
We played a lot of hockey growing up. So, you look at a hockey team and you have all the aspects from the coach, to the forwards, to the defenseman, to the goalie, to the mascot. I feel like that’s what we have in our crew. It’s always a process whenever you’re working in close quarters with a team especially your siblings because you’re continuing to learn how each other works both musically and then logistically. J.J., being the oldest brother, is the most responsible and makes sure that everybody is taken care of in a lot of ways. He does a lot of the advancing of shows and whatnot, [and] he takes care of a lot of the administrative details. Dusty does a lot of the harmonies, so he actually comes up with the parts and all these really cool vocally inspired different directions. But, he also is super level, so his best day and worst day could look the same. He has a very dry sense of humor. Luke is a steady eddy. If you want someone who is loyal and will get tasks done, you put a task list in front of him and he will get it done with an extremely hard work ethic. Brock, I will say, is our adrenaline junkie. He builds his own airplanes.He is a bit of a wildcard in his own way. Me, I don’t know, I’m a hot mess most of the time. I feel like I’m more on the creative front where I come up with the ideas and generate a lot of the marketing angles or creative ideas whether it’s content or music itself — that’s more my wheelhouse.
What made you want to come to Edmonton and perform at the Winspear Theatre?
Theatres are a great place for us to do things vocally. There is a part in the set where we break things down, and dial into our story and the vocals specifically. They definitely resonate well in theatres. We played so many different stages, so it comes down to a complex combination of availability of venues, sometimes it comes down to what works in the schedule for everybody, and there are a lot of different variables and factors. We knew that we wanted to come to Edmonton. It’s a place that feels very rootsy because my oldest brother played in the Edmonton Oilers organization, so he played exhibition games and played with their affiliate team in the AHL for five years. So, he actually lived with Ryan Smyth for a period of time. So, Edmonton is kinda like stomping grounds for him. It’s one of those stops that we definitely wanted to make across the tour.
Does anyone in the band have a pre-performance ritual or post-performance ritual?
We have very interesting choices in our green room. One of the choices is dill pickles, so I don’t really know. We are very easygoing in terms of there are a lot of specifics in peoples’ green rooms, and we were told [that] we have to get some more stuff in here. Dusty recommended putting dill pickles, and usually they’re all gone by the time the show hits. Usually, we have some pre-show hangout where we hang with our guitar player and pretty much eat snacks in the greenroom. We also have a stretch period where everyone stretches and we usually have a time we pray together. It depends on the venue where we go, but it’s all usually the same because there is planning and stuff like that that goes behind the scenes.
On Oct 26, 2023, the Hunter Brothers performed at the Winspear Centre, and I got to go and watch them perform live. The Winspear Centre is a beautiful place with the best acoustics in Edmonton. I can confidently say that it’s true. The Winspear isn’t a big venue, but it’s big enough to hold a number of 1,884 attendees. With that being said, it does not matter where you sit as seats are reasonably priced and you can see the band perform in all locations at the Winspear. The Hunter Brothers put together a remarkable performance, interacting with fans of all ages. They were full of energy, in sync, fun, and full of adrenaline. Everyone watching could tell this and thoroughly enjoyed their performance.
Photo by Dylan Barsness.