Their musical career may be skyrocketing, but a crop must still go into the ground on this family’s Saskatchewan farm
SHAUNAVON, Sask. — Country music sensations the Hunter Brothers recently returned from Nashville, Tennessee, where they were recording a second album.
However, the chart-hitting Canadian band didn’t have long to bask in the glow of the momentous occasion as they were greeted back at home by the flurry of seeding time. The reality for the five brothers and their farming parents was that this year’s crop had to get in the ground, regardless of a skyrocketing musical career.
“Farming is primarily what we do and all the way through as our music career has been developing, it’s been farming that has been the stalwart in generating our incomes,” said the second oldest Hunter brother, Dusty.
“Being two and a half years in the country music industry, we’re still relatively new so while our music is starting to gain traction and generate income for us, we’re still dependent on farming.”
After a lifetime on stage with their gospel-singing parents, the five Hunter brothers released their first mainstream album, Getaway, in 2016. The single, El Dorado, hit No. 25 on the Billboard Canada Country chart, followed later by the top 10 hit Born and Raised.
While the Hunter Brothers have songs on the radio across Canada and attract crowds of thousands to concerts, the group’s deep roots on their 20,000-acre Shaunavon, Sask., farm keep them humble and hard-working.
“It’s still amazing when you bump into that person from another part of the world and they know your music and are singing your lyrics back, but we’re still from southwest Saskatchewan and we’re still in the field bumping our heads on the bottom of drills in the spring,” said Dusty.
The gift of music has surrounded the Hunters all their lives as parents Norma and Lorne grew up in musical families who played, sang and performed gospel music in choirs and at various events.
When Lorne and Norma began having children, a pact was quickly made that if the boys were to partake in extra-curricular activities like hockey, then piano practice came first. This iron-clad agreement led to many interesting arrangements, including Lorne driving to town to get the boys out of school at lunchtime to practice piano and some boys getting up early to practice on the family’s two pianos while the others ate breakfast and waited for their practice time.
Eventually, every single one of the five Hunter brothers, now aged 25 to 37, achieved Grade 8 through the Royal Conservatory of Music—a level of piano proficiency that is estimated to take more than 1,000 hours of practice to achieve.
At the same time as the five Hunter boys were growing proficient in piano, they were also becoming increasingly accomplished in hockey, playing at various levels from AJHL to SJHL, university, WHL and an NHL farm team. This made for a life on the farm where every single minute was valued.
“I vividly remember packing work clothes in my backpack and after school I’d get the bus driver to drop me off at the closest place to where dad was working,” said Luke, the third oldest Hunter brother.
“I’d run to wherever dad was in the field and just jump in the tractor or go pick rocks or do whatever needed to be done.”
As the boys grew older, they each left the farm to pursue education, work and hockey careers, with the oldest son, J.J., playing with NHL farm teams for several seasons.
One by one, the five brothers all returned to the family farm. Four of the five brothers are now married and raising families of their own in and around Shaunavon.
“Farming has always been our way of life right from little … and as we grew older and left home, it became important to have a home base,” said unmarried Brock, the second youngest brother, who is the spray-plane operator for the expansive grain farm.
“We’re pursuing music off the farm because now is our chance to make a go of it, but we still want to be back on the farm. My house is here, my friends are here and having that home base is very important to all of us.”
J.J. said operating a large farm while launching a music career has its challenges but he loves what the farming lifestyle has provided.
“There’s a grounding in this lifestyle that we love, we respect and we would love our kids to have,” said J.J., who has three children of his own.
The youngest Hunter brother, Ty, is the one in the family who manages to link music and farming together in a way that keeps both enjoyable. His daily Fun Cab radio show at harvest time (broadcast live from the cab of his tractor via CB to his four brothers, parents and hired workers) puts the fun in farming.
With call-in game shows, news and weather reports along with Farmer of the Week features and made-up songs and parodies, Ty’s antics have garnered the Hunter Brothers some of their biggest audiences.
The Combine Got Stuck YouTube video (a parody of The Truck Got Stuck by Corb Lund) received 1.5 million organic views on Facebook and has turned the Hunter Brothers into a household name in Saskatchewan and beyond.
“I’m a bit of a visionary and I love to discover creative ideas whether it’s in farming or in music. I like to turn our everyday life into a party and just have fun with it,” said the exuberant Ty.
This spring, as the Hunter brothers divvy up their seeding duties, their music careers will be on the back burner, unless of course Ty comes up with another parody that shoots them to viral-video fame.
The Hunter Brother’s latest single, Those Were the Nights, is now on country radio and the Hunter Brothers are scheduled to appear at Craven’s Country Thunder on July 13.