Surrender Hill: The Epic Sounds of Freedom
Surrender Hill: The Epic Sounds of Freedom
Surrender Hill is the collaborative project of Robin Salmon and Afton Seekins Salmon – who are partners in not only a band but in life. A Whole Lot of Freedom is the latest recording from the husband and wife duo – an ambitious two-album set presenting countrified Americana at its most sweeping and poignant. A epic 18-song extravaganza, A Whole Lot Of Freedom is jammed packed with sonnets that will be inspire all types of music fans looking be swept away by the vibrant tapestries Surrender Hill has to offer.
Highwire Daze recently caught up with Robin and Afton to find out more about the troubadours of Surrender Hill, their A Whole Lot Of Freedom magnum opus, individual music ventures prior joining forces as a band, and other topics of intrigue. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Surrender Hill, and how long the band has been together.
Robin: Robin Salmon – Singer Songwriter, Guitar Player. Multiple instruments in the studio.
Afton: Afton Seekins Salmon – Singer Songwriter, percussion, drums.
We have been performing together going on 6 years now.
Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
Robin: We have recently settled in a small town in North Georgia called Ellijay. We sort of landed here while touring through from Sedona, Arizona a few times. There is a lot of local live music at wineries and breweries and such. Mostly in the roots genre. It’s a pretty thriving scene.
Is there any overall story or concept behind the CD title A Whole Lot Of Freedom?
Robin: Every song on the album has a thread of freedom running through it. Both Afton and I come from traveling backgrounds. We both love the open road and love to travel. The freedom of it. We sing a lot about the road and the Southwest, the way of the pioneering people. Guitars, horses, muscle cars, youth, love, all those things are symbols of freedom. They weave through all of our songs.
Select two songs from A Whole Lot Of Freedom and talk about what inspired the lyrics.
“The Ballad of Rebel Wingfield”
Robin: “The Ballad of Rebel Wingfield” is the last song on the album. This song is a true story about a drug smuggler that I knew for a short time. I am very good friends with his brother Hank. I spent time with Rebel on and off over a two-year period while he was living with Hank, after getting out of prison. I never learned too much about him until around February 2019 after he took his own life. I got a frantic call from Hank telling me what Rebel had done, and it was all so incredibly tragic and surreal. After a bit of time went by, I asked Hank if I could write a song about Rebel, and with Hank’s blessing I went ahead with it. Hank told me all about his life, all the good and the bad. The stuff of movies. A man who lived up to his name in every sense of the word. I felt like it was a song I needed to write, and every time I sing it there is a strange sort of therapy that comes along with it.
“Waiting on a Dream”
Robin: This song is a look back at the begging of our relationship. The first really significant evening spent together at what had become a sacred place to me, and the stories of family that were shared over the next several months following that evening. How our life together has shaped up as a couple and as a music duo. The ridge up above Red Tank Draw in Arizona is the place. The draw is a dry river bed that becomes a raging river when the rains come. I used to camp on the ridge up above when I needed to get away from the world. Afton and I went there for our first date with a couple of bottles of wine and really nice charcuterie plate. In the months to follow, some of the first songs we wrote were in the kitchen of her parents’ home surrounded by family history on the walls.
Afton: It’s a song about two people who share a common soul but were years and miles and countries apart, and somehow went on through life living it, but also waiting on a dream that would be realized when they finally connected. Wow!! That’s a lot!!
In this day and age, how challenging was it to record and release a double album?
Robin: For us, it wasn’t as challenging as for most people, as we recorded this album in our own studio. We had the time and were able to move through a lot of songs. Song selection is always very difficult. I think not being able to deliver it only on vinyl makes the double album concept a bit tough for some folks to wrap their head around. Being set all on one long CD just makes it a long CD to most folks. Heck, I guess with streaming and buying downloads it all doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s a bit of a shame.
What could one expect from a live Surrender Hill show?
Afton: We take our shows pretty seriously with regards to preparation. We like to have a streamlined show full of dynamics and woven with stories. Being that we are mostly performing as a duo, we have to pay extra special attention to the flow of songs. We want our harmonies to shine, and through song selection we like to bring a tear or two to the eye and plenty of joy and laughter. We like to share our story with the audience.
If Surrender Hill could open for any band or artist either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Robin: I think Springsteen would be a great artist for us to open for. We share a lot of the same stories.
Afton; I also think someone like Jason Isbell would be good. I think our songs would resonate well with both of their audiences.
Prior to joining forces, Robin was a punk rocker in South Africa out of all places. What do you think of that time of your life in retrospect and what bands were you in at the time?
Robin:Well, my punk rock days were actually spent in Austin, Texas for a year out of high school and then in New York City for 10 years. I left South Africa when I was 13, but while living there my folks listened to a lot of Kris Kristofferson which I loved and still do. During my punk days and following, I was really into bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, Social Distortion, etc. I still love those bands. Afton and I actually do a couple of Social Distortion tunes.
Afton has had quite a musical journey ranging from Alaska, Arizona and even NYC. What was Afton’s NYC experience like?
Afton: My time in New York was extremely rewarding and challenging. I moved to NYC to attend a very competitive dance academy. I spent many hours a day dancing and training and then had to hold down a job to pay the rent. When I completed my training, I worked as a choreographer. Eight years later, I moved back to Arizona and started following my passion as a singer-songwriter.
When did Robin and Afton meet and decide to join forces both professionally and in marriage?
Robin: We met in 2013 but never spent any time together.
Afton: I was actually singing in a duo with Robin’s best friend and bass player in his band.
Robin: Sometime early in 2014, we started hanging out a bit, and Afton would sit in with me and sing, and one day we wrote a song together.
Afton: We could see there was something special. We sort of fell in love and became musical partners all at once.
If the music of Surrender Hill was a donut, what kind would it be and why?
Robin: I would say an Old Fashioned for sure… we are just sweet enough but won’t send you into a coma.
Has Surrender Hill ever played in the Los Angeles / OC area or plan to do so in future days?
Afton: Not as Surrender Hill. Robin has as a solo artist, and Robin’s band See No Evil toured through California often in the ’90s. We would love to come out and play in California. Every year we get out to Arizona. Hook us up!!!
What’s up next for Surrender Hill?
Robin: We are doing several weeks through the Southwest, and then we will see where we go from there. We just keep writing and performing and making records. We love the life and process of it and as we say in our song “Carry On”: “These days are good days and I hope they carry on like a 1970s outlaw country song.”
Any final words of wisdom?
Robin: Do what you love and keep on loving what you do.
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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