By Keith Sharp
Call it a hunch if you will. When Paul Aarntzen piled brother and sister Clayton and Rosanna Burrill and Jackson Fairfax-Perry into his two-door hatchback in the spring of 2014 along with an assortment of musical instruments for a drive to the village of Hillsburn, New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy, (Aarntzen’s former residence) he had a feeling something magical might happen.
Three days and three practice sessions later, Aarntzen was convinced enough to sell his house and moved to Halifax to fund the release of the quartet’s debut self-titled Hillsburn EP. The band’s folk-rock release (recorded in October 2014) might have been a little rough and experimental but when a track, “Farther In The Fire” finished in the top 10 of the CBC’s Searchlight competition in March 2015, it was enough to convince Halifax-based Groundswell Music to release a debut album.
Recorded with top producer Jon Landry in two weeks, “In The Battle Years” (release in August 2015) has served as a strong launching pad for the Maritimes band who recently showcased at Toronto’s Canadian Music Week festival with appearances at both The Piston and Rivoli venues.
“It seems ridiculous looking back but we felt we had stumbled on to something good,” noted Aarntzen, who sings lead vocals, guitar and ukulele. “Something we could take a chance on.”
With Rosanna Burrill (vocals/violin), older brother Clayton (vocals,guitar) and Jackson Fairfax-Perry (piano,keys,mandolin and saxophone) now joined by percussionist Clare MacDonald, Hillsburn are building a strong reputation with their rootsy, folk-pop sound.
“We want to play music that makes people feel something,” noted Aarntzen. “If it makes you dance, great. If it makes you cry, that’s good too. Hopefully, the album will inspire you to do both.”
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