BiographyIt has been a long road for Shaman's Harvest filled with moments of triumph alongside challenges that few bands have the strength to overcome. Through it all, the quartet looks optimistically towards a future with a record that exhibits their strongest, most meaningful recordings to date. Long-time brothers in arms, they have never ceased to persevere. Singer Nathan Hunt overcame a bout with cancer while the band created Smokin' Hearts & Broken Guns, so perhaps fate is now unequivocally on their side.
The story began years ago in the Midwestern town of Jefferson City, Missouri. Bassist Matt Fisher and singer Nathan Hunt began a collaboration with guitarist Josh Hamler that has remained the foundation and core of Shaman's Harvest. Fisher reflects, "Drake and I have been through a tremendous amount of high's and low's together in our years. We have managed to keep this music marriage together. Playing music has squashed our differences, and I believe we share a soul in it. From the moment I meet him in his mother's basement in August, 1996 I've held the conviction he is a rare talent you might find once in your life." Rhythm guitarist Josh Hamler echoes these sentiments sharing, "Nate has the gift of voice. A voice that almost any vocalist would dream of having. He brings a very artistic approach to song writing making even the simplest songs very unique, original, and very much that Shaman's Harvest sound." Musically, the years together have created an intuitive symbiosis amongst the trio, which only comes with comfort and familiarity. Hunt offers, "With Josh and Matt, we can play something new together and not have to think. We know where it's going. Those boys capture the essence of the soul in the rhythm section. Its effortless playing with the both of um."
They are all grew up together, sharing dreams, and becoming men in the heartland of the U.S.A. Hunt shares, "Living in Missouri is awesome. I grew up moving around quite a bit, but knew Missouri as home. There's a beauty in the grit of us Midwesterners. We work hard, make babies, drink too damn much, and we're not afraid to rebuild and start over when we get God-smacked. We have an art community all our own, inspired by wind in the wheat fields, and summer morning haze off the rivers and streams. If shit is broke we either fix it ourselves, or put it up on blocks for yard art. There's enough musicians in the city jungles of New York and Los Angeles and they don't need four more of us. Here we have artistic elbow room."
Their early years saw the band release three albums which capture Shaman's Harvest defining their sound: Last Call for Goose Creek (1999), Synergy (2002) and March of the Bastards (2006). It was the arrival of Shine in 2009 where the band broke through. The single "Dragonfly" hit #16 on Billboard's Active Rock chart and #9 at Heritage Rock, selling a significant number of singles, and tens of thousands of albums. To date, the video has been viewed 2.3 million times on YouTube. It was featured on the soundtrack of the major motion picture Legendary, and with momentum in early 2010 Shaman's Harvest recorded "Broken Dreams" for the WWE as the theme song for wrestler Drew McIntyre. They also cut "End of Days" as the entrance track for Wade Barrett and The Corre, alongside "Anger" which ended up in the feature film No One Lives.
With Shine, lead guitarist Ryan Tomlinson made his first appearance on the band's recordings. He grew up in Jefferson City, reared by a father who was an active Blues guitarist. He recalls, "Shaman's Harvest was the 'big band' in our town. I attended a CD release show at the Blue Note when I was 15, and was blown away by their sound. I dreamed about one day playing that stage, or opening for them. Our music scene in Jeff City is small, so I'd become friends with every member. Nate offered to help me record a demo, and during those sessions they were tracking the Shine record. Nate asked me to record some slide and talkbox on it, and to me that was the big leagues."
Within the year, founding lead guitarist and younger brother of Nathan, Adam Hunt left the band to focus on family. When it came time to release Shine, Fisher, Hamler and Hunt asked Tomlinson to sit in at their CD release party at The Blue Note in Columbia. It wasn't long before the band was on the road, being flown to New York City to play for record labels, appearing in front of huge crowds on tour, and enjoying a hit at radio. Tomlinson turned 21 during that period, and was officially the fourth member of Shaman's Harvest. Guitarist Hamler fondly reflects, "Ryan is the yin to my yang. He's an old soul. He continues in his dad's (Dale "Soup Kitchen" Sapp, RIP) footsteps. He's entertaining to watch perform and a beast in the studio with his Gibson Les Paul. When asked about his tone there's only one comparison... BBQ Sauce!"
As they approached the next album and began recording, singer Hunt was diagnosed with throat cancer. The band stayed the course, recording Smokin' Hearts & Broken Guns. Hunt remembers, "While recording I was struggling vocally. A lump in my throat was biopsied and came back malignant. It was a rare, aggressive lymph cancer in my throat. I got the news on my way to the studio, and realized I wasn't gonna deal with it mentally. I submerged myself in this record, committed to not missing a day.. I didn't know if it was gonna be my last record so it was treatment, then studio, then some days back for more treatment. I had a lot of help from my vocal coach ,Juliet Jackson, who taught me how to manipulate my voice to hold up to the sessions. Everyone deals with cancer differently. There was a period I felt alone and a couple tracks speak to that directly and other times I felt overwhelming love for my mates and people who were there for me. I was lucky enough to be recording during it and it's all there. That's the best therapy in The World."
The album is pure in the way it breathes feel and emotions that are diverse track to track. They are cinematic, and offer audio beds for flashback memories or present experiences that are our lives. Hunt states, "Whether they're driving down the highway, at work, or doin' the nasty, these songs should be the soundtrack. I think people will accept the diversity from song to song whether it's a riff rock vibe like 'Here It Comes' or it's a darker, emotional anthem such as 'Ten Million Voices' without categorizing Shaman's."
As the repertoire came together it became clear that the band was delivering an album without a typecast template for the rock market. The simple AC/DC reminiscent groove of "Dangerous" rests comfortably side by side with the stomp clap bombastic Southern feel of "Blood In The Water." With "Here It Comes" the band offers what Hunt describes as a, "Sleazy jam with sexy harmonies, and full steam ahead riffs about a fella in love with a Hooker, the poor bastard." The track "Country As Fuck" is a blistering blues song that the singer offers features, "Silly Midwest lyrics that basically say if you ain't country as fuck, then fuck you." At the end of the day though it is "In The End" that the band looks upon across the board as their favorite composition on the record. It was the first track Hunt sang while enduring the cancer treatments, and it reaffirmed his belief that he could execute the vision. He reveals, "It was such an emotional release for me, and I really think it comes across to the listener." And for the future, they collectively want nothing more than to thrive another day, making every solitary appearance on stage bring those in their presence to another place, far away from their normal routines for that brief euphoric peace through escape.