Years before forming the Americana duo Surrender Hill, songwriters Robin Dean Salmon and Afton Seekins chased their own muses as solo artists.
Salmon was an award-nominated punk rock frontman who'd spent the first half of his adolescence in South Africa. During the early '80s, his family relocated to a longhorn ranch in Texas, where Salmon found himself listening to a cross-cultural mix of Bob Wills, the Sex Pistols, Marty Robbins and the Clash. He took up songwriting at 15 years old, launched the band See No Evil soon after high school, and later moved the group to New York City, landing a major-label deal with Sony Music in the process. A decade later, though, Salmon found himself drawn to the rootsy sounds he'd heard as a child on the ranch, where cattle workers would strum country songs after a hard day's work. Inspired, he relaunched a career as an alt-country songwriter, eventually crossing paths with Seekins — his future bandmate and wife — while playing shows in Sedona.
Meanwhile, Seekins grew up splitting her time between an Alaskan fishing village and an Arizona frontier town. Summers were spent in one location; school years were spent in another. Throughout it all, she honed her talent for dancing, eventually moving to New York during her 20s and finding success as a choreographer. Unable to resist the need to pursue songwriting, she later headed back to Arizona, where she turned the contents of her personal journal into the lyrics of her very first songs.
Separately, Salmon and Seekins are strong, sharp-voiced musicians, with songs inspired by their colorful and unusual backgrounds. Together, they're something bigger: a soulful, countrified duo whose music nods not only to America's rural pockets, but also to the world at large. Appropriately, the group takes its name from the real-life Surrender Hill in South Africa, where the Anglo-Boer War came to a close. After all, this a band of songwriters who've fought their own battles and suffered their own scars, only to surrender to — and find peace with — each other.
On their third album, Tore Down Fences, the members of Surrender Hill unpack the skeletons in their closets, leaning on one another for support. Like the two records that came before it —2015's self-titled debut and 2017's Right Here Right Now — the 2018 release Tore Down Fences is an album about relationships, delivered from the perspective of two songwriting partners who'd weathered their own share of breakups and missteps before crossing paths. Unlike those previous records, though, this album focuses not on the romantic "honeymoon period" of a relationship, but on the challenges that arrived before the pair got together. It explores the reality of romance: the good, the bad, the bright, and the dark.
"On our earlier records, it was clear that we were two people who'd fallen in love and were writing songs together," says Salmon, who splits the album's vocal and songwriting duties with Seekins. "There was a lot of love going on. This new record is interesting because we've been together long enough, both personally and professionally, to start exploring some of the darkness from our lives before we got together. We're focusing on how great it feels to be past that. There's still a lot of love on this album, but it comes from a darker point of view. It's about what we went through, what we did, and what we overcame."
A roots-rock album filled with guitars, harmonized vocals, organ, and the occasional burst of pedal steel, Tore Down Fences pushes Surrender Hill into harder, grittier territory. All 14 songs were tracked in two days, with Salmon producing the sessions in a Nashville recording studio. The fast pace helped shine a light on Surrender Hill's talent as a live act, something Salmon and Seekins have been honing for years, with an annual schedule of 200 shows spread across much of the globe. They've played bars, ballrooms, American wineries, and South African resorts, often trying out new songs in front of live audiences. Tore Down Fences captures that immediacy with tunes like the up-tempo "Get Along" — a socially conscious song, delivered during a politically divisive time — and the slow, swooning title track, in which the two singers present all the baggage from their previous relationships. Together, the songs on Tore Down Fences paint the picture not only of a band that's reached its creative peak, but a relationship that's built on trust, twang, and creative chemistry.
Like its name suggests, Tore Down Fences finds Surrender Hill tearing down the boundaries that surround them.
ROBIN DEAN SALMON
"Robin Dean Salmon is an anthropologist of sorts. At times living the life of a gypsy, traveling the world, amassing the experiences it would take most several lifetimes to accumulate. From this he has developed an intrinsic understanding of what it means to be human. A base insight that somehow eludes most, perhaps due to lack of awareness or just simple indifference. It is songwriters like Salmon who help us to look at ourselves and this world in which we live with a bit more clarity." -HANNAH CROWELL-
Robin Dean Salmon currently lives in Northern Arizona and has recently Released his 10 album “Blackbird”.
Born in Durban South Africa, Robin Salmon came of age in a disjointed country plagued by violence and political turmoil. His father’s disaccord with the apartheid favoring government led to a pending threat of him becoming a banned person, which at the time carried the sentencing of house arrest that was doggedly enforced. The family fled to America in 1977, settling outside of San Antonio on the largest long horn cattle ranch in the country. Life was reinvented and the way of the rancher instilled in the fabric of young Salmon. Spending the impressionable years of a young man’s life in the Texas hill country in the early 80’s, Salmon’s musical roots were a cross pollination of musical legends Bob Wills, Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins and the contemporaries of punk rock, The Sex Pistols, U2, The Clash and The Ramones. At 15 Salmon got his first guitar, wrote his first song and realized life as a performer was an inescapable dream.
Fresh out of high school Salmon formed the band, See No Evil, which would later prove to be a success for it’s four young members. While the band was living in Austin and playing every obliging hole in the wall, Salmon penned a song for International Youth Year, a festival held by the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. The opportunity to perform live before the United Nations, and the intoxication of the vitality and grit that was the New York in the 80’s, Salmon and his fellow See No Evil members packed up and moved their outfit to the city. While living in a Greek Community of Queens and surviving on white rice and kool-aid, the band played steady gigs at the infamous CBGB. At one of these late night gigs legendary producer Richard Robinson of Lou Reed and David Johnson notoriety discovered the young musicians. Impressed with the band and particularly Salmon’s songwriting, Robinson secured the band a deal with Epic that would produce two records. 'See No Evil' and 'Songs', both produced by Robinson, were released to rave reviews.
Nominated for 3 prestigious New York Music Awards, the band toured tirelessly until 1992 when Salmon was in a motorcycle accident that nearly ended his life. Faced with months of rehabilitation and an arduous recovery, the New York City winters and brazen population was something Salmon was not eager to endure. A lover of the balmy comforts of the south and her soulful music, he relocated to Atlanta.
The inception of FMG Studios, affectionately named for his dog Fat Muddy George, came from the desire to wear the hat of both recording artist and producer. During FMG studios existence, Salmon produced over 40 records spanning virtually every musical genre from Baptist gospel records to heavy metal. He also released several independent records of his own; a 1994 acoustic album 'Aiming For The Sun' and 1997's 'High Energy Alternative Power Pop' with his then band, Christopher Robin. Evolution as an artist is inevitable and Salmon was no exception with his shift from Punk Rock Manhattanite to the roots infused sound of a Bohemian balladeer. Referencing his Texas roots and country influences, Salmon released 2 albums under the name Jack West, 'Gunslinger' and 'Suicide Alley', both applauded by the critics. Hal Horowitz of Creative Loafing said, “'Gunslinger' fits comfortably into the current crop of alt-country traditionalists”. Heavily influenced by the work of other respected artists, Salmon references Rodney Crowell’s 'Houston Kid' as being a turning point in his musical direction. The honesty of the human condition and rawness of Crowell’s story telling was something that Salmon responded to and worked to incorporate in his own work. Americana music, undecorated and intelligent, was a genre of music that resonated deeply with a South African refugee raised on a Texas Longhorn ranch.
Robin had the good fortune of drawing upon the services of the afore mentioned artist, Rodney Crowell. Collaborating on the track, 'Maybe I Do', featured on the album "Gasoline". Salmon and Crowell have a vocal synergy that produces a beautiful, albeit dismal, account of two people broken by the lonesome struggle to find love. In the words of Rodney Crowell himself, “Robin Salmon is smart, funny, poetic and in possession of a melodic wit. Anyone got a problem with that?” Few would dare disagree.
AFTON SEEKINS SALMON
"One could be forgiven for thinking that singer/songwriter Afton Seekins emerged, fully-formed, straight from the mind of the muse. Afton brings a level of sophistication, maturity, and heartfelt emotion to her songwriting that would be the envy of any writer twice her age. With an undeniable vocal talent in the range of Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt, and the poise and presence of one who was born to be on stage, Afton is a creative force that deserves to be heard as well as seen." Paul Koenig, PK Gregory Music
Originally born in Alaska, then moving to Arizona when she was five, Afton spent her childhood traveling back and forth between the two. School years were spent in the frontier town, Camp Verde, in Northern Arizona and summers in the great Halibut fishing town, Homer, located on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Afton comes from hard working frontier people. One grandfather was a preacher, the other a fisherman. Her mother and father were entrepreneurs who started a water hauling business in Alaska and later a heavy construction business in Arizona. All were people who knew how to live off the land and knew the value of family. Hard work and strong ethics where instilled in Afton Seekins from a very young age.
As a young girl music and dance became Afton’s true passion. When she wasn’t concentrating on her studies or finishing her daily chores she was singing and dancing. In high school she worked hard and graduated a year early. Immediately, she went to college and after her third year, she realized she wasn't following her heart and decided to make a change. While contemplating her next move, Afton moved back to Alaska and reacquainted herself with the extremes of the great outdoors. Taking risks became just another one of her passions.
With new found courage and direction, Afton moved to New York City to pursue professional dance training at BLADE Dance Academy. With the aid of diligent perseverance and the ability to quickly grasp what she was learning, she was working professionally within months of her entrance into the company. She was soon appointed as the Artistic Director of The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory and began working as the Rehearsal Director/Choreographer for Spotlight Live in Times Square. Her work for Spotlight Live has been featured on many programs including The Today Show, Good Morning America, MTV and VH1 to name a few.
After 8 years in New York City, Afton felt her roots and the inspiration to challenge herself creatively calling her back home. Afton moved back to Arizona in 2010 to concentrate on her other creative calling. That of a singer/songwriter. She found her personal journal, that had kept her company for so many years, was also her foundation as a songwriter. She taught herself to play guitar and within months was performing her songs in local venues. Afton soon found herself surrounded by local accomplished musicians who helped teach and nurture her growth as a singer/songwriter.