If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new patio at MadLife Stage and Studios in Woodstock, Georgia you are missing out on a great music space. The covered patio is a thing of beauty. Gone are the days where you just settle in with your food and drinks to listen to an artist and a spring rain shower send everyone dashing indoors. This patio has a special louver roof (similar to a pergola) that rotates so that it lets just the right amount of sunshine or shade when the weather is nice and can close if sudden rain threatens the performance.
Best of all, there is no cover charge to enjoy the local musicians that perform in the outdoor venue rain or shine. My husband and I are always pleasantly surprised when we run into a new artist(s) that we enjoy. That was certainly the case last Wednesday when the husband and wife duo named “Surrender Hill” entertained the patio crowd with their original roots-rock music. The weather was balmy and the tunes were a perfect complement to the delicious food and drinks.
Since meeting them last week, I have been doing a little research on the couple comprised of Robin Dean Salmon and Afton Seekins. Before meeting each other, they have both had a lifetime of interesting and unusual experiences before meeting and eventually getting married. Both Robin and Afton were born and raised elsewhere. Robin grew up in South Africa and later moved with his family to Texas when violence and political turmoil threatened his family’s safety. The musical influences of San Antonio and spending his formative years near cattle ranches have stuck with Robin all these years. Robin later fronted a punk rock band called See No Evil that released two albums with Sony Epic records.
Afton was born in Alaska and later moved to Arizona when she was five. Her family consisted of hard working frontier people who knew how to live off the land and instilled a deep work ethic into Afton at a very young age. She always had a passion for music and dance, even as a small child, and those talents would eventually take her to New York to spend eight years as a well-respected and accomplished dancer and choreographer where her work has been featured on MTV, VH1, and NBC. Afton could not resist the call of writing her own songs and she later headed back to Arizona where her personal journals were transformed into the lyrics of her first songs.
Even though both Robin and Afton spent many years pursuing solo careers their paths would eventually cross while the two were in Sedona, Arizona. Then magic happened, they met, fell in love, and married. The pair began writing songs together and have two previous albums. The first was their self-titled debut album released in 2015 and the second album is called Right Here Right Now and it was released in 2017.
After a stop in Nashville, Robin and Afton now call Georgia their home base. For them, it is an easy location to travel from and they spend several months a year touring bars, ballrooms, American wineries, and South African resorts and have played up to 200 shows annually. Robin and Afton are expecting their first child in May and have just recently released their third album entitled Tore Down Fences on February 2nd.
“Tore Down Fences is a roots-rock album about relationships, delivered from the perspective of two songwriting partners who have weathered their own share of breakups and missteps before crossing paths. Unlike the previous two records, though, this album focuses not on the “honeymoon period” of a relationship but on the challenges they faced 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 have 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 that 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.”
Woodstock’s MadLife has been fortunate enough to secure this Americana duo for regular patio performances on Wednesdays. Watch the schedule and make plans to come see this local duo share their creative chemistry.
Interview with Surrender Hill
What’s the name of your band? What’s the origin of that name?
Surrender Hill. It is a place in South Africa, close to where Robin grew up. It is the site of the end of the Boer War which happened in South Africa in the late 1800’s.
Who is in the band?
Robin Salmon: Guitar, Vocals – Afton Salmon: Vocals, Percussion
What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
We call our music “Americana Country with a lot of Soul”. Robin’s influences range from Johnny Cash to The Clash and everything in between. Afton’s influences are all the traditional country greats and a few contemporary/pop.
How long have you all known each other?
We met in Sedona, Arizona while playing music separately, but in the same circles in 2013.
What inspired you to make music together?
We formed the band in 2014. One day over breakfast, Robin asked me if I wanted to write a song together. We did and it turned out really great and the process was so easy and natural. So, we kept writing and the rest just made sense.
Do you have a record label? Are you a member of any music organizations?
We have a label that we created called Blue Betty “Community” Records and we will be releasing other artists albums once we gain a little more traction for the label. Robin is a member of BMI and Afton is a member of SESAC. Our publishing is shared with Pure Artistry Music (BMI).
What can you tell me about your instruments?
Robin is sponsored by Larrivee Guitars. That’s what he plays and loves them.
Where have you performed? What are your favorite local venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
We have played everything from Theatres to Wineries and Restaurants/Bars, although some of our favorite shows have been house concerts, which we love to play. We have a ton of upcoming shows all listed on our website calendar. A show we would like to highlight is a showcase at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta on May 2nd at 6:30pm.
Which songs do you perform most frequently? Do you ever play any covers? Do you have a set play list?
We play very few covers. Most of the time we don’t have a set play list, we let the crowd guide us.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?
Most Surrender Hill songs are written together, but we do both write individually as well. Love is a reoccurring theme in many of our songs. Love encompasses such a large range of emotions and experiences ever changing.
What are your rehearsals generally like?
We perform 5-6 times a week and are writing much of the other time so our rehearsals sort of pop up in-between.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Our vocal blend has definitely tightened up and our harmonies come much easier.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
The biggest challenge has been to find well-paying gigs that support original music. We have been able to overcome that by asking venues to just give us a go and if it isn’t successful then don’t pay us and don’t book us again.
What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
We want to be able to continue to write and produce music, perform it live and make a comfortable living. Fortune would be wonderful. Fame doesn’t hold much weight.
What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?
Find people you can stand to be around for a long period of time and who you have fun with. Write your own music and get your voices heard. Stand by that sound. Don’t give up, it’s a lifelong pursuit, so you gotta love it.
How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?
Folks can google Surrender Hill and they will have many options to gain access to our music i.e. our website www.surrenderhill.com, Spotify, I-tunes, YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud, etc.
Any last words?
We love what we do and we get to do it together. It is our livelihood. It’s what makes us happy. We work very hard at it and want people to know that we never take it for granted. We thank every single person who comes to a show or buys our music.