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.