Music Spotlight: Hillsburn

Dynamic Atlantic Canadian folk rockers Hillsburn return to Newfoundland for a trio of
performances in the wake of their new album, The Wilder Beyond


Few Atlantic Canadian bands have had quite the surge in momentum these past years as Halifax’s Hillsburn. 

Comprised of Paul Aarntzen, Rosanna Burrill, Clayton Burrill, Jackson Fairfax-Perry and Clare MacDonald, the bands’ folk rock hybrid of styles and influences have resulted in a rapid climb up the ladder of must-watch attractions in Canada.

ECMA Accolades

The group has earned a slew of awards and nominations including East Coast Music Awards and the 2016 Canadian Folk Music Award for New/Emerging Artist of the Year.

But to hear Rosanna Burrill, founding member, singer and violinist tell it, it’s been nothing but hard work and dedication for Hillsburn from day one. 

 “It was a pretty quick decision for us,” she begins. “When we first put that EP out we had only been a band for a couple of months. We made the decision when we stumbled upon what we had we said ok lets drop everything and make a go of this. Paul moved to the city and we made an EP and from there we basically worked on it 24/7. 

“We worked on it, we booked shows, all the things. It has been moving quickly but we’ve also been working really hard at it. Simultaneously yes, it does feel like it’s going quick, but I also feel that a lot of things that have happened have been from grinding it out, driving across the country at these crappy shows. People show up and then the next time you go, not so crappy.”

Not content to abandon their Atlantic Canadian roots, Hillsburn have gone through great lengths to incorporate the often forgotten island of Newfoundland and Labrador into their touring schedules, including a trio of September dates in Corner Brook, Bonavista and St. John’s. 

“Our manager Nigel is from there, he lives in Corner Brook. We always have a place to stay on that coast,” explains Rosanna. “The first time we came it just made sense to do a trip around. It went so well so now we’re trying to make an effort to come back and play a show on the western side and on the eastern side, just to build something there. Everyone is so welcoming to us in Newfoundland. If we can make it work it’s a pleasure to come back every time.”

The Wilder Beyond

The bands’ most recent album, The Wilder Beyond, is something of a departure from the more acoustic driven folk the band released with their 2015 EP and 2016 full-length, In The Battle Years. Rosanna shares that the album is the natural progression for the band, who are truly now beginning to find their sound. 

“When Claire joined the band it was like, ok now we need an album with Claire on it. We did the whole album ourselves and took a year to do it. I feel, personally, Hillsburn hadn’t discovered what it was until we did that album. Now we sort of have formulated that sound through the process of recording that album. We started out as an acoustic folk quartet, just kind of by accident. I’m really happy and I think we’re all feeling that this is what we’re supposed to be. I think that was a really important process for us. 

“I think if you can do that early on people will be more willing to follow you when you branch out later,” she adds of evolving the groups’ style. “A favourite band of ours is The National from the States. They’ve been mixing it up from day one. They’ve got so many different albums out and so many things and their audience is ready for what’s next. If you do the same thing right off the bat people get stuck. 

“You have to always be changing things up and I think that’s really important. I feel really good about the fact that our sound has changed the way that it has. People have absolutely been supportive and that’s so lovely.”

‘Creating A Moment’

With buzz surrounding the band at an all-time high, and a momentum of the newest album propelling them through the remainder of 2018, Hillsburn bring their tried and true brand of energetic folk rock to Newfoundland, and it’s a show you don’t want to miss. 

“I’d say our live show is very high energy,” says Rosanna. “As a performer, my main goal is to make the audience feel something, because that’s what we’re all looking for, an experience, a moment. We’re creating a moment with the audience and I think that’s the most important thing. Paul’s songs and his lyrics are incredible and I think that they speak to people. We sing our guts out every song from start to finish. Claire and Jackson are holding it down. It’s really high energy and we’re hoping to create an experience for the audience that they will remember.”

For tickets to Hillsburn’s performances at the Garrick Theatre in Bonavista on Sept. 6, The Ship Pub in St. John’s on Sept. 7 and Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook on Sept. 8 visit

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