The Hunts bring family ties to Firefly

The Hunts, made of siblings from Chesapeake, Virginia, play the Firefly Music Festival in Dover today. (Submitted photo)

The Hunts, made of siblings from Chesapeake, Virginia, play the Firefly Music Festival in Dover today. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — Before they were The Hunts, they were simply Jessi, Jenni, Jonathan, Jordan, Justin and Jamison, seven brothers and sisters growing up together in Virginia singing and playing music.

The folk-pop band that opens the Firefly Music Festival this afternoon, weave fresh, dreamy songs with their textured acoustic instrumentation.

The siblings, from Jamison, 17, to twins Jessi and Jenni, 25, were raised in a small house with lots of land in Chesapeake, Virginia.

“I think sparked a lot of imagination,” Jessi said.

“It especially comes through in our songwriting remembering the stories of our childhood — forts in the wood, games we played, big imaginations.”

Ms. Hunt said they are telling stories with their music, spinning narratives about the family’s shared memories, hopes and daydreams.

With layered harmonies, their sweet, lilting melodies, grounded in Americana, gracefully shift from triumphant to reminiscent.

“I would describe it as acoustic folk — joyful mixed with melancholy,” Ms. Hunt said.

Over the years, the family has forged strong bonds as they’ve made goals, worked hard and overcome obstacles together.

“I believe it is a stronger connection between us. Especially because we’ve played songs we’ve written together,” Ms. Hunt said.

“We write about life experiences, our memories we’ve had together, so everyone’s hearts are deeply entwined in every song.”

Every song has its own story of how it came to be, Ms. Hunt said. Sometimes one person will bring a tune to the group and say, “Hey, I’ve been working on this, so let’s all work on it.” Maybe the best songs, she said, come from when the family comes together and starts jamming.

It’s really “a team effort,” she said. Some of them are better at melodies and some are better at lyrics.

Touring with your family, though, has its ups and downs.

“One thing, being family, you feel really, really comfortable with each other. Sometimes you treat each other more bluntly and sharply than you would someone who’s not your own family. That’s been one thing we’ve had to work on,” Ms. Hunt said. “Rule number one is respect.”

“It’s also really cool, though, being family we feel we can be the most honest with one another and respect each other.”

Their parents were both musicians, Ms. Hunt said. Their father played guitar. He was kind of like a “teenage rocker” in his day, an 80s rock star wannabe, she joked. Their mother, a classically trained violinist, ran a music school.

Their children had the best of both worlds.

First the parents were a musical duo, Ms. Hunt said, then they started to bring their kids into the act.

They all grew up playing violin at their mom’s school, and she held student performances throughout the community for holidays and special events.

“Every show our family would do a special song, and it kind of progressed from there,” Ms. Hunt explained.

“It wasn’t really anything that we planned that we would do,” she said, “It just kind of grew into that.”

As they grew as musicians, they started exploring different genres and adding new instruments to their repertoire, like the piano, the ukulele or the drums. Ms. Hunt, whose main instrument is the fiddle, also plays the mandolin and the banjo. All seven sing harmony, while Josh and Jenni supply the lead vocals.

In 2007, after years of playing locally, they added their first original music to their set, a song Jenni wrote.

“When we added that into it, that sparked a new excitement about music and about our group,” Ms. Hunt said.

“From there we started writing more and growing into an actual band with original music.”

When one of their demos made its way through the music community and wound up in the hands of producer Mark Carman, The Hunts headed to Nashville to record their 2012 album “We Were Young” in Mr. Carman’s studio.

That album included “Make This Leap,” a track that quickly attracted the attention of New York City-based Songs Music Publishing, which in turn paved the way for The Hunts signing with Cherrytree Records/Interscope.
June has already been a busy month for The Hunts. The group just released their new album with Cherrytree Records, “Those Younger Days,” on June 9, and left on tour Tuesday.

“It was a long process,” Ms. Hunt said about the album.

“We worked hard on it for a long time. It’s just a collection of songs over the years. It was just a celebration to finally release it. It’s just songs that are from our hearts and from our lives.”

Now, for the next few months, they’re going to be packed into an RV, traveling everywhere from Boston to Los Angeles. And they always come back with stories to tell.

“We love it. We’re so excited to go,” Ms. Hunt said last week.

“We just absolutely love the opportunity to see our country and meet so many people all around and share our music with whoever is there.”

Because they’re a new band, Ms. Hunt said she doesn’t know what to expect from Firefly yet, but they “feel so honored to be part of the festival.”

“We know it’s one of the best ones around,” she said. “Looking at the lineup of all the great musicians coming in, we’re so honored to be a part of it.”

The Hunts play today at 12:15 p.m. on The Lawn stage at Firefly Music Festival.

The four-day festival, which is expected to bring 90,000 fans to the Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, kicked off Thursday at 5:30 p.m., with performances scheduled through Sunday at midnight.

Headliners for the event, which boasts more than 100 artists on seven stages, include Paul McCartney, The Killers and Kings of Leon.

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