“I was born to ramble/I was born to run/Born to live fast/And born to die young/I got 18 women in Tennessee/But I need 19 to satisfy me.” Got What It Takes
When The Saturns’ 22-year-old front man Sam Hunter sings those words, his tongue is firmly in his cheek. In reality, the talented singer/songwriter/guitarist/bassist was born to do just what he’s doing.
Hunter is an old soul in a young man’s body. He took up the drums at the age of four, graduated to bass after seeing Paul McCartney play the instrument with The Beatles, then switched to guitar once he discovered it was easier to sing while strumming than plucking notes on the bottom end.
Austin Valentine has played drums since the age of seven -- when all he wanted was to to be Neil Peart of Rush. Sam met Valentine during a swing class while in high school. The two Nashvillians have played together in a variety of bands ever since.
“Sam is such a great musician and performer,” Valentine confides. “It’s such a pleasure to play alongside someone who knows what they’re doing. He’s really helped me music-wise – instrumentally and vocally. He helped me come out of my shell.”
That feeling of brotherhood is mutual. “Austin is so much fun… always smiling,” says Hunter. “I love playing and creating a sound with Austin.”
The sound this edgy duo creates is sometimes difficult to define in a world of cookie-cutter clones. The band’s stylistic diversity has given music business insiders – who otherwise sing their praises – a hard time figuring out where they fit, in a world of Luke Bryans and Florida-Georgia Lines
“I look at that as a positive, because most of our heroes were initially told the same thing,” observes Hunter. “We’re just following in their footsteps.”
Both Hunter and Valentine support The Saturns with session work, and the guys have learned from the best. Hunter has played with local legends on the studio scene: guitarists Reggie Young and Brent Mason, drummer Chester Thompson and the late percussionist Tommy Wells. Noted Music City producer Rob Galbraith, who worked with Elvis Presley, Ronnie Milsap, and Kenny Rogers, has also been an important mentor...And if Hunter and Valentine are quick studies, it is because the music itself is in their DNA.
Valentine's great-grandfather was a jazz drummer, and his dad is an accomplished bass player. Hunter's grandfather Jim Lance was a guitarist from the mid-‘50s until the turn of the millennium. During that time he played for Elvis, Eddy Arnold, Patsy Cline, Porter Wagoner and Dottie West. His dad Joe moved from Arkansas to Nashville to become a songwriter, and placed songs with Ray Price, Alabama and Reba McEntire.
It is from his father that Hunter finds his greatest source of inspiration. The father/son combination write all of the music for The Saturns together.
Together they wrote Summer #17 as a tribute to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, which was recorded by Ronnie Milsap on his album of the same name. Their song, Someday I Won’t Love You, was featured on the Fox TV series, The Good Guys.
“I’m very lucky not to have to flip burgers for a living,” Hunter laughs. Currently in negotiations for a recording deal, Hunter has a huge backlog of some 300 songs from which he'll choose a dozen for The Saturns’ debut album.
About Our Music
The Saturns’ rollicking Malt Shop, an homage to rockabilly’s ‘50s doo-wop sock-hop roots, shows how Hunter and Valentine take the past and retool it for their generation. “It’s sort of a mixture of Dion and the Belmonts with (Who Wrote) The Book of Love, admits Hunter. “With some Brian Setzer thrown in just to modernize it. At least two or three couples get up to dance every time we play it.”
The gnarly, mock-boastful delta howl of Got What It Takes spawned a music video and was also used on the trailer to the major motion picture, Dial a Prayer, with William H. Macy.
“We came up with that song in 15 minutes,” laughs Hunter. “We had this groove; my dad had some lyrics, and it was done. People seem to love that sound.”
The Girl I Love, a raucous mash-up of The Beatles’ Taxman and I Feel Fine, also boasts one of the great surprise lyrical hooks since The Kinks’ Lola: “The girl I love/Is in love with another girl.”
“When my dad brought that title to the table, we just had to finish it,” says Hunter. “We’ve always had this unspoken rule: When we write, have as much fun as possible. If we don’t, we can’t very well expect others to get enthused, too.”
The punkabilly-meets-Presley feel of It Hurts Too Bad to Cry fuses the garage-rock of latter-day artists like Jack White, Jake Bugg and The Strypes with old-school British bluesman Jeff Beck, the Yardbirds and early Led Zeppelin.
That stylistic diversity is a tribute to Hunter’s historical perspective and appreciation of the roots that helped inform The Saturns’ sound...a sound that is retro, yet totally in the moment. His original bass teacher Bob Babbitt--from legendary Motown Funk Brother fame--secured him an on-screen appearance in the recent Smithsonian Channel documentary, Phil Collins: Going Back to Detroit, where he was interviewed about Motown’s influence on his own music alongside many of the original legends.
“My idea from the start has been to use my session earnings to promote my career as an artist and tour,” says Sam. “I’m always going to do music in some form, I just don’t know if I want to be on the road 300 days a year when I’m 50. Eventually, I’d like to produce and write for other acts.”
As for The Saturns’ goals as a band, drummer Valentine takes a page from the Fab Four: “Our saying is, ‘To the topper-most of the popper-most,’” he laughs. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to get there.”