For Jefferson City rockers Shaman's Harvest, how do you top 2010?
The five-member alternative rock band had a huge year with the success of its fourth album, "Shine," and first nationally released single, "Dragonfly." The band toured nationally with established bands as "Dragonfly" soared up the charts, landing on a movie soundtrack and becoming the theme song for a pro hockey team.
One of the few things the band didn't accomplish in 2010 was getting a record deal, despite rumors that a contract was imminent. But they didn't get turned down - they're the ones who told the labels where to go.
"We went and did several showcases for labels early in the year, and the offers, they were just ---- offers," singer Nathan "Drake" Hunt said. "They didn't really believe in us. But the fans of the radio stations would call in and request the song. They forced the stations to play it."
Rhythm guitarist Josh Hamler said that with the music industry tanking, the labels that haven't succumbed to the economy/music pirating aren't willing to take chances on anyone.
"We've had opportunities to sign with every major record label that's around in the U.S.," Hamler said. "The way the industry is, they didn't have the power to offer us a legitimate deal. Not that it wasn't legitimate, but it wasn't in our best interest."
But with national success, the band realized it needed more professional help. So it added a Los Angeles booking agent to its management team, which originally consisted of band members and their parents.
Now, band members are breathing a sigh of relief that they didn't sign. As record companies started merging and folding, other bands on the road started telling Shaman's Harvest their horror stories about being dropped from labels and being left without any tour support.
"Here we are, we still own 100 percent of our music, our creativity," Hamler said. "At the end of the day, we really felt it was a wise decision to keep doing what we're doing."
Just as band members were second-guessing themselves, Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery contacted them to give them a thumbs up on their decision to stay independent.
"We're not opposed to a label, but it has to be beneficial to us," Hamler said.
Meanwhile, the band isn't taking a breather after its breakout year. It's in the process of recording a followup to "Shine," hoping to use its momentum to gain more national exposure and hopefully ink distribution deals in Europe and Asia.
Two of the songs have been recorded for what might be an eight-song EP, which the band hopes to finish in March. Band members are tight-lipped about the songs, but Hunt says one will be a cover of a song they grew up with.
In its typical genre-defying tradition, Shaman's Harvest expects the new album to have songs ranging from heavy southern blues influence to flat-out heavy. Hamler promised "a solid rock album, full of good songs, and great guitar riffs and good hooks.
"I'm kind of biased, but I think it's really some of our best stuff yet," he said.
For the most part, the band members have given up their day jobs and are supporting their families through the band, which remains based in Jefferson City. Missouri's Capital City might not be a music hotspot like Nashville or Los Angeles, but Hamler said they've never really considered relocating.
"I guess that's the good-oldboy mentality, just trying to be true to ourselves and where we came from," Hamler said. "Hats off to people who leave to pursue their dream, but this is where we're from.
"Besides," he added, "cigarettes and beer are a lot cheaper here than anywhere else in the country."
Band's top 10 highlights of 2010