By Jenny Goldsberry
Brenn Hill was a student at Mount Ogden Middle School when his English teacher suggested he submit something to an upcoming youth literature contest. This was at the peak of his interest in riding and writing. In class, they had just studied poets like Robert Frost and Robert Service. Brenn had recently returned from a horseback hunting trip with his father and uncle. They had brought a cassette player and a single album: Cowboyography by Ian Tyson. As he listened to the songs by the campfire, it sparked a fire inside him to write songs of his own. So, he wrote and submitted a poem and a song to the contest. As a result, both of his pieces won awards. From there, he took them to the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, to read them aloud to the crowd. That was just the start of Brenn’s writing career.
After graduating from Weber State University, Brenn took off for Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a songwriting career. He had already written some songs with his college garage band. However, in Nashville in the 90s, most Western songwriters were going the way of popular country music. Brenn was pushed to write to the demands of the industry. In the midst of his displeasure with his new gig, he saw an interview with Billy Joel. The pop star claimed, “The best songs come from life.”
“I’m not living here,” Brenn realized. “When I’m out West, I’m alive.” He knew he’d won the lottery being born in Ogden, Utah, so he moved back to the area. His wife, Sylina, married him shortly before they moved to Hooper. They knew they had the best of everything.
“I’ve been able to have a horse in my backyard, drive an hour to ski, or drive an hour to hunt,” Brenn said. “I have this giant pool of inspiration I can draw on constantly all my life. Why would I not write about it?”
Brenn really did write about his life. A few years after the move, community leaders announced the construction of Legacy Highway. He strongly opposed the highway at the time. He wrote his album “Endangered” to express his frustration. As a young man, he remembered pheasant hunting there. The family who let their cattle roam there was a personal friend of his. Years earlier, his grandfathers had farmed in west Layton. Areas similar to Legacy Parkway used to sound like music to Brenn. One could hear the calls and chirps of many animals. Now, the natural sounds are replaced with cars zooming on the freeway.
Then, some years later, his son, Briggs, was diagnosed with brain cancer at two years old. He first caught on to Briggs’ symptoms when Briggs didn’t enjoy riding their family horse, Jessie, anymore. As Briggs recovered and began horseback riding again, Brenn took the inspiration and wrote songs for his fifth album, Equine. Three songs commemorated their cancer struggle and the healing power of horses.
Now, he’s won several awards not only for his songwriting but his singing too. He also produces his own music now, having learned from his previous phenomenal producers. Among them is Eddie Schwartz, who produced for Pat Benatar, the Doobie Brothers, Joe Cocker, and more. There are fifteen albums to discover at brennhill.com.