From humble beginnings to the national stage
Local Rock band Hyland finding success in national spotlight
Photos by Derrick Knutson
When the Christian rock band Hyland took the stage at Main Street Church in North Branch Feb. 13, the room was packed with fans singing along to the band’s songs as the room reverberated with electric guitar riffs, drums, keyboard music and euphonious vocals.
It was a small venue for the band, which has seen recent big time success.
Hyland’s lead singer, Jon Lewis, is a 2002 graduate of North Branch Area High School. His brother is a senior this year, and most of his family still lives in the area.
His bandmates are all from the east central Minnesota area. Guitarist Mitch Hansen hails from Cambridge, drummer Steve Weigel grew up in Princeton and keyboardist Ben Early is from Zimmerman.
Lewis got his start in music in high school, playing in band, jazz band and enrolling in classes like music theory.
He was in school band with Joe Nyquist, Main Street Church’s youth/music/media pastor. The two have been friends since they played little league growing up in North Branch.
After high school, Lewis attended Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie for audio recording, and that’s when the makings of Hyland were born.
“I started a band freshmen year of college with all of my high school buddies,” Lewis said.
Lewis noted the band gave the group of friends an excuse to see each other on a regular basis, even though all of them attended different colleges.
“Poor college guys aren’t going to hang out unless they have an excuse to hang out,” he recalled with a laugh.
The band eventually disbanded, but Lewis had met Hansen, Weigel and Early while playing various shows, and the three joined Lewis to form the current Hyland lineup.
He noted the band played a lot of small venues during its early years, and recalled one interesting experience at the North Branch 4th of July celebration years back.
“We were on an enormous float in the middle of Central Park, and everybody was there for the fireworks, so we were kind of a filler,” he said. “It was excruciating—we were like 20 feet above the crowd, and I’m sure they just wanted us to stop playing so they could talk. There have been some humble beginnings, for sure.”
Producer’s influence leads to record deal
Sometime after the lackluster Central Park show, the band started to take off. They were playing about 150 shows a year in the upper Midwest until about three years ago, when they started working with Ben Kasica, formerly of the band “Skillet.”
With Kasica’s help, Hyland put together an independent extended play music recording.
Excited about how the band sounded, Lewis shared the EP with a friend who had an internship at The Compound recording studio in Seattle.
“He was like the guy who mops the floors and gets the coffee,” Lewis said.
That friend, Josh Riggs, used the studio’s audio equipment to listen to the EP, and he didn’t take it out before the music producers came in to use the equipment the next day.
“My favorite producer ever—his name is Aaron Sprinkle—came in that day, pushed play, and was like, ‘Who is this band?’” Lewis recalled.
That was the break Hyland needed.
“Luckily, it was us,” Lewis said. “So he called me on a Friday, and he asked if he could pitch us to the record label—Tooth and Nail Records—and then the following Tuesday we had a record deal in our inbox.”
Now Hyland plays about 175 shows a year, all over the country.
The band’s newest single, “Beauty in the Broken,” is being played on K-Love, a national Christian radio station.
The band has played venues like the Minneapolis Convention Center, and it has upcoming shows at Mariucci Arena and another big show in Dallas.
A few key aspects have to come together to make it in the music world, Lewis noted.
“It’s a combination of a whole lot of work and just not giving up, and maybe some luck along the way,” he said. “There are just some amazing ways that God has really come through for us.”