Back in elementary school, Josh Hamler’s famous guitarist/singer uncle tried to teach him to play the guitar. It didn’t take.
Now just try to get the guitar out of Hamler’s hands.
As a child, the Shaman’s Harvest rhythm guitarist preferred sports to piano lessons. When his uncle, Beeb Birtles of the Little River Band, gave him guitar lessons in his youth, Hamler lacked the focus to continue.
But at 17, he enlisted.
“I was on a singular mission to learn how to do it,” Hamler said. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve learned to do. It’s been a constant evolution. It’s been a hell of a ride.”
Birtles has since become a huge influence on Hamler, who has gained his own share of notoriety.
About eight months after learning to play guitar, Hamler joined Jefferson City-based Shaman’s Harvest in 1997, a year after the band was formed. It’s the first real band he’s been in, and over the past 25 years it’s taken him across the country and beyond.
The band has released six albums, including 2013’s “Shine” album, which featured the band’s first hit single, “Dragonfly.” It reached number 18 on the US Mainstream Rock charts in 2009. It became the theme song for the Chicago Blackhawks and was featured in the movie “Legendary”.
Part of the band’s appeal is that it defies genres. Shaman’s Harvest is a mix of hard rock, country, post-grunge, alternative metal and heavy metal. They remained based in Jefferson City to stay true to their roots.
“In Chains,” the final single from 2014 album “Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns,” reached No. 12 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart and spent 22 weeks there, their highest-charting single.
By the end of 2018, Shaman’s Harvest had been filming 300 days a year for the past four years.
“We were mentally and physically exhausted,” Hamler said. “It’s a tough life to live on the road.”
They have decided to take 2019 off of touring. They were well rested and ready to hit the road again in 2020. Then the pandemic hit.
Their seventh album, “Rebelator”, was made through a “grueling process” in 2018 and 2019 and was due for release in 2020, followed by a tour. But the pandemic has shattered those plans.
Now you can get your hands on the new album on March 11. For a preview, the single “Voices” is on the band’s website, shamansharvest.net.
Hamler sings lead vocals on one track, “Mama”. The only other time he sang lead in a song was on “Stones In My Pocket” from the band’s debut album.
After the release of “Rebelator”, the group plans to tour North America, Europe and South America over the next 12 months.
“There’s this perception of the rock ‘n’ roll touring lifestyle, and a lot of it is real, and a lot of it is fantasy,” he said. “What’s come out is meeting all the people we’ve met and having venues that are bucket lists. It may have taken us 24 years, but we played Red Rocks (at the Colorado), we toured Canada, we’ve opened for AC/DC.”
When not on tour, Hamler spends time with his wife, Nicole, and their three sons: Chad, Clayton and Cobe. All three are outstanding footballers. Hamler and his wife tried to provide them with opportunities to develop this talent, including traveling to different parts of the country to watch them play.
Even when Shaman’s Harvest isn’t rehearsing or playing, Hamler plays guitar intermittently throughout the day. It’s practically an extension of his body. He has guitars in almost every room in his house, and he plays about five hours a day between practice and just playing.
“It’s been a blessed life,” he said. “I count my blessings every day.”