The good news for Canadian country music star Chad Brownlee is that, should his music career not pan out, he has one heck of a back-up plan in his pocket.
It’s not exactly a closely-guarded secret that the man behind radio hits like “Where The Party At,” “When The Lights Go Down,” and “Fallin’ Over You” had to choose between a career in hockey and a career in music.
Seeing how his career in music has played out thus far, it seems that relying on his back-up plan seems less and less likely with each passing day.
“Music was something that was just always there alongside of hockey. It was, initially, more of a hobby than anything else,” Brownlee says.
That “hobby” took root early in his life: Brownlee began playing the piano at age eight before moving onto the tenor saxophone as a middle school student. It was when he was 17 years old, playing in the British Columbia Hockey League that Brownlee taught himself how to play the guitar.
The decision to pick up a guitar was a prophetic one for the budding hockey star as, it was during his sole season with the East Coast Hockey League that he came to the realization that his love for music was outweighing his love for sport. “I realized that life was too short to do anything but something I loved. I loved playing hockey but there was this deeply-rooted desire that was drawing me to music.”
Brownlee says that telling his father of his decision to give up hockey in favour of music was one of the most difficult conversations that he ever had to have.
“I thought back to my parents dutifully being at the rink at 5:00 in the morning and the time and money they invested to help me pursue my dream of making it in the world of hockey. When it came time to make that phone call, I was quite nervous,” Brownlee says.
His worry was all for naught, however. He says that, just as his parents had unwaveringly supported him in hockey, they also expressed support for his decision to leave the sport in favour of music.
“My parents never pushed me into hockey and never tried to sway me to stay in the sport once I had made the decision to pursue music. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the fact that my parents trusted me to allow me to find myself and what I thought I should be doing with my life. I truly think that if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to move into music with such conviction.
“Throughout our whole lives, people are telling others what to do and what they should be doing when in fact people should be listening to the little voice in your head. I’m of the school that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. So many people get caught in the mindset that dreams shouldn’t change over time when in fact, they should realize that it is completely fine if what you want to do next isn’t the same as what you’ve been doing,” he says.
With three albums to his credit – his 2010 self-titled debut, 2012’s Love Me Or Leave Me and 2014’s The Fighter – Brownlee feels content with his decision to leave hockey behind. Along with Brett Kissel, Dallas Smith and others, Brownleee is one of a growing number of Canadian country artists making a respectable name for themselves here at home.
Unconcerned with what might be trendy at the moment, Brownlee has remained true to himself and his music.
“Country music is an exciting place to be these days,” he declares. “It is a genre that is constantly evolving and opening itself up to different sounds. It is not uncommon to hear pop, rock and country all mixed together in the songs you hear on the radio. For someone who wants a little bit of everything in their music, country music has all that and more. It has the potential to satisfy so many people.”
Given the proliferation and popularity of “bro-country” over the last few years, Brownlee acknowledges that, like virtually every other genre of music, country music of 2015 is not the same as the country music that his parents might have listened to.
“I think the genre is rather diverse these days. I understand there are a lot of naysayers out there saying that modern country music is not country music at all. People aren’t always the most receptive to change but so many genres of music have undergone change in their lifetime. Why would country music not do the same?”
Although he cannot definitively say where country music is heading in the future, one thing is for certain: Brownlee cannot contain his excitement at the prospect of being back on tour.
Brownlee’s show at Casino New Brunswick on Friday night is one of 26 shows that he, Jess Moskaluke and Bobby Wills will be playing before wrapping up their tour in British Columbia in early April. Brownlee’s last appearance in Moncton was alongside Deric Ruttan and Jason Blaine on the Your Town Throwdown Tour.
Brownlee admits that the upcoming tour holds a special significance for him as it marks his first cross-Canada tour as a headlining act. Asked if the responsibility of being a headliner was weighing on him, Brownlee said it is quite the opposite.
“Touring life still hasn’t lost its lustre for me,” he says. “You just never know what to expect from the audience on any given night. That excitement is very much what drives me on stage. I love it.”
What: Chad Brownlee with special guests Jess Moskaluke and Bobby Wills
When: Friday, March 6, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets are $35 (plus taxes and service charges). Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca.