New Brunswick’s Chris Cummings continues to live his country music dream. With six studio albums, multiple hits on Canadian radio and video channels, Chris has carved out a career in music all while remaining true to the province that gave him his start.
In addition to finding his own success on the charts from the mid-’90s forward, Chris also helped pen songs like the Grammy Award-nominated Twentieth Century for country music legends Alabama.
For the past few years, all has been relatively quiet in Chris’s world but that suits the Norton native just fine. His last studio album was 2010’s Give Me Tonight, which featured the country radio, hit “Leaving’s Not An Option,” and he continues to play live, mostly in smaller towns and cities across Canada.
Saturday, July 12 he takes the stage at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge.
“I haven’t done that many dates in the Maritimes or anywhere really, over the last few years,” an amiable Chris says. “We’ve played some small towns but have largely stayed out of major markets, mostly because we haven’t had any new product to offer people since 2010. I think that sometimes you have to go away for people to miss you.
“Looking back on the last few years, I truly feel as though I did the right thing. It certainly gives me – as well as my audience – a greater mutual appreciation.”
Chris recently returned from a Canada Day performance in Alberta but other than his upcoming performance in Moncton, he has only two other shows currently scheduled.
This self-directed, slow career pace is in sharp contrast to Chris’s ascension on the Canadian country music scene in the early to mid-’90s. An independently released album found its way to the president of Reprise Records in the United States, leading Chris to sign with the label in 1992 at the age of 17.
Chris went from being a high school student to hitting the road with country music greats like George Jones, Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakam and more.
In 1996, Chris released his major-label debut, Somewhere Inside. The album’s first single “I Waited” became a Top Five hit while the followup single, “Sure Enough” shot straight to number one. The record would be certified for sales of more than 50,000 copies in Canada.
His self-titled sophomore record hit store shelves in early 1998, followed by Lonesomeville (2000) and Ooh, That Could Cost Him The Gold, Bob! in 2002. The hits from those three records, including “The Kind Of Heart That Breaks,” “A Minute and a Half,” and “Cowboy Hats,” established the singer as one of the country’s most promising talents.
But as it was for many other artists, the turn of the century would prove to be a transformational time in Chris’s career. Music downloading sites such as Napster began snuffing out CD sales, and Chris admits such downloading services had a direct impact on his career.
He amicably parted ways with his record label at Warner Music Canada and set out to discover what awaited him as a musician in the 21st century.
“My experience with Warner Canada was incredibly positive,” Chris says. “And while we continued finding great critical success and radio success in the age of the Internet, music sales were taking a 40 per cent hit. The business was changing – it was something that couldn’t be denied.”
Following the release of a 2004 hits compilation, Chris’s next studio album, 2006’s Who Says You Can’t?, saw the now independent artist return to the charts thanks to songs like “Dixie Beauxderaunt” and “For The Music.”
Chris foresees a bright future. He hopes to explore songwriting collaborations with some of his old Nashville cohorts while also keeping an eye on his own career.
“I am sitting on almost three-dozen songs that I co-wrote with Don Schlitz, who wrote ‘The Gambler’ for Kenny Rogers,” Chris shares. “They are just great songs that I think could have a lot of solid commercial potential.
“As for my own career, I am going to be looking at releasing a few more singles and taking another shot but the truth is, I am not swinging for the fences anymore. I’m like Crash Davis in Bull Durham – I’m happy to hang around and hit a few more zingers in the minors if I can.
“However that pans out is just fine with me though because I have always lived pretty reasonably. There is no Maserati sitting in my garage,” he laughs.
What: Chris Cummings
When: Saturday July 12, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton