The Power of Three

It is often said there is power in numbers.

And frankly, Canadian country music stars Dean Brody, Deric Ruttan and Aaron Lines would be inclined to agree.

The trio have teamed up for the CMT Hitlist Tour, a cross-country venture that has played more than its fair share of sold out performances as it works its way across Canada.

The CMT Hitlist Tour hits Casino New Brunswick for a performance Wednesday night.

Even though the three performers originally hail from different parts of the Canada, they each took a similar approach to getting their careers in music off the ground. Brody, Ruttan and Lines have each called Nashville home for a period of time in their lives.

For singer Aaron Lines, his move to Nashville followed a brief 10-month stint living in Los Angeles.

“I had a fun time living in Los Angeles but Nashville was so much more comfortable,” Lines says from a Manitoba tour stop last week. “I spent approximately seven years there and found that the music community in Nashville was much closer knit than what I experienced in Los Angeles. Living in Nashville was a whole different way to live compared to living in L.A. – it is a much better quality of life there.”

Reigning as the most played Canadian artist on Canadian country radio between 2000 and 2010, Lines was nominated for the Album of the Year Award at last month’s Canadian Country Music Association Awards.

Though Deric Ruttan’s path would eventually lead him to Nashville, Ruttan got his start as a songwriter for others before becoming a solo artist. In 1994, he left his home in Bracebridge, Ontario for Nashville with the goal of securing a deal that would afford him the opportunity to make his own music while also having his songs recorded by others.

Country singer Dierks Bentley took the Ruttan-penned song “What Was I Thinking” to the number one spot on the Billboard charts in 2003.

“One of the first people I met when I arrived in Nashville was Don Schlitz, who wrote The Gambler for Kenny Rogers,” Ruttan says. “He told me it would probably take around five years to get something happening with my work and for the most part he was right on. I wrote 100 songs in Nashville, none of which ended up being recorded. By the time 1999 rolled around, I had landed a new publishing deal with Sony Music and it was then that I started landing cuts on other people’s records.”

As an accomplished singer-songwriter, Ruttan is excited to be on the road in support of his newest effort, Up All Night – Deric Ruttan Live. His song Up All Night was the most played Canadian country song in 2010, adding to an already impressive resume of nine Top 10 radio hits.

When Dean Brody decided to make the move from Canada to Nashville, he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Though he admits the environment of competing with hundreds of other songwriters in the city was competitive, he says that there remained a real sense of camaraderie among the writers.

“It really gets to the point that you are rooting for one another,” Brody says. “It feels like you are a part of a large family; it is such an amazing place to be creatively. It is hard to find that anywhere else in the world.”

Brody is celebrating one of his biggest years yet, having brought home a trio of Canadian Country Music Awards at last month’s ceremony in Ontario. Asked if the thrill of winning awards ever gets old, Brody heartily laughs.

“It is a shock every single time. Especially with some of the awards I won; the album and songwriter of the year awards were the big shockers for me. I started my career as a songwriter so for me to have had my work received by people that I respect, it is just an amazing experience.”

Asked about the appeal of joining forces for the CMT Hitlist Tour, both Lines and Ruttan say that the idea for the joint tour was actually presented by their booking agent who the trio of musicians share.

“Our agent has wanted to do a tour like this for quite some time,” Ruttan says. “He is a big fan of the Grand Ole Opry and the touring revue style shows that were so popular in the ’50s and ’60s. No one is doing that anymore, not in Canada, not anywhere. With Dean, Aaron and I, I think our agent knew that our personalities would complement one another and the music and so far, I have to say that the tour has worked really well. We are all regular guys who enjoy getting up on stage and playing. It is a pretty low maintenance tour.”

“For me, I am used to touring by myself so the fact that there was going to be two other performers I would be playing alongside, that idea really interested me,” Lines says.

“The CMT Hitlist Tour was a chance to get excited again about touring. After having done this by myself for so many years, it is definitely nice to try something new.”

Article published in October 17, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript