An award-winning singer, songwriter, philanthropist and former NHL draft pick, country artist Chad Brownlee is gearing up for a show at Westerner Days to showcase tunes from his latest CD Hearts on Fire.
His concert runs July 20th in the ENMAX Centrium starting at 8 p.m. Concerts are also free of charge with gate admission.
In recent years his singles have shot up the country charts, with several cracking the Top 10 including Listen, Smoke In The Rain, Crash and his current single Hearts On Fire.
“With this single, I truly feel I’ve reached another musical gear and have pushed the envelope, without losing that sound that has defined me as the artist I am today,” he explains of the tune.
It’s the title track and first single off of his fourth project Hearts On Fire, which was released earlier this year.
“There are a lot of variables that went into this new album,” he explained. “Writing different kinds of content, finding a different melodic vibe along with the production – we brought in one of my good friends who I’ve also written a lot with – Ben Glover. He’s had a lot of experience – a few Grammy Awards to his name too! So he definitely knows what he’s doing. His ear for melody and song structure are world-class.
“So it was about bringing in different elements, plus as a songwriter I’m trying to evolve. I’ve also worked hard on my vocals to try and reach a new level,” he said, adding that projects also tend to kind of take on a life of their own.
“I always try to take an organic approach – letting the producer produce while still obviously having control over the direction. But really letting these creative minds and professionals help bring these songs to life.”
With lots of great tunes hitting the airwaves these days, not to mention a bevy of strong Canadian artists, “You can’t just put out good music – it has to be absolutely great. We knew bringing in a guy like Ben Glover would help us do that.
“The new album touches on a broad scope of topics, laden with lyrical substance,” he added. “Musically, it reflects a little of what the audience already know as me, as well as a fresh new side that has yet to be seen.
“I was really pleased with the outcome.”
Brownlee’s love for music stretches back to his youth. “I started at eight years old with the piano,” he recalls.
He later picked up the tenor sax. “Apparently the tenor sax was way cooler than the piano.”
Finally, he opted for guitar. All during these years, a gift for singing was surfacing as well.
He was well into hockey at this point also.
When he began university at 19, a gift for songwriting started to emerge. But as his hockey career progressed, (Brownlee was a sixth round NHL draft pick for the Vancouver Canucks in 2003) repeated shoulder injuries proved an obstacle and he came to a kind of crossroads.
“I thought I was young enough – I might as well take a leap into something probably equally if not more unstable,” he laughs. “But I knew I had to do it – I’m a bit of a dream chaser and I wasn’t afraid of the gamble because I knew at the end of the day that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I never really gave it a shot.
“So that drive and that intuition to follow what I loved to do helped me get to this place.”
His gift for songwriting was first acknowledged when he was nominated for the NCAA Hockey Humanitarian Award for his song The Hero I See in his fourth year at Minnesota State University.
His debut CD was released in 2010.
With the latest CD, he is reflective regarding his musical journey.
“I’m starting to grow to accept how incomprehensible time is. I really didn’t know what to expect when I started down this music road,” he said. “It’s like watching a bucket of water fill up one drop at a time. In the moment it may seem slow, but before you know it, the drops have filled the entire bucket.”
Following the more traditional tale of love explored in Hearts On Fire, Brownlee leaps the emotional spectrum with the track I Hate You For It.
“This is my favourite song on the album. It’s got an edge that is slightly softened by an underlying addictive love. We can become entangled in one another. A conscious knowing of the intoxicating power one person can have over our emotions. We lay prisoner to the chains of infatuation. Like the lyrics say, one is literally ‘punch drunk crazy’!”
In June 2014 Brownlee released his third album, The Fighters. That album featured the award winning track Just Because for which Brownlee and his fellow co-writers (Mitch Merrett, Brian White and Phil Barton) received the 2014 British Columbia Country Music Association (BCCMA) Socan Songwriter of the Year Award.
“It’s kind of ironic because my personality is very laid back – I’m not someone who wants attention drawn to them but for some reason, performing has this adrenaline that I enjoy,” he explained. “That became something I wanted to experience over and over again. I found this comfort within it, and I never shied away from it.”