Canadian country singers Chad Brownlee, Jason Blaine and Deric Ruttan are hitting the tour circuit this year clear across the nation.
Their ‘Your Town Throwdown Tour’ lands in Red Deer Nov. 9 at Cowboys Bar & Nightclub. The 26-date tour kicks off this week in Prince Edward Island before venturing out to the west coast, wrapping up in Vancouver by mid-November.
A singer, songwriter, philanthropist and NHL draft pick, the Vancouver-based Brownlee is indeed a man of many talents. His singles have been climbing the charts, cracking the top 10. He also received his first Juno Award nomination for the 2013 Country Album of the Year.
These days, he’s looking forward to hitting the road with his country counterparts. “I’m good friends with Jason and Deric, and I’ll get to know them a lot better obviously when I get on a bus with them for a month,” he says with a laugh. “We’re all really excited about it.”
Each musician will take a turn, and there will be plenty of collaborating onstage as well, he said. “They’ve been doing this for longer than I have, so there’s definitely things I can learn from them. And at some points on the road, we’ll definitely be writing together. It’s going to be a learning experience.”
In addition to his music, last summer Brownlee partnered with the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation to share music with campers, leading workshops across the country. He also enjoyed a showcase year in the Canadian music scene as well, topping things off with a 2012 Canadian Country Music Award (CCMA) nomination for Male Artist of the Year and performing on the broadcast of the awards show.
His latest disc, Love Me Or Leave Me, was released in early 2012.
“Love Me or Leave Me, like much of my work, is drawn from personal experience,” he said. “To create a song my fans can relate to and connect with, genuine emotion is definitely imperative.”
Brownlee’s love for music stretches back to his youth. “They were very supportive of whatever I wanted to do,” he says of his folks. “When it came down to my choice to play hockey or play various musical instruments, they let me explore that.
“I owe them a huge debt of gratitude, because it has led me to the philosophy of ‘You really need to do what you need to do’. It’s very important to follow what you are truly made to do. My parents gave me the platform and the environment to do so.”
His parents had him in piano lessons early on, and he later picked up the tenor sax and then opted for guitar. He was well into hockey at this point as well.
“In my spare time I would look up guitar tabs on the Internet, and just play cover songs at parties with all my hockey buddies.” He credits Garth Brooks’ music as leading to him into the country genre. “And I’ve never really looked back since. I did have an eclectic mix of music growing up, and I basically took in everything I listened to.”
When he began university at 19, a gift for songwriting started to emerge.
“It’s been a steady progression, but my love for music has always been there. Even at a young age, I felt the emotion in the piano when I played it and I think that’s what gave me the bug, and has led me to where I am today.”
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. “It wasn’t until my last injury, I came back and didn’t have the same strength, and that kind of diminished a love for the game. I wasn’t the same player.
“That’s when I had the revelation of ‘why am I doing this?’ All I wanted to do was hit the showers and go home. I knew that life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy. So I made the conscious decision to change that.”
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.
“At a young age, I was up in front of people and didn’t mind being in the spotlight – which is the complete opposite of the person I am,” he points out. “So there’s a bit of irony in me doing what I’m doing. But I find it a rush – especially with audiences, and when they sing along to your songs. You just don’t want it to end, and you want to do the same thing the next night.”