—By Matthew Abrey
Local hockey player turned country music star, Chad Brownlee, has certainly made a name for himself over the last few years. The Kelowna-born and raised country troubadour has had 19 singles find the Canadian country charts, with 9 of them cracking the top ten. Brownlee will be making his way back home later this summer for the Denim on the Diamond country music festival, so reporter, Mathew Abrey caught up with Brownlee to talk his about his career and recent success.
KCN: So you’ve been nominated for two Canadian Country Music Awards, for both Apple Music’s Fans’ Choice Award, and Male Artist of the Year. What does it mean to you to be nominated for these two pretty notable awards?
CB: It means a lot. And to be honest with you, it never gets old. This is my eighth year I believe in the country music world, and every time your name pops up on a nomination ballot, it always feels good being accepted by your peers and knowing that you’re still relevant! (laughs) So it’s pretty great.
KCN: So you’ve been nominated for these CCMAs, but you’ve also been nominated and won some BC Country Music Awards, in addition to receiving some Juno nominations. Did you ever think that your music career would reach this point when you first started out?
CB: Well you always hope that you take your career as far as possible, but I didn’t get into music for the awards. They’re just kind of a bonus at the end of the day from the hard work that you put in, but when i put my mind to something, I definitely want to go as far as possible in whatever that may be, whether it was hockey or now music. But ya, the awards are just a really nice bonus at the end of the day for the music and the work that you’ve put in.
KCN: Of course to start your music career, you had to leave hockey. You played for the Vernon Vipers for a couple years, before going to play college hockey at Minnesota State, so what made you leave hockey and say okay, I’m going to be a country singer? Because those two professions don’t usually go hand in hand with one another!
CB: Well I had injuries. I had shoulder surgery on both my shoulders when I was in college at Minnesota State, and I recovered from that fairly well, but in my first full year of playing in the minors with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL, I had some more shoulder problems, and when I came back I just couldn’t play the game the same way, and it put a lot of stress on me to be honest I lost my love for the game. I didn’t want to go to the rink anymore. It was the last thing I wanted to do. And at that point, my love for music just filled that void and that hole that was created from the loss of one dream, so I figured at 23 I was still young enough to be foolish and chase another really unstable dream in the music industry, but fortunately I’m still here doing it!
KCN: Was there ever any doubt that country music was 100% what you wanted to do? Or were you fully committed from the day you made the decision?
CB: If there was any doubt, it would’ve been a fleeting moment. I was just so confident in my new path. But there was really no obstacle that could get in the way, and I had the fire that you have to have when starting a new venture, because there are a lot of walls you have to walk over or knock down, and it’s really your choice at the end of the day as to which ones you decide not to walk over or knock down. And I was fortunate enough to meet some good people in the industry, and the music seemed to speak for itself, and the fanbase just started to grow, so there was really no doubt in my mind that I was willing to do whatever it took in order to sustain a career in the music industry.
KCN: You were drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2003 NHL Draft, in the heydays of guys like Trevor Linden, Ed Jovanoski and the dazzling West Coast Express line. These days have been a little leaner for Canucks fans to say the least, but were you a Canucks fan growing up?
CB: I was, ya! Ever since I can remember. When your dad’s a big fan of a certain team at that age, you tend to cheer for the same team, and being a BC boy, it was definitely natural, so ya I was a hardcore Canucks fan for a lot of years.
KCN: And you’re coming back to perform in Kelowna in early September for the Denim on the Diamond country music festival, so how does it feel to be coming back home?
CB: Kelowna will always be home to me. My parents, my grandma and my aunt and uncle still live here, and I still have tons of friends here, so it really is a reunion every time I come back, and it doesn’t take much for me to have an excuse to come back to Kelowna. I always have a great time, and I’m so honoured to be part of the first year of Denim on the Diamond. Everybody has done just a tremendous job of putting that festival together, and I truly believe that it’ll turn into one of the bigger festivals in town.
KCN: Do you typically get a warm welcome from your fans in Kelowna?
CB: I do! I get a really good reaction. They make me feel like I’m coming home, and that feeling doesn’t get old. It’s one of my favourite, if not my favourite place to play in Canada.
KCN: And finally, can you tell us what’s next for you? Do you have any new music coming out soon?
CB: I do! I have a brand new single that’s coming out this week, and a new album in the winter, so I’m extremely excited. I’ve taken some time off this past year and have been doing a lot of writing and recording, so it’s finally time, and I’m beyond excited to get this new music out to the world.
Chad Brownlee will be performing at the Denim on the Diamond country music festival Sep. 1. To buy tickets or for more information, visit http://www.denimonthediamond.com.