by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
Aaron Pritchett knows the score. More precisely he knows that a score equals 20 years, as in the Abe Lincoln catch phrase ‘Four score and seven years ago’, because he’s been releasing albums and singles since 1996. To mark this milestone Aaron fittingly called his new album ‘The Score’ (out June 24) and the first single ‘Dirt Road In ‘Em’ has already gone Top 5 on the Country Charts. The B.C. native resides on Gabriola Island, just off the south coast of Vancouver Island, and the album’s first track ‘VW Bus’ captures some of the spirit of his surroundings.
“Yeah, a lot of the residents are fairly laid back and pretty hippie-like people,” he says, calling in from the west coast. “I always understood the hippie culture because I watched things like the Woodstock film and a lot of other movies from back then. I was born in the 70’s and there was still some of that vibe left, but a lot of people were getting out of that hippie phase by then. I still connect to it especially because I live where I do.”
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The song’s bouncy verses wax nostalgic about ‘shag carpet seats’ and ‘bell bottom pants’ and reference Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’. While these artists played a role in Aaron’s formative years his first big musical inspiration was Elvis Presley, whose charisma and stage presence were a direct influence on him becoming a performer. He began to tune in to country music and gravitate toward the work of Randy Travis and Garth Brooks, the latter of which recently provided Aaron with a huge break.
I was at a radio station in Regina co-hosting the morning show as part of the radio tour I was doing,” he recalls. “I interviewed Garth who was promoting tickets going on sale for his two Saskatoon shows. Out of nowhere he asked me if I’d like to open the shows for him. He said to his management company that he had a feeling about me. He liked me and took a big chance, and it was an absolute thrill beyond what I ever expected. He’s a very gracious guy; before I went on stage he came back to my green room several times and asked if we needed anything. That just blew me away because you don’t ever get that from a major artist like that.”
Prior to The Score, Aaron wrapped up the first phase of his recording career with a Greatest Hits album called ‘Body Of Work’. That album captured some high points between 2006 and 2008 when Aaron enjoyed Top 10 success, as well as some other periods where he describes himself as having been on ‘cruising altitude’. He appears to be on the ascent again with ‘Dirt Road in ‘Em’, which he says radio really gravitated toward, and he may enjoy even greater success with his new single ‘Out Of the Blue’, a tropically-flavoured delight that sounds like it could have been written by Jimmy Buffett. Perhaps Aaron may establish his own northern Parrot Head following.
“That would be awesome,” he laughs. “Hopefully it will be a big summer song. I’m not going to be recording all beach tunes, but I definitely don’t want to have the same flavour for each song. I’m going to have my quirkiness with different songs. You go from Out Of the Blue to something like ‘When a Momma’s Boy Meets A Daddy’s Girl’, which is very country and has quite a story line to it. It’s one of those types of numbers that isn’t being done very much these days, that three or four-stage story line song. They used to record those all the time in the 80’s and 90’s but we kind of got away from that because people just wanted to sing about partying.”
Aaron will be showcasing his new songs on the summer festival circuit, including stops at the Dauphin Countryfest, Calgary Stampede and the Boots & Hearts Festival near Orillia. One of the highlights is bound to be a song from the new album called ‘Lifeline’, a stirring number about personal salvation. Aaron is quick to give credit to his most important lifeline in terms of his career.
“I know it sounds kind of corny, but it’s the fans that really made the difference. I’ve always played for the fans, even if it’s for five people in a bar, as long as they’re having fun that’s all that really matters. Ten years ago I had five or six-year-olds listening to my song ‘Hold My Beer’, and they loved it because it was kind of their nursery rhyme of a country song. It still sticks with them because they come to the shows now and they want to hear that song. They weren’t just a past generation that I won’t see again. Hopefully these ‘kids’ will come out to the show for another 10 years.”
Other stuff: Congratulations to Country Music Association of Ontario Rising Star and Female Artist of the Year Nominee, Jessica Mitchell, who will be opening most shows for actor turned country singer Kiefer Sutherland on his June Ontario and Quebec concert dates. Kiefer and his five-piece band will be promoting his debut album ‘Down In A Hole’ beginning in Gravenhurst and ending in Quebec City.
Congratulations as well to venerable folkie Murray McLauchlan and country music industry mover and shaker Paul Mascioli who have been selected as the 2016 inductees into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. McLauchlan first began writing and performing songs as a teenager in Toronto. By the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, he played major festivals such as the Mariposa Folk Festival, then expanded into the club circuit playing such renowned venues as The Riverboat in Toronto. He’s perhaps known best for his hits ‘Farmer’s Song’ and ‘Down By the Henry Moore’, but he’s released 18 solid albums through his career. https://www.facebook.com/roman.mitz