It’s been a dreadful winter in terms of the frigid temperatures, so it’s nice that we’ll at least be able to soak up a little country heat via the “When The Lights Go Down” tour as it rolls across Canada during March and April. Chad Brownlee headlines the tour in support of his remarkable album ‘The Fighters’, and he is ably supported by 2014 CCMA Female Artist of the Year Jess Moskaluke and Bobby Wills, a Male Artist of the Year nominee at those same awards. The tour kicks off in Summerside, P.E.I. and while temperatures there are currently hovering around the -20 C mark, Chad is anxious to hit the road to revisit familiar terrain as well break ground at some new venues.
“I’m not concerned about the weather because I’m packing some wool socks and my long johns so I’ll be set,” says the affable Kelowna native, who is presently basking in the friendly pre-tour climes of Vancouver. “I toured in February a few years ago with Dierks Bentley, and with Dallas Smith in the fall. If you’re touring across Canada in the spring or the fall, you’re going to hit winter at some point. Regardless of the weather I’m looking forward to all of the dates, especially my shows in Kelowna as it’s only my second time back, and in Vancouver because I live in the area and have friends and family there. I’m also looking forward to playing before new people at places I’ve never been like Thunder Bay, Glace Bay and Enoch, which is just outside of Edmonton”.
Chad and Jess are just back from a dream gig in the Bahamas where they joined forces with some Nashville performers for a two-night concert on Emerald Bay Beach in Exuma. Dubbed Exuma Acoustic, the show gave Chad the chance to strip down some of the more powerful songs on his album such as “Fallin’ Over” in an intimate setting joined only by guitarist Mitch Merret. The highlight for him, however, came at the end of the night when a local Junkanoo Band played traditional Bahamian music that had everyone dancing on the street. Chad shot a promotional video in the Bahamas for the upcoming tour, as well as another one back home that name-checks all of the cities on the tour. The videos, particularly the latter one, bring out an obvious chemistry between the three performers.
“Yeah, we had a lot of laughs doing the video for the tour stops,” he says. “I just set up the camera on my own and had my wife help me on a couple of shots. We had a lot of fun doing that, and Jess and I had a blast soaking up the culture and enjoying the beach in the Bahamas. I’ve known her for a few years and she’s become a good friend of mine. She’s just a humble, down-to-earth Saskatchewan girl. It’s nice to have someone like that on a tour bus because those walls can get pretty small at times. I say the same things about Bobby because he’s such a great guy. The country world seems to be full of good people and I’m lucky to be surrounded by a few of them. Jess has a gold record for her single “Cheap Wine & Cigarettes” and Bobby’s music is starting to resonate across Canada so to have those two as openers only helps my show.”
Chad is no slouch when it comes to hit singles as ‘The Fighters’ spawned no fewer than four radio nuggets. His songwriting efforts were recognized in British Columbia where he was awarded the 2014 BCCMA Socan Songwriter of the Year Award for “Just Because”. This was one of his proudest moments because he puts a lot of time and energy into his craft and, for him, “the song is the nucleus; it’s where it all starts.” One of the album’s top tracks is “We Don’t Walk This Road Alone”, which was turned into an inspirational video highlighting the Tim Horton’s Summer Camp Foundation, just one of the charities that Chad actively supports.[quote]I expect some new stuff to be coming out at the end of the tour[/quote]
“You know, I remember the moment when I was a kid and I went to a Vancouver Canucks game when I was eight years old,” he recalls. “I went down to the glass and looked up at Trevor Linden of the Canucks and he smiled at me. From that moment on he was my favourite player. When I reflect upon that I realize that such a small moment in life can be something that a kid always remembers. In your role as an artist and a country singer you have the responsibility to inspire our leaders of tomorrow, our youth. You try to create some kind of lasting impact as inspiration, and that’s kind of the motivation for me to do what I do with the Tim Horton’s foundation and other foundations. It takes such little time and you can really make someone’s life.”
The hockey reference is appropriate and a big part of Chad’s life as he was a sixth round draft pick for the Vancouver Canucks in 2003, but a series of shoulder injuries ended his NHL career aspirations. He has no regrets with his decision to leave the sport and he has even incorporated a bit of his past life into the “When the Lights Go Out Tour”.
“The first year after I quit hockey there were a couple of moments where I said ‘What if?’ but at the same time I was very confident that I had made the right decision. Now, especially when I look back on it, I’ve never felt more comfortable doing what I’m doing in the music world. I feel I have the best of both worlds because I’m skating with the Vancouver Canucks alumni and I’m able to enjoy hockey as a hobby and music as my focus. It’s also a little easier on my body. I still have hockey in my blood and I’m actually taking it on the road with me in the form of a guitar made of hockey sticks. Sherwood, the hockey stick manufacturer, supplied the sticks and the guitar’s neck and fret board are made out of Canadian Maple. On the back of the guitar, covering the pick-up, there’s a piece of a Stompin’ Tom vinyl record. That’s about as Canadian as it gets.”
Once the tour wraps in early April, Chad will be auctioning off the guitar with all of the proceeds going to the Tim Horton’s Charitable Foundation. While this means he won’t be taking his trusty Sherwood into the studio with him, look for Chad to be churning out some fresh tunes with a new axe.
“I expect some new stuff to be coming out at the end of the tour,” he says. “I was just down in Nashville hooking up with some of my writer friends down there, and I’ve also been doing some writing at home. We’ve got some pretty cool songs in the works right now so it’s just a matter of picking a few of them and going into the studio.”
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