Chad Brownlee on Boys of Fall Tour with Dalla Smith, Commodore Ballroom, Nov. 29.
THE decision to walk away from pro hockey wasn't an easy one, but for former NHL draft pick and country musician Chad Brownlee it was the right one.
"The NHL was first and foremost on my mind like a lot of Canadian hockey players growing up," he says.
After only a few years in the music industry, the Kelowna B.C., native is on the path to becoming a Canadian country music star.
On Nov. 29, Brownlee will be performing in Vancouver at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver as part of his Boys of Fall Tour with Dallas Smith.
"I am extremely excited. It's going to be a hometown show for Dallas and I; being that we are both from B.C.," Brownlee says.
The month-long tour includes stops in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Grand Prairie, Alta., Tweed, Ont., Portage La Prairie, Man., and Kamloops, B.C.
"It's all been really positive," he says. "I am fortunate to be doing what I am doing right now, to be playing my music in front of lots of people."
Brownlee was recently nominated for five BCCMA's including male vocalist of the year, entertainer of the year, and fan's choice. His latest album, Love Me or Leave Me, was nominated for best album at the BCCMA's. He was also nominated for a CCMA, Male Artist of the Year earlier this year.
Brownlee says there were plenty of things that inspired him to create Love Me or Leave Me.
"In one song I wrote about my grandfather who passed away," he says. "That's a song that's held really close to my heart. I really like to put my personal side into it because I think that's when people can really relate to it."
Brownlee played two seasons of Junior A hockey with the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL and in 2003 he was drafted in the sixth round by his favourite team, the Vancouver Canucks.
He then continued his playing career at Minnesota State University, Mankato and during the 2006-2007 season he was named team captain. Brownlee also received the Don Brose Leadership Award that same season.
It was during his time as a freshman at MSU that Brownlee began songwriting.
"I would sit in my dorm room and I decided to give writing a shot," he says. "It was more of a musical journal. I would write songs about past or present girlfriends, or my parents or my sister. It was just songs for other people and I wasn't thinking about pursuing it."
Brownlee received the NCAA Hockey Humanitarian Award after writing a song titled "The Hero I See," in honour of a local boy named Anthony Ford who lost his battle with leukemia.
"He was kind of like a little brother and very inspirational within the community," Brownlee says. "When he passed away it was a pretty big hit. So I decided to write a song about him and carry on his legacy."
Proceeds from the song raised thousands of dollars for the Anthony Ford Foundation.
However, it was during his playing days with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL that Brownlee really began to lose interest in hockey.
"It wasn't until after the Canucks camp and I was playing in a year in the ECHL is when I decided that I wanted a music career," he says. "It really did change. For me it's all about the time you spend every day and if you don't enjoy that then you're wasting your time."
"I enjoyed the game of hockey for 99 per cent of my career but it wasn't until the last little bit that I completely lost the love and something else was growing very quickly. I just took the reckless decision to change paths," he adds.
Brownlee hasn't looked back since his decision to leave hockey. In 2010 the Kelowna native released his first album titled Chad Brownlee. That same year he was also nominated for the CCMA Rising Star Award and was the winner of the Canadian Country Music Conference Best New Artist Showcase Award.
The former Vernon Viper has spent plenty of his life sitting on buses, and says the hours that he spent travelling as a hockey player have prepared him for the life of a travelling musician.
"The tour buses are a little bit nicer," Brownlee explains, "We have bunks to sleep on because we spend so much time on it. But there are so many similarities as well. Your band is your team and you look out for each other."
According to Brownlee the biggest challenge for him has been navigating his way through the music industry.
"There isn't one tunnel or portal that everybody takes to find what they call success. It's finding out what you are doing it for. At the beginning I said I am doing it for the music and the impact it has on people," he says.
"Sometimes it's not an easy road and it can be very difficult, especially during the writing process."
"The only person that really determines what success you have in the end is yourself," he adds.
For more information on Chad Brownlee visit chadbrownlee.com or follow him on Twitter: @ChadBrownLee.