Chad Brownlee is a Canadian country singer who was born in British Columbia. After beginning a career in the NHL, Brownlee left hockey to pursue his love of music. Since then, Brownlee has led a successful music career, being named Rising Star by the Canadian Country Music awards in 2011. His third album, The Fighters, was released June of this year. Lambda reporter Oliver Wilmot caught up with Brownlee before his performance at the 2014 frosh concert.
O: What led you to your transition from the NHL to the music industry?
C: It basically came down to my love of one thing starting to diminish and my love of another starting to grow. I had shoulder surgery on both shoulders, and when I came back I just really wasn’t the same player. There was kind of a shift and soon as that love for music really reached on overtop of hockey it was kind of a no brainer for me.
O: Did you find any difficulty making the transition?
C: It was difficult in the sense that [for] your whole life you’re known as a hockey player, that’s your identity. Your friends and family know you as a hockey player, you know yourself as a hockey player and all of a sudden you’re not going back to training camp for another year. You have this internal clock that’s used to that routine. So there was definitely about a year of adjustment before I was comfortable in my musician skin.
O: What do you do when you’re not touring, recording or fighting for charitable causes?
C: I like to be home and around my fire. I like to do outdoor things. Take my dog up to the mountains and do a lot of reading. Just finding a little bit of peace because it can get kind of hectic out there – on the road, it’s pretty busy, pretty crazy, so I just like to wind down and be outside in the elements.
O: Can you describe the most memorable experience you’ve had while touring?
C: One of them came quite recently. We just did the CCMA awards in Edmonton and Tom Cochrane came up on stage and we all sang life is a highway with him. All the MVM recording artists were up there and it was definitely a moment that I’ll never forget because Tom’s obviously a Canadian icon and Life is a Highway is probably one of those songs everybody knows and can sing along too. So, yeah [it] was definitely a big highlight for me.
O: How do you feel about your recent successes?
C: Just really fortunate to be able to tour around this country and to actually have gigs. I’m definitely one of the lucky ones to be able to do so and I’ve got a huge team to thank for that. It’s not just me – there are a lot of parts working in order to make this successful. I just hope this ride doesn’t end anytime soon.
O: Do you have any plans for sightseeing while you’re in Sudbury?
C: We actually have to head off to Calgary tomorrow. We did take a bit of a wrong turn and ended touring around the campus. That was our only sightseeing adventure.
O: You did mention before you’ve been playing music throughout your life. What are your connections to music? Did you just pick up a guitar?
C: Nobody in my family really played. I picked up the piano when I was eight years old and just took lessons for about four years, and that kind of gave me the bug. I remember playing a song and just feeling really emotionally connected to it and that’s what really spawned my love for it. I ended up playing tenor saxophone in a jazz band in middle school. I picked up the guitar when I was seventeen – I got it as a Christmas gift from my parents and I was playing junior hockey at the time. I would just teach myself on the computer in my down time and [I] started writing songs a couple of years after that in my dorm room when I was going to university. So, it was just this constant progression throughout my life.
O: What are the inspirations for your songs?
C: Inspiration comes from all facets of life, whether it’s from a breakup, a good relationship or something inspiring in your life. I think at the end of the day we’re all human and we share a lot of the same emotions. So to be able to create songs that activate those emotions in everybody means you’ve done your job as a songwriter. It’s why with this last album, especially, there’s a lot of colour on it. On The Fighters, there really is despair, inspiration, love, and heartbreak. It’s definitely a rollercoaster ride of emotion and music.
Editors note: This interview has been edited for length.