Chad Brownlee remembers the moment he knew hockey wasn’t for him.
“I had gone to a (Vancouver) Canucks camp, but I got injured so I played a year in the minor leagues. I had lost all my love and motivation for the game, but I hadn’t really realized it.
“Then, one game, I was sitting on the bench watching the clock tick down at the end of the game and I realized, I didn’t want to spend my life watching the clock tick down. So at the end of the season, I quit hockey and got into music full time.”
He admits it wasn’t an easy decision, since “everybody knew me as a hockey player.”
But, if five B.C. Country Music Association awards last year are any sort of measuring stick, it was a good decision.
“I was lucky to meet the right people when I started my music career. That got me where I am now.”
Where he is now is opening for Dierks Bentley on a western Canada tour which sees them at CN Centre on Feb. 17. The tour starts Feb. 15 and Brownlee’s new album, Love Me or Leave Me, hits the stores on Feb. 14. He says that wasn’t planned.
“We had the release date for the album set before we had anything final for the tour.”
This won’t be the first time Brownlee has been on the same bill as Bentley.
“I played a show with him in Ontario last summer. I just stood at the side of the stage and watched him. He’s just a great entertainer.
“I didn’t get the chance to talk to him then, but I’m hoping I will during the tour.”
While fans can expect to hear songs from Brownlee’s self-titled debut album and Love Me or Leave Me, he says he’ll have some other songs in the set.
“I’ll probably throw in some covers, songs I like singing.”
That could be from any number of artists, from current performers like Jason Aldean, Eric Church and, yes, Dierks Bentley to older artists like Garth Brooks.
“I’ve always been a country fan. I overplayed Garth’s Greatest Hits album. I think I just about wore the needle through both sides.”
Country isn’t all he listens to, and he thinks that makes him a better songwriter.
“I appreciate good music, no matter what genre it’s in. Sometimes I’ll really dissect a song, try to figure out what makes it so good to listen to.”
One thing he has learned over the years about writing songs is that “you can’t force creativity.”
“You have to capture a moment in a song, and I find it’s important to get my ideas down on paper right away, even if it’s not complete.”
That’s where co-writing comes in. Sometimes the songs you get aren’t the songs you planned on.
“I was writing with Michael Farren, and the song just wasn’t coming together, so I told him, Just play something on the piano that comes out of you’. He started to play this piece and I got caught in it right away.
“I started putting words to it, and within about an hour, Leave Here Dying Young was finished.”
As for the other song, it never did get finished.
Brownlee says he’s already got a start on his third album.
“It was tough to pick songs for this album, in a good way, because we had a lot of good ones. Some of the songs that didn’t make this one might make the next.”
That wasn’t the case with Love Me or Leave Me, though.
“All the songs on the album, now that I think about it, were created after the first album. The vibe of that album was different.”
Besides country music, Brownlee knows he and Bentley have another common interest: hockey.
“I know Dierks is a big hockey fan, so I’m going to bring my skates and stick in case a shinny game breaks out.”
And if it does, will he lay the body on Bentley?
“Probably not,” he says with a laugh. “Although if I’m the last man back and he’s coming in . . .”
Chad Brownlee and Dierks Bentley play the CN Centre on Feb. 17. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations.