By: Emily Plunkett
The Observatory took on a distinct Nashville vibe Nov. 5, when a hoard of plaid-clad, cowboy boot-wearing music fans gathered to check out Canada’s hottest new country stars Chad Brownlee and Dallas Smith perform as the Boys of Fall.
Yet the paths that brought two performers that so many flocked to the Ob to enjoy were everything but country.
“It wasn’t like I just hung up the skates and picked up the guitar,” said Brownlee. Before releasing his self-titled debut album in 2010, he was a sixth round draft pick for the Vancouver Canucks. His decision to change careers came during his one and only year of professional hockey.
“I really lost the love for the game, I was counting down the seconds and I felt that was just no way to live my life. That’s when I just jumped, blind basically, to the music industry.”
The reaction and influence between being a hockey player and a performer is very similar, but in different ways, he said. The moments he feels proudest as a musician come when fans express how a song has touched their lives. As a hockey player, Brownlee understood he was a role model and his work on the ice also brought great comfort to his fans.
In one instance, during his years playing for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Minnesota State Mavericks, he combined his efforts on the ice with his song writing to write a song about a nine-year-old boy fighting leukemia that his team took on as “a little brother.”
Smith, in contrast, is already an established star on the Canadian music scene – just not as a country singer. As the lead singer of West Coast rockers, Default, Smith’s first taste of success came in 2001 with the band’s hit song Wasting My Time, which was included in the night’s set.
“From the outside in, it looks like it kind of caught people off guard,” said Smith. “The transition from the inside out from my perspective was slower and it happened over time.”
When asked how the transition from rock to country started, Smith caught the country bug in the mid-2000s, after listening to Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban.
“Keith Urban was the first guy that really grabbed my ear. Sonically [Urban] has a lot of guitar and it’s pretty kick ass,” said Smith. “It’s high energy country and a lot of guitars. That’s what I gravitated towards.”
Although Default will continue and play a few shows as a band in the next year, much like his touring partner Brownlee, Smith says his new music path suits where his life is at the moment.
“Playing in a rock band was fun when you’re single and you want to travel around all over the place. Now I just got married and I’ve got a kid. The whole lifestyle and even what’s expected from a country musician is a lot different from a rock star,” he said.
The Boys of Fall tour continues through to the end of November with dates leading the singers through the Prairies and the West Coast with their final stop in Kamloops, B.C., on Nov. 30.