Mak­ing tracks

The Province - - NEWS -

Van­cou­ver-born coun­try singer/song­writer Aaron Pritch­ett cel­e­brates the re­lease of his new EP, Out on the Town — and the start of his new cross-coun­try head­lin­ing tour.

Some­times things just happen out right. That’s pretty much how Van­cou­ver-born, Kiti­mat-raised Aaron Pritch­ett likes to de­scribe the Score.

His 2016 al­bum, ti­tled to hon­our his 20th year in the coun­try-mu­sic busi­ness, not only saw the singer back in the top 10 for the first time in seven years, but it set up shop there as sin­gles such as Dirt Road in ’Em, Out of the Blue and When a Momma’s Boy Meets a Daddy’s Girl just kept on chart­ing. He’s fol­low­ing up that Juno-nom­i­nee for coun­try al­bum of the year with the six song Out on the Town EP and its lead­off sin­gle Bet­ter When I Do.

And he’s go­ing out on the road head­lin­ing a tour with special guests Kira Isabella and David James.

“This time it’s my name with my al­bum and I think that makes it my first head­lin­ing tour in 25-plus years, kinda wild,” Pritch­ett said. “There are many dif­fer­ent rea­sons for that, in­clud­ing the ebb and flow of a ca­reer, good open­ing spots and a slow pe­riod from 2009 to 2014. I hon­estly wasn’t sure that was go­ing to turn around the way it did with all the sin­gles do­ing so well, al­bums sell­ing well and sell­ing out shows.”

Pritch­ett is the first to ad­mit that he dreamed of head­lin­ing from his very first gig. Who doesn’t? That he’s been steadily per­form­ing and record­ing for so long is an achieve­ment in it­self. Cana­dian coun­try mu­si­cians have to com­pete against Amer­i­can megas­tars for ra­dio play and recog­ni­tion and, frankly, it’s not a win.

“To make it here at any level, you re­ally have to be tena­cious and keep push­ing con­stantly,” he said. “I don’t know how to do any­thing else, or want to do any­thing else, so I just kept con­stantly re­assess­ing my ca­reer. Even when I wasn’t get­ting on the ra­dio or sell­ing al­bums, I was play­ing to big crowds, so I kept do­ing it.”

He cred­its a com­bi­na­tion of friends, fam­ily and band sup­port for keep­ing him mov­ing for­ward. And pro­ducer Scott Cooke, who has helmed hits for ev­ery­one from Jake Owen to Chase Rice, put him onto what he calls his “new sound,” and it’s clearly work­ing.

But how does Pritch­ett know when he has one of those songs that just suits his style, like Bet­ter When I Do? He said it’s a well-honed sense of know­ing who he is and what works for him.

“I sat down in Nashville with this pub­lish­ing com­pany and they played 60 songs in about 45 min­utes and not a thing hit, even though Dive Bar (#1 for Gord Bam­ford) was one of the songs,” he said. “Then Bet­ter When I Do or Worth a Shot came up and I was, ‘I want this for sure.’ Ev­ery artist has their thing, and I tend to favour a bit more edge and some of those pop tinges.”

In the small Cana­dian play­ing field, he said, ev­ery­one is tire­lessly try­ing to stake out their own spe­cific style be­cause if they sound at all like one an­other, chances are they will be shar­ing the air space for that 35 per cent CANCON (Cana­dian Con­tent) rules. Some Nashville megas­tar is al­ways wait­ing, so you want your sound to be very well de­fined.

Pritch­ett took an all-killer/ no-filler ap­proach to Out On the Town. Four of the six tunes are solid selec­tions for a sin­gle — Top Shelf is one of his best songs to date — and Drink Along Song, com­plete with a gi­ant sta­dium hur­rah, just screams “live show­stop­per.” He and Cooke put a lot into this re­lease and now he’s go­ing to work on it.

“There has been so much amaz­ing coun­try mu­sic com­ing out here in the last five years that it’s ex­tra pres­sure on me as, weird, one of the old guys,” he said. “The huge in­flux of Cana­di­ans mov­ing to Nashville who have in­jected them­selves into the scene there — writ­ing, pub­lish­ing, play­ing — means that they know what’s hap­pen­ing and are tapped in like never be­fore and that comes out in the mu­sic that they are mak­ing. Lucky for me, my mu­sic is reach­ing pro­gram­mers like never be­fore too, so great all around.”

Of course, the rea­son he’s been a top live draw for years is be­cause of the show. That comes down to his crack band — Jayson Brinkworth (drums), John Sponarski (gui­tar/ vo­cals), Scott Smith (gui­tar/ steel gui­tar/vo­cals), Shane Hen­drick­son (bass/vo­cals) and Kirby Bar­ber (gui­tar/ vo­cals) — are all in the band. That he in­cludes mon­i­tor/ stage tech Emil Gawaz­iuk in the lineup is tes­ta­ment to what a team this group re­ally is.

“Kirby is the lat­est ad­di­tion and she adds a great deal to the dy­nam­ics with her vo­cals and gui­tar,” he said. “It all comes together in a show that av­er­ages two hours or so, and we work it hard.”

Pritch­ett said he works equally as hard at liv­ing healthy so that he can main­tain his en­ergy over the com­ing 35 date tour. At 48, he knows that a bit more TLC is re­quired to keep the mo­tor hum­ming. And he’s not ready to slow down either.

“Oh no, I can see my­self singing Hold My Beer when I’m 90 years old, al­though it might be, ‘Hold my oxy­gen tank,’ too,” he said. “This is all I can see my­self do­ing un­til then and it’s rolling along strong.”

Van­cou­ver-born pop-coun­try mu­sic artist Aaron Pritch­ett sees him­self singing Hold My Beer when he’s 90 years old.

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