Brownlee a current Country music star took home two awards at the 2016 BCCMA Country Awards in October, won Album/EP of the Year (Hearts on Fire) & Male Vocalist of the Year.
"The Best That I Can (Superhero)", his first single, was released in November 2009. Brownlee's self-titled debut album, produced by Mitch Merrett, was released in August 2010. Brownlee won the 2011 CCMA Rising Star award winner, also a recipient of his first JUNO Award nomination for Country Album of the Year on February 19, 2013.
Brownlee played two years in Vernon (2001-03). In 113 regular season games with the Vipers, Brownlee collected (14-goals-28-assists-42-points). Brownlee was drafted in 2003 in the 6th round, by the NHL Vancouver Canucks but retired from hockey after a short stint in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) with the Idaho Steelheads following a series of injuries, before becoming a Country music star.
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This was in the Province Newspaper:
Former Canucks prospect Chad Brownlee traded the stick for the guitar and never looked back
March 29, 2017
The game was his first love, but, like a character in one of his songs, hockey didn’t love him back.
At least not as much as he loved it.
Oh, Chad Brownlee got close. He was drafted by the Canucks’ in 2003 after a couple of years with the Vernon Vipers. There were four years at Minnesota State and a brief tour in the East Coast league. But he never quite fulfilled the dream, never made the NHL and never played for the Stanley Cup, and that haunted him.
Good thing Plan B worked out a little better.
“It was extremely difficult but liberating at the same time,” Brownlee says of his decision to quit pro hockey.
“It was something I’d been doing my whole life and it became such a big part of my identity. But I knew I had this other voice in my ear, and that’s what I decided to follow.”
A couple of weeks ago Brownlee played at The Bluebird Cafe, the hallowed club in Nashville where so many of his heroes — Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, John Prine and Steve Earle (OK, the last two are my heroes) — had played, and standing on that stage gave him the moment hockey never game him.
He’d arrived. He was in the big leagues. Chad Brownlee, a kid from Kelowna, making it in Music City.
“You just feel something there,” he said. “It’s such a special place for songwriters and I’m a songwriter before anything else.”
Well, that and a little bit more.
Brownlee, for the uninitiated, is one of the biggest stars in Canadian country music. On Friday, he’ll be performing at The Vogue with fellow country artist Aaron Pritchett and Vancouver rock institute Odds as part of a fundraiser for Canuck Place and Basics for Babies. He’ll then head out to Ottawa for the Junos where his album, Hearts of Fire, is up for country album of the year.
It’s the seventh nomination of a career that started in 2009, just over a year after he separated his shoulder while playing for the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL and opted to listen to that other voice in his ear.
“I was out for a month and a half, and I wasn’t the same player when I came back,” Brownlee said. “I’d count the seconds down waiting for the game to end. I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ I was literally watching my life tick away.”
‘Watching my life tick away,’ Hmmm. Sounds like the makings of a song there.
“I never thought of music as a career,” he continued. “It was more of a release for me, but I had this six-song EP and I decided to invest everything I could financially, emotionally and spiritually into my music.”
Brownlee’s musical journey started with that EP and a meeting with Mitch Merrett, the Langley-based producer, manager and artist who still manages his career. Merrett, who knew his way around the music business, liked the kid’s sound — a foot in country, a foot in rock held together by his honest songwriting — and took him to Nashville. Brownlee’s first single, Superhero, was released within months of his arrival.
He’s since released 16 other singles and four albums.
“(Merrett) threw me into the fire, but hockey taught me to succeed in pressure situations,” Brownlee said. “It also taught me there were other people working just as hard as I was and I had to do something to separate myself.”
As for hockey, the 32-year-old former stay-at-home defenceman scratches that itch through appearances with the Canucks’ alumni as well as a loose confederation of fellow recording artists who play for the coveted Juno Cup at the awards show. The Cup is a fund-raising game first organized by Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame which pits the musicians — Cuddy, Odds’ frontman Craig Northey, Pritchett, members of Sloane and Barney Bentall with the odd appearance by Tom Cochrane and others — against a team of NHL alums.
Leonard Cohen, alas, never played with the musicians.
The game has been played since 2004 and usually ends up in a predictable result. Brownlee, however, has lent some semblance of competitive balance to the affair because, as Northey points out: “Our strategy is he never leaves the ice.”
“It’s a really good group of guys and it’s a merger of my two worlds,” Brownlee said. “I’m really looking forward to hanging out with them again. I miss the camaraderie.”
Brownlee is asked if there’s any similarities between travelling with a hockey team and a band.
“It’s pretty much the same,” he said., “My team’s just a little smaller now.”
But big enough for his second dream.