CORRECTION: Due to a fact-checking error, we ran a photo of Jason Aldean when publishing this story on page 14 of our May issue. (The archive photo was mislabelled, which we failed to notice). This photo above, featuring Dean Brody, is the correct photo. Halifax Magazine regrets the error; we apologize to Mr. Brody and Mr. Aldean for the confusion.
It’s a packed house at the Metro Centre as Canadian country singer Dean Brody takes the stage for the Halifax stop on his Crop Circles & Tractor Beams tour. Thousands groove to the smooth sound of Brody’s country vocals. They move their lips in sync to tunes they know verbatim. Brody is used to wowing crowds. He has two CCMA awards under his belt for Male Artist of the Year, and two Album of the Year wins for “Dirt” and “Trail in Life.”
Brody is from Jaffray, British Columbia. He spent time writing and performing in Nashville, country music’s heartland, but eventually came home to Canada with his family. They live in Chester.
“I love the diversity of music here,” Brody says. “There’s so much talent out here and I have known that since I was a kid. I have always had a deep respect for the music that has come out of the East Coast.” One of his favourite Halifax haunts is The Economy Shoe Shop on Argyle Street. “When I am home I just really decompress,” he says. “I do so much travelling playing music on the road. One thing I love about the East Coast is it’s a slower pace. It just suits my personality.”
Taking a break from music to recharge is part of his songwriting process. “I find the thing that helps me be the most creative is putting my guitar down and just living,” he says, “forgetting about trying to be technical or thinking too hard about music. Then I just naturally pick up the guitar and start noodling and that turns into something. I spent years in Nashville where you had to write. You were forced to be creative every day… Just writing half an hour at home is way more productive for me.”
For his songwriting, Brody often reflects on things that are close at hand. “Sometimes movies inspire songs I wrote like ‘Cattleman’s Gun’ and ‘Bounty,’” he says. “I grew up watching a lot of Westerns.” His youth in Jaffray also instiled a bit of the wild west in his psyche. “We were only 20 minutes from Montana, and just up the road was Fort Steele in B.C.,” he says. “As a kid you would go there and there were gunfights and actors playing the roles from the 1890s. You grew up with that in your imagination.”
Country is in his heart, but Brody’s not afraid to try something different. “I love experimenting and trying different vibes and rhythms or even different instruments,” he explains. “On the latest album on ‘Crop Circles,’ we tried an e-bow and a hammer dulcimer on ‘Bounty.’ I enjoy the sound where it’s a little bit tweaked; a little bit different. Lyrically, it’s all country.”
Ron Kitchener, of RGK Entertainment, is Brody’s manager. He recognizes that Brody’s strength is his ability to connect with his audience. “He is an amazing storyteller with the ability to deliver songs that appeal to a wide audience,” Kitchener says.
It’s a long way from when Brody actually thought about leaving music because he couldn’t get legal approval to work while in Nashville. “I had so much invested,” Brody says, “so many years and relationships and friends. People you know in the music business that are struggling just like you.”
But he carried on. “You’re in so deep it’s like, if I turn back now I won’t see what’s around the corner,” he says. “It’s that little bit of adventure that’s left in you instead of just giving up and walking away. I really wanted to know if this is something that would have worked out or not. I think that if I had not chased it, or given up too early, I would be doing a job that may have been a good job but I always would have wondered if music could have worked out or not.”
Dean Brody next performs in the Maritimes on July 6, in Cavendish Beach, P.E.I.