GayCalgary® Magazine [copy]

An interview with Aaron Pritchett

Canadian Country Star on Touring, Music, and the Gay Rodeo

Interview by Jason Clevett (From GayCalgary® Magazine, July 2008, page 35)
Vancouver’s Aaron Pritchett recently awed the crowd at the ARGRA rodeo at Symon’s Valley Ranch with his high energy and highly entertaining performance. Just prior to the event, we caught up with Pritchett on a rare day off.

“I am pretty excited about being at the rodeo. The last time we played there was about four years ago. It is a unique event but we had a lot of fun last time, the crowd was awesome and knew all of the songs. It really felt like a big concert to me, it wasn’t a heck of a lot different than what we normally do, other than the fact that everybody in the crowd was gay or lesbian, and there to take part in a really cool event. It wasn’t different from any other show really other than that. I just enjoy going out and playing, it doesn’t matter who it is.”

Pritchett was quick to add he had no qualms with playing a gay event and hasn’t heard any negative response from fans or those in the industry.

“I don’t think people make judgments. Other artists and acts have taken part in it like Emerson Drive and Doc Walker. Nobody has judged them or said you have to be gay to be part of the rodeo. They are looking for entertainment. I am not afraid of telling people I am playing a gay rodeo by any means; I find it kind of unique.”

If you missed out on the show, you can catch him again July 13th at Nashville North on the Stampede Grounds. Pritchett speaks very highly of the opportunities that come with playing the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

“There is a massive amount of people, about 5000 – 6000 people in that Nashville North tent from all over the place. You get to play to them and they come up and say hi after,” he said. “The first big year I played there was about four years ago and we were opening for Doc Walker. We went on stage for a full hour and I sweat like I had never sweat before and left a pool for Chris to stand in. The crowd was just amazing and sang along to all the songs and I wasn’t expecting that. It was a highlight of my Stampede memories.”

Pritchett is one of the hardest working men in Canadian country music, having released three albums since 2002 with his fourth one to come out September 9th. It is an album he says he is very proud of.

”It is a step up from the last couple albums, that is for sure. This one has ten co-writes that I have my name on, which I am really proud of. I am getting feedback from Nashville writers and publishers that are really excited about what I am doing. It has Let’s Get Rowdy but the rest is a lot more mature than I have done in the past.”

Pritchett took his time to make sure the album was right, a process that took nearly a year.

“This one was longer than past records. We recorded 16 songs to start, and were going to choose 12 out of the 16. When we sat back and listened to it, we didn’t have ten songs maybe eight or nine and needed more. Mitch [Merrett, his writing and business partner] went back to writing, and finished writing six more songs and found the two that we really needed. We started last September so it will be a full year by the time the album comes out. I am extremely proud of it and glad that we took that long.”

In the meantime Pritchett has continued to tour his 2006 release Big Wheel, a tour that not only frequently brings him through Alberta, but to smaller towns like Wetaskiwin, Tisdale Saskatchewan, and Winkler Manitoba. Not places an artist who has had his kind of success normally frequents.

“When I first got into the industry they told me I would play all these small places and then move on to the major cities and that is the way your career will go. I never believed in that. It is such a tough sell in Canada for any artist whether country or rock, and I figured the only way to reach those fans that can’t get out to the major markets is to go to these little towns. We play these tiny places but we still get 2000 – 3000 people out to these shows. My theory is if you go to these towns they will come out because they are excited you are going above and beyond to come see them. Most people can’t make a two and a half hour drive to go to the major markets so we go to them.”

Another unique opportunity arose in May of 2007 when Pritchett was approached by the CBC to do a concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He joined the ranks of artists like Metallica, The Tea Party, Jann Arden and many others in adding orchestration to his live show.

“At first I didn’t think they were serious. I was extremely excited about doing it because of the fact that we had some new music and were trying to work it into the show and a couple of the songs really needed orchestration, and we actually got that. I didn’t hesitate for a second, I was more than interested to hear what my songs sounded like with a full string arrangement and it turned out just incredible.”

Conductor Claude LaPalme took nine of Pritchett’s songs and created the arrangements, and the final product, which can be streamed through a link on his website - is amazing to listen to.

“It is tough to get a good live sound from so many instruments being mixed and arranged properly so I thought it was just amazing. I am a country singer so having all those strings behind me was a really strange sound but I loved it. Some of the songs turned out absolutely stunning.”

Aaron Pritchett has achieved recognition for the quality of his live shows, something he takes pride in. The music industry has changed a lot since he first broke into it, and nowadays it is the strength of the live show that supports artists.

“Music is a little more cookie cutter. CD sales aren’t what they used to be so they are trying to find the artist that will sell the live show more than the incredible singer with great writing ability. Country will take a lot of songwriters from Nashville and put them with an artist that can half-decently sing. It is sad because you are taking away the types like Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash who could translate a song into poetry. Nowadays it is all about the mighty dollar, more so than it was before. Not to say that I am a heck of a lot different but I look to entertain more than worry about CD sales. I have never been one to think that the fame was going to make myself feel better as a person for the rest of my life. It is more about being able to entertain people and make them smile, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that these days.”

Pritchett believes that things are coming around full circle, back to an era where live concerts are an artist’s mainstay.

“When you think back to the 70’s and early 80’s it was about the show, Kiss and bands like that really put on a show. You wanted to sell albums but it was more about entertaining the people. In the late 80’s and 90’s it was very cookie-cutter pop sound and everyone was selling CD’s left right and centre and it wasn’t about the shows. I think it is coming back around. The real split is going to be people who can entertain as opposed to people that are worried about making money on album sales.”

At 36 years old, Pritchett is very mature for the music industry, something he says keeps him humble.

”If I had succeeded to where I am at right now in my twenties I would have a lot more of a challenge with my ego. I don’t believe I have an ego now about what I have accomplished so far, I am just excited to be in the industry. It is nice to know people are accepting of someone in their 30’s being a country star, it makes me feel good. I’m just thankful that I am where I’m at now.”

Aaron Pritchett in Concert

July 13th, Nashville North

Calgary Stampede


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