CLOVERDALE — These are busy summer days for Canadian country-rock artist Aaron Pritchett, who is making his way from the Yukon to Cloverdale to Ontario, and beyond, for a series of album-release concerts.
His new “The Score” album, released on June 24, celebrates his 20th year of making music, with a couple of songs – “Dirt Road in ‘Em” and “Out of the Blue” – already on the charts.
This coming Saturday (July 23), Pritchett is a headliner at another Gone Country: Here for the Cure charity concert at Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre.
In conversation with the Now, Pritchett was eager to talk about the annual benefit concert here and also his new album, but he was most excited to talk about his two recent “dream of a lifetime” gigs opening for country icon Garth Brooks in Saskatchewan.
Last spring, Brooks invited the Canadian to open for him during a call-in interview on a Regina radio station, when Pritchett was a guest host for the day.
“The whole experience was just incredible, from the very start, and how he asked me, too, was just so cool and out-of-the-blue,” Pritchett raved. “He’s just an incredible guy, and he came back to our room several times to make sure we were all good, which is pretty unusual for an artist that size. Usually they don’t leave the bus or room or anything. It was pretty crazy.”
(PICTURED: The crowd gathered at the front of the stage for Pritchett’s performance during the 2013 Gone Country event, in a ‘Now’ file photo by Jacob Zinn).
Brooks, not surprisingly, was hugely influential on a young Pritchett back in the early 1990s.
“It was his music and his live show, too,” Pritchett recalled. “I first saw his show in Tacoma years ago, in 1992 I think it was, and it was like, ‘I want to be like that guy.’ He commands his crowd and has a charisma and energy that, you know, is pretty hard to find, and I try to give that energy as much as possible, just from watching and learning from him.”
Pritchett has been a frequent performer at the annual Gone Country concerts, a fundraiser hosted by twins Chris and Jamie Ruscheinski and an army of volunteers. In doing so, the realtor brothers honour their mother and also good buddy Shaun Gauthier, both of whom were killed by cancer.
Saturday’s concert in Cloverdale also features High Valley, Karen Lee Batten, Bucko & Toad, Chris Buck Band and other entertainers.
“A few years ago, I knew of the brothers but didn’t know the scale of which they’d taken this event, and then there’s 5,000 people at the show in Cloverdale,” Pritchett recalled in a phone interview.
“Years ago, I’d played the event to maybe a couple of hundred people. So it was pretty crazy to then see so many people come support an awesome cause, raising money for cancer research and all that. It was awesome, and the Ruscheinski brothers are amazing. Their cause is really heartfelt, because of their mother and their friend, right. It wasn’t just another show, it was way above and beyond that, in this great outdoor venue.”
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Pritchett says he jumped at the chance to play Gone Country again, three years after a 2013 performance at the event.
“You don’t really want to turn those down, you want to help as much as possible, and here we are again,” he said. “I know the guys, and they’re great, so when it’s good people like that, you want to help.”
Tickets for the event range from $44.99 to $360 via a link at Twinscancerfundraising.com.
Looking ahead, Pritchett says he’s eager to play songs from his new album for people across Canada.
“It’s non-stop in July and August, man,” said Pritchett, who lived in Langley and Aldergrove for two decades before moving to Gabriola Island a few years ago.
“I’m seeing a lot of Canada this summer, and over the years I’ve seen every place in Canada pretty much at least once, so that’s something I’m thankful for, you know – something I’ve always wanted to do, especially as a musician.”