Aaron Pritchett on the origins of Hold My Beer, his favourite music video, and what he’ll be doing when he’s 90
SASKATOON – Aaron Pritchett has seen the Canadian country music landscape change a lot over the past 20 years. He never expected to get more than one single on Canadian radio – he has now released more than 30. Before performing at the Sask Country Showcase on Thursday, Pritchett joined CTV News for a sit-down interview to discuss his successful debut, musical inspirations from B.C., a new Christmas tour and a few anecdotes on the legacy of Hold My Beer. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: You’ve been recording country music for over 20 years, talk about what I’ve found as a listener to be your big debut between 2002-2003, as you had songs like New Frontier and My Way, what did it mean to roll out single after single on the charts?
Pritchett: Well it was my dream to just have one song on the radio and maybe have a video with it. In 2002, Consider This came out and it was a result of winning a talent search across Canada in Calgary in 2001. That's all I really wanted, that's all I thought I would ever really have is just that one single and get to have my chance. Here we are 30 plus singles later and having My Way and New Frontier be hits, You Can't Say I Didn't Love You was a hit and just kept rolling. Then in 2006 with Hold My Beer just sort of blew everything up. Big Wheel was a big song for me as well back then, it just kept going and going. Here we are 20 years later and still in the industry and relevant.
Q: Growing up in B.C., who were some of your influences in the country music genre?
Pritchett: Well I think on a big scale it was Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt, a lot of international artists. Locally there's a guy named Rick Tippe who was very influential in my career and he is from B.C. the Maple Ridge area, and I got to talk to him and he had songs on the radio, videos out and he was quite the popular independent artist too, which was very important to me at that time. I'd say Rick Tippe was one of those big artists that helped shape my career.
Q: You got nominated for the music video you put out for John Roland Wood, what it was like to record that song?
Pritchett: It was a lot of fun. We were going through songs to pick for the album and I wanted something that was different. Something that most people wouldn't have thought of doing and we recorded that one. It was just so much fun to record, but I think the most fun that we had with that song was shooting the video. It was based around The Dukes of Hazzard. I get to play a part and drive one of the original Dukes of Hazzard cars, The General Lee, which was pretty crazy from the actual show that was rebuilt. That's one of my most fun songs and most fun experiences that I've ever had shooting a video that was for John Roland Wood.
Q: With songs like Big Wheel, How Do I Get There, Hell Bent For Buffalo, where do you look for song writing inspiration?
Pritchett: Well you know, I don't really look for the inspiration, I just let it happen. I think of song titles or hook lines as we call them in the industry. When you think of a hook line you can develop a story behind it, all my songs except for maybe a couple have stories that we made up. Songs that are a little more serious or true stories, but I don't write a lot of true stories necessarily. I just kind of come up with as much of a fun storyline as you possibly can to a song and put it in three minutes and thirty seconds.
Q: You've charted over 30 songs on the Canadian country charts over these years, did you see yourself get to where you are today in the business?
Pritchett: Not today no, for sure I thought I'd be done years ago. I'll be turning 50 next year, which is really hard even for me to fathom. I guess I kind of started late, I was in my early thirties when I had my first success and I'm still rolling. I have as much energy now as I did 20 years ago and I don't see it stopping anytime soon. I think I'll be on the road playing till I'm 90. I'll be doing Hold My Beer, probably 'hold my oxygen tank,' by that point but I didn't expect to still have radio success like I've had. I had my first number one ever just earlier this year. I didn't really expect to be doing what I'm doing right now and still relevant in the industry.
Q: After being in the industry for so long, do you have a particular song or album that sticks out to you from it being an awesome recording experience?
Pritchett: I think they were all very cool experiences that I've been in the studio for, and especially the way we do it now, we're not so much in the studio, we do a lot of stuff remotely, just basically from home. I'd say the most fun experience that I had was recording the Big Wheel album. We didn't realize what was coming up that Hold My Beer was going to be such a huge hit, Big Wheel was my highest charting song up until earlier this year. Recording songs that we really didn't understand were going to be big hits, we were just having fun recording them. We went to this place called Gibson's in B.C. up on the Sunshine Coast, and had 10 days up there. It was just an unbelievable experience, beautiful 15 acre property, and really relaxing. It was just the calm before the storm. That's probably the greatest memory that I have from recording.
Q: How do you feel that people will continue to recognize you for Hold My Beer after all these years, going back to 2006?
Pritchett: It's pretty amazing, again I really didn't expect it to take off. The way the whole story happens and I'll tell that tonight at the show, what happens is the development of that song and where it was going, it was kind of by chance. I wasn't even going to say the phrase when I was in the song writing session and I blurted it out and we all thought it was just a joke. We'll never record this song. We recorded it and it became this huge popular song that 13 years later is my legacy.
I've been to all kinds of places, go to the Juno Awards for example and meet rock and roll people, hip-hop artists. Nobody knows my name, nobody knows any other song, but if I mention Hold My Beer, they're like 'you're the Hold My Beer guy, oh yeah I totally know that song.' It's great to have that in my career and be able to say that's my signature song. I'll be happy to do it like I said until I'm 90.
Q: A few years ago when you were here in Saskatoon, talk about the unexpected surprise it was to be able to open for a guy like Garth Brooks?
Pritchett: Aw man, it was my lifelong dream to be able to open for him. I was a Garth Brooks fan before I was a singer, and I remember my wife and I used to wait in line to get his next CD that was coming out the next day. It was a literal dream come true, I remember I was 22 having this dream that I was onstage with Garth Brooks and although I didn't get to go onstage with him, I was opening for him for his show and it was a surreal moment. It's hard to believe it's been over three years since that happened. To have it happen in a place like Saskatoon where I hold close to my heart, was a pretty amazing experience and it's something that I've been able to say I've done, you know I lived my dream.
Q: We talked about the awards earlier, what did it mean to you to collaborate with Charlie Major and Jess Moskaluke to sing It Can’t Happen To Me at this year’s CCMAs in Calgary?
Pritchett: Charlie Major was one of those guys who was on the top of the list for artists I listened to before I was a singer. I really appreciate him not only as an artist, but now getting to know him personally, he's just an unbelievable person. To be able to sing one of his songs that I love so much, it's my favourite song of Charlie's, so when they asked me to be a part of that with Jess, I never would have turned anything like that down. Again it was one of those moments where this is a really cool defining moment for me in my career, and to see Charlie just as happy as he's always been getting onstage, it's his most comfortable place. To be a part of that was pretty amazing.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most about your new Christmas tour you’re embarking on with George Canyon in Atlantic Canada next month?
Pritchett: Well I know there's going to be some antics going on behind the scenes that's for sure. George is a bit of a troublemaker when it comes to pranks and jokes, we both are. I'm looking forward to getting out to the Maritimes, seeing the Maritime people, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, it's always fun playing for them. They're great country fans, most people wouldn't realize that.
It'll be just great to hang with George. George and I go way back, we go back to before either of us had success, playing in the clubs back in Calgary and Edmonton. Just being able to hang out with him, and I hope we turn this into an annual thing where we do different regions. We're doing the Maritimes this year, hopefully we come and do the prairies next year. The year after that maybe B.C. and turns into something that's annual. I'm really looking forward to hanging out with him, playing some of these hits that I've had as well as the Christmas songs, I can't wait.
Q: What does it mean for you to be a part of the Sask Country Showcase tonight at TCU Place?
Pritchett: Well it really means a lot, anytime kids are involved, I have kids and I understand what parents can go through especially in this situation where it's crisis based. These children and parents have gone through crisis that they need some help and anyway I can lend my name to help raise money as well as awareness for causes like this, it means the world.
Q: You've been in the business for a long time, how do you see the Canadian country music scene evolving over these past 15 years and then into the next five or six?
Pritchett: You know the CCMA's was one of those things this year where I went, 'we don't need these American artists, nothing against you American artists out there' but we don't need American talent on the bill to sell. Look at James Barker, Dallas Smith, Dean Brody, the list goes on, we've got all these amazing artists in Canada, that we don't need the help of those American artists to round out and fill out the stadium or anything like that. It's going in the right direction, it's growing, it's getting bigger. Tenille Arts, Tenille Towns, Lindsay Ell, the list is endless now.
It used to be a little more limited before where you'd have only eight to 10 artists that were doing major things in Canada. Now we've got all these artists. Aaron Goodwin had a number one, I had a number one, the list is growing and getting better and the music is unbelievable. I think it's just going to keep on getting better and better and we're going to get more publicity on international stages like a lot of these artists are doing right now and I can't wait to watch it evolve and keep getting bigger.
Q: If you could record and cover one Garth Brooks song, what would it be?
Pritchett: (laughs), Probably Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up), I mean The Dance is an amazing song, but there was one song that was kind of obscure song if you're a Garth Brooks fan you'd know it, it's called Wolves. It was the one song to me that resonated the most to me, even though the storyline has nothing to do with the storyline of my life. If I was asked to do a song with Garth Brooks on his stage with him it would be Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up) for sure.