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Song swap: Canuck country stars, Dean Brody and Dallas Smith, hit the road for co-headlining tour

Dallas Smith and Dean Brody. Courtesy, Mitch Nevins.
Dallas Smith and Dean Brody. Courtesy, Mitch Nevins.

Unlike many country stars, Dean Brody has never been one to concentrate on cover tunes.

In fact, he hasn’t even found much success writing with other people.

He has tried. After all, the Jaffray, B.C., native has spent more than 13 years in Nashville, giving him plenty of opportunity to try his hand at co-writing hits with Music City’s healthy contingent of efficient songsmiths.

The Nashville machinery just doesn’t work for him.

“I’ve tried, I’m terrible,” says Brody, in an interview with Postmedia from a tour stop late last month in Sydney, N.S.

“My wheels turn so slow and everyone else is moving so fast. I don’t know what it is, but my sprocket doesn’t fit their sprockets. I’m like the slowest cog. I write at night sometimes and I don’t write very often. I write out of the blue when it hits me and that doesn’t fit well with the whole template machine that Nashville has become.”

Not that this has hampered his career in any way. Brody is currently rumbling across the country as part of a convoy that includes four tour buses and three tractor trailers. It’s all in service of his co-headlining tour with Dallas Smith dubbed Friends Don’t Let Friends Tour Alone, which also features Canuck country stars the Reklaws, Chad Brownlee and MacKenzie Porter. It hits Calgary on Oct. 17 and 18 for shows at the Grey Eagle Casino.

But because the Friends tour features two headliners, Brody has been able to enter some unchartered territory with Smith. Given the party atmosphere and fraternal vibes that overtake the stage each night, Brody has decided to duet on some of Smith’s songs and vice-versa. He shows up to sing on Smith’s Somebody Somewhere, while Smith lends his pipe’s to Brody’s Undone and Love Would Be Enough.

“It’s interesting getting inside his head because I have to learn his songs,” says Brody. “Entering his world of music has been cool. I’m learning and he is learning and we’re having a good ole’ time out there.”

Not he lacks his own material. Brody has been playing all of the tunes from his newest release, Black Sheep. The EP has been a fan favourite, with the sly the-girl-ain’t-what-she-seems single Whisky in a Teacup ascending to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard country charts this summer. The six songs reveal an assured artist hitting his stride penning and performing radio-friendly gold, veering from the stomping, guitar-fuelled outsider’s lament of the title track to breezy sing-a-longs such as closing number Dose of Country.

Landing a co-headlining tour with Smith — who picked up the Entertainer of the Year and Male Artist of the Year awards last month in Calgary at the Canadian Country Music Awards — is an indication of Brody’s top-tier status within the country scene of Great White North. But as both Brody and Smith have proven, the borders for country music seem to be blurring more and more these days.

“We can get on the American playlists,” Brody says. “I think the iTunes streaming world has brought down the old-boys club, which is U.S. radio. You don’t have to necessarily play by that game anymore. That’s exciting.”

Brody’s early foray into American country was a big gamble 13 years ago. When his job at a sawmill in B.C. was replaced by automation, the government paid him to attend Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

On a whim, he began sending some of his songs to record-label brass in Nashville. Much to his surprise, he was contacted by a senior A&R man at Sony, who made no promises but told him he could come down to Music City to sell his wares in person.

“I was in my second year of pipeline engineering at NAIT and I was just staring at the computer and going ‘I don’t know if I can do this for eight hours a day,’ ” he says. “I had a couple of classes that were just hour-long computer classes and I was so bored. I sent a bunch of unsolicited packages down to Nashville.”

Brody accepted, packing his stuff into a U-Haul and heading down to Nashville. He was no overnight success. But by 2008, he signed to Broken Bow Records and landed his first American hit, Brothers, which earned him a CCMA award for best single.

He would eventually switch to Open Road Records, which has released a string of hit albums from the artist since 2010. If there is any downside to a co-headlining tour, it’s that both Brody and Smith have to pare down their sets, which now draw from an impressive canon of songs.

“Dallas and I are playing all our new stuff,” Brody says. “It’s just trying to decide what songs we take from our old catalogue and which ones do we not. It’s tough. It’s a good problem to have. Both of us remember when we didn’t have enough songs.”

In fact, recounting his first starry-eyed forays into Nashville for Postmedia had Brody feeling a bit nostalgic.

“It was a crazy dream, but I just love music,” he says. “I haven’t shared that story in some time, but as I’m telling it again, it’s like ‘wow, that was crazy that it worked out.’ It was a long shot. It was a dream and here we are years later and I love it. It’s the best job.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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