Chris Brien is a Canadian country artist who calls Calgary, AB home. With inspirations cited as Johnny Cash, Randy Travis and Alan Jackson, he has a contemporary outlaw country sound. Also a keen outdoorsman, Chris brings authentic country experiences into his music. In April 2020, he released his debut single, “Someone to Blame”. “It topped a number 2 spot on the True North Country Indie Top 20 and continues to see playlist adds on streaming platforms.” (Brien). This was followed by his summer jam, “Booze Control”. The former garnering over 40K+ streams and counting (Brien). Now, Chris is set to release his third single, “One Sunset at a Time”. Which will be available on all streaming platforms as of January 25th.
Recently, I spoke with Chris Brien about his music career, the outdoors and his upcoming single.
Kyla Pearson: Your upcoming single, “One Sunrise at a Time”, which is set to be released on Jan 25th, has more of a serious undertone and is completely different from your last lighthearted & fun single, Booze Control. What is the reasoning behind this stylistic and thematic change? Do you plan to continue to take your music in this new direction?
Chris Brien: When I released Booze Control, I felt that it was what the world needed at the time while dealing with the early stages of the Covid pandemic. Fun, upbeat, lighthearted and easy to sing along to. It did well for me and opened a lot of doors within the country music industry. “One Sunrise at a Time” is just about the exact opposite. The thing I love most about writing music is the ability to express yourself and your emotions, then hopefully have listeners be able to relate. Everyone loves a good drinkin’ tune, but I feel as though this new direction towards meaningful lyrics is the path I was meant to be on.
KP: Some of your musical inspirations are said to be Johnny Cash, Randy Travis and Alan Jackson. How have they influenced your own unique sound as a country artist?
Chris Brien: Ever since I was a boy singing along to old cassettes in my Dad’s truck, I have always loved the sound of a traditional “country voice.” The deep, rugged vocals that vibrate through your bones. It was through this feeling that I first developed my love for country music. A quick listen to any of the music I currently have out would highlight those roots and inspirations.
KP: You’re also an avid sportsman and outdoorsman. How have your experiences in Canada’s wilderness impacted the stories you tell with your music? What’s one of your most memorable experiences in the outdoors?
Chris Brien: Some of my favourite original songs are ones that I have written about my adventures in the outdoors. Most of these songs aren’t necessarily suitable for “radio” as they are pretty specific to my experiences. Therefore, a lot of them are only heard by friends and family around the campfire in the same mountains that the stories speak of. It was actually around a campfire that I sang my first ever full song while simultaneously playing guitar. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. It was “Take it Easy” by the Eagles. That is definitely a memory that will always stand out for me.
KP: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone who is looking to get more into outdoorsmanship?
Chris Brien: Honestly, as far as hunting and fishing go, it can be difficult without having someone “mentor” you, or without having been brought up around that lifestyle. For myself, it was instilled in me throughout early childhood. I couldn’t wait for the moment where Dad would sit us around the dinner table to plan out our next adventure. One of the benefits of the world we live in today is the ability to join Facebook groups, clubs, etc. with like-minded individuals of different levels of expertise. Finding someone experienced who is willing to bring along an eager “newbie” would be key. Never be afraid to ask questions, no matter how dumb you think it is!
KP: Having made Alberta your home, you’re close to Calgary, which is known as “Nashville North”. How would you say the Alberta/Calgary country music scene compares to other country scenes across the country? How has it benefited you and your music?
Chris Brien: I fell in love with Calgary the day I moved here. Where I come from is gradually becoming more urban, and the country lifestyle is becoming increasingly rare. I felt I was two different people growing up. The boy I was at school with my friends, “fitting in,” and then the boy I was when I got home, wearing a flannel jacket, boots and a cowboy hat, listening to nothing but country music. Since moving to Calgary I haven’t felt compelled to “fit in” in the same way – my personality feels like a natural fit. It really is an amazing city with deep country roots and a thriving country music community. I honestly have to say that if I didn’t make that move 10 years ago, I likely wouldn’t have taken the jump into this industry.
KP: In relation to the last question, being in Alberta you have the opportunity to collaborate and perform alongside some great artists. Who are some of your favourite songwriters/fellow artists to collaborate with? What would you say is one challenge and benefit of co-writing?
Chris Brien: There are so many artists and industry professionals who have been supportive since I first started my career in country music. The amount of talent in this province is insane. A couple of my favourites in Alberta to write with, if I had to choose, would be Chard Morrison and Ryan Lindsay. Both are great writers. Chard, with whom I wrote my newest single, is one of those guys that shows up to every write as if it were his last. You can feel the passion in the room as soon as he steps in. Ryan is also a great writer and a hell of a performer. His energy on stage is unmatched in my opinion and he is destined for great things in this industry. Personally, I love co-writing. Whether it’s strong lyrics, melodies or musical aspects, everybody brings something different to the table and it’s pretty magical when it all comes together.
KP: In light of the pandemic, there has been an absence of live gigs. That being said, if you could perform at any venue anywhere in the world after the pandemic, where would be and why?
Chris Brien: I would have to say the Rockin River music festival in Merritt, BC. This has always been a favourite festival of mine and I can still remember standing there years ago watching the stage and thinking to myself “man, what I would do to be up there one day.” It was that moment that eventually provided a spark to the fire which led me to the path I am on today. I owe a lot of it to that festival!
KP: Moving forward in 2021, What are your plans for your music? Do you have new music being released aside from your upcoming single? What do you hope to achieve with your music by the end of the year?
Chris Brien: I have a plan to release new music every 5-6 months. I guess we will see what happens with Covid in regards to live shows, but either way, I will be putting content out. My goal by the end of the year is to become a recognizable name within the country music industry.
Pre-save One Sunset at a Time now:
To learn more about Chris Brien and his music, be sure to check out his socials:
Apple Music: https://apple.co/3octERF
Brien, Chris. “About Chris.” Chris Brien Country, Chris Brien, chrisbriencountry.com/about-chris. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.
Brien, Chris. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, Jan. 7 2021.
Pearson, Kyla. “Official Single Cover Art for Chris Brien’s upcoming single, One Sunrise at a Time. Designed by Kyla Pearson.”Photo courtesy of Kyla Pearson. Accessed Jan. 7 2021.
Unknown. “Featured: Canadian country artist Chris Brien”. Photo courtesy of Chris Brien. Accessed Jan. 7 2021.