Aaron Pritchett: Thankful
For all the good things that have come Aaron Pritchett’s way the past few years, for all the accolades and awards, the airplay, the video play and the fans showing up everywhere he goes; for all that and the mere fact he can make a living at this music thing, he takes none of it for granted.
And it’s for all that he decided to call his new, fourth album Thankful. It’s the best thing he’s ever done, he thinks, and he’s right. It is. But there’s more than a touch of angel-dust serendipity that gives it life.
The exponential growth of Pritchett’s career is the result of a lot of solid planning and arduous work. He’s tenacious as a pit bull, is Aaron. But there was a time, and not so long ago, when he’d actually quit the business. Kaput. Outta here.
“Believe me, I was done,” he says. “We were still playing clubs but I couldn’t make any money and that’s not where I saw my future; my future was touring as a major act through Canada and hopefully into the States. I said in October 2003, if it’s still like this by December I’m quitting as of the first of January. So we were done.
“And the next day, January 2nd 2004, the video for “New Frontier” went to number one and I got all these bookings coming in literally that week. From that moment everything changed.”
And like spring follows winter, the nominations and awards started coming in too. He and the band were knocking audiences out from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, slamming it every night, and by now it was a question of maintaining the momentum.
Big Wheel, the third album after Somethin’ Goin’ On – home of “New Frontier” – and the debut Consider This, managed that superlatively. From the title “Big Wheel” and “Done You Wrong” to the rabble-rousing, suds-spilling, barroom anthem and the Canadian Country Music Association’s SOCAN Song Of The Year, “Hold My Beer”, Pritchett and Big Wheel had kicked down the barn door.
Now with Thankful he’s taking the time to pause and take stock a bit, smell the roses. “Yeah, it’s reflective,” he says, “a little more introspective. Instead of worrying about writing another “Big Wheel” I needed to write something more reflective on my life and me as a person. And I didn’t put the pressure on myself, I wanted to write because I wanted to, not because I needed to.”
There’s the lush, panoramic testament to the power of love in “After The Rain”, the anthemic, exhilarating “How Do I Get There” with a put-the-top-down rhythm like a set of all season radials rolling fast and hard down a ribbon of blacktop while the declarative “Unravelling” is the heartland tune Bob Seger or Mellencamp would have pounded their chests and thanked the Song Gods for.
Then there’s “Hell Bent For Buffalo”, the hard rolling tale of the guy driving his rig through a winter squall to get to his lover. “Hard To Miss” is about the head turning beauty the protagonist can’t get over. “Nothing But Us” is the paean to shutting the front door on the world and unplugging for a while. On the flip side, we all know “Let’s Get Rowdy”, the call to party arms for all the college girls and cowboys.
The sound on Thankful is rich and driving, immediately infectious, thanks to the collective production efforts of The Franchise: Aaron himself, his guitarist/sidekick/strategist Mitch Merrett, multi-instrumentalist Mike Norman and studio wiz Dean Maher who has shared control rooms with everybody from Bryan Adams and Michael Buble to AC/DC. Now there’s a team to make a great record.
But none of it would matter without the fans to embrace it, to make it part of their lives. That’s the point that has been driven home continually for Aaron Pritchett one electrifying performance after another ever since that pivotal January 2nd just a few years ago. And he hasn’t forgotten.
“It sounds so corny sometimes but it’s honestly true,” he says quietly. “The help of fans wanting us to play and coming to see the shows is what’s kept me in the industry. This album really is a tribute to them. If I didn’t have them I wouldn’t have anything. I really am extremely thankful.”