August is shaping up to be a whirlwind month for country music star Aaron Pritchett.
Last Sunday he played at Sunfest in Duncan, BC, on Vancouver Island, not too far south of his Gabriola Island home. This weekend he has a pair of Ontario shows in Thunder Bay and Parry Sound. And of course, on Saturday, August 16, Pritchett headlines the Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair.
Canadian country star Aaron Pritchett will be headlining the Tillsonburg Fair on Saturday, August 16. Tickets are $25 in advance at www.ticketpro.ca (1-888-655-9090), or from fair board representatives.
"So far it's been incredibly busy," said Pritchett, who was back at home yesterday afternoon. "Between doing a lot of shows all over Canada, I do a lot of charity work with golf tournaments and things like that. August is just going to be unbelievable. We – the band – take off from BC/Alberta to Ontario at least five or six times this month, back and forth, all over the place.
"The one night I'm playing in Tillsonburg and the next night I'm playing up in Kenora, Ont. Then off to BC and Alberta. But it's fun, I love it."
His summer schedule, usually May-October, leads into fall shows and a series of Christmas promotions and themes. Then it's a kickoff to the next summer with early spring shows.
"It just never ends," he laughed.
"I like it now because I can sort of pick and choose what month I want off. I usually choose late December to early February, and go travel and hang out with my kids a lot more."
Pritchett has three sons and all three have been on stage with him at times, and all three have been in his videos.
"My youngest son was in my newest video, Boat on the Water. He just does this little shot where he's a blonde-haired kid and he lifts his sunglasses cause there's a beautiful girl walking by."
His youngest, "11 going on 12," was also on stage in Duncan where Pritchett opened for Tim McGraw.
"It was a really big crowd, about 15,000, and he came out on the stage for the first time and was blown away. I introduced him and he did the little pose he did in the video. It was pretty wild."
His oldest son, Jordan, soon turning 24, plays in the Canadian pop/punk band Faber Drive.
"They've done extremely well over the last seven-eight years. He plays lead guitar and he also sings. My middle son, he's a musician as well, but he's the smart one in the bunch. He decided 'I'm going to finish school, with honours, then do my music.'"
Pritchett's extensive discography includes albums Consider This, released in 2002, Something Goin' On Here in 2003, Big Wheel in 2006, Thankful in 2008, and In The Driver's Seat in 2010.
"I wanted to ride that record (2010's In the Driver's Seat) as long as I could, and I did until about middle of 2012. I didn't really take a break and I started recording again."
That led to songs like Suntan City and Hold you Like My Whiskey, released as singles, but only because he didn't bundle them together as an album, as well as his most recent song, Boat on the Water.
"A group of them will be released as an EPK, so just digital-only to iTunes and that sort of thing. Then it looks like I'm working on putting together a Greatest Hits album, which is hard to believe at this point – I still think my career's new. So the next step is a Greatest Hits package and some of the newer singles will be on that as well."
His highest-charting song so far has been Big Wheel, which reached No. 2 on the Canadian country music charts.
"It didn't quite reach No. 1 but it was close, and it stayed up in the Top 10 for seven or eight weeks, which was big. And I wrote the song, too, so that was a good feeling."
But Pritchett rates another song as his most successful to date based on crowd reaction in concerts and time on the radio.
"Hold My Beer," said Pritchett. "The Hold My Beer craze started in 2006... and it really hasn't ended."
It was meant to be a fun song for fans, he said, and it's just as fun to play.
"That's an understatement," he laughed. "I get off stage and my energy level is elevated 10 times doing that song because it's so much fun to have people singing along. People sing along to all my songs, which is crazy, but that one is the one they really want to sing along to. So it's always been a real super-fun song."
After days of travelling, time in hotels, long bus trips and cramped quarters, he admitted it can sometimes get monotonous on the road. Eating and sleeping in hotels... then setup, sound checks.
"The really exciting part is playing for the crowds, and there is nothing that compares to that. When you're on stage you know 'this is why it's all worth it,' and you put up with everything else in the meantime. It's really the reason I keep going. It's not the money, it's not the fame of it all. It's the fun of being on stage – it really, truly is."
From the second his band hits the stage, Pritchett said they try to give a high-energy, in-your-face type of show, right from the get-go.
"And it doesn't seem to stop. If anything, we try to amp it up as we go along. By the end of it, if there was anybody sitting at any point, we want them standing. And we want them feeling like they're on stage with me putting on the show for all the great fans."
When August finally winds down, Pritchett moves into a busy September with no real plans to stop.
"There's a lot in September too. And I do have one trip down south. Then come back up and a bunch of different shows, one in BC and one back in Ontario the following weekend a couple days later.
"So, yeah, it's like it's never going to stop and I hope it doesn't."
While he's had a decade of success in Canada, he said making it big south of the border – and staying big – is challenging in the current market.
"It's tough to keep their attention. Maybe 15-20 years ago it wasn't so bad because they only had a limited of artists that record labels would focus on. Then they started realizing they could get a lot more success having a lot more artists, more variations of artists. So instead of having 10 on the roster, they'd have 30. As soon as one guy hit, they'd have another guy out with a hit. It's a little tougher nowadays keeping their attention. You have to keep up with how the production is done, how everybody works the imaging so you don't do something too crazy and outside the box – it has to fit.
"So it all comes down to attention span of the listener and the fan. You've got to keep their attention."
Pritchett uses social media to help stay current, both on Facebook and Twitter.
"It's something I picked up myself. At the beginning I think everybody's sort of afraid of it because they don't know how to use it, and they don't want to do it wrong. I was too, for the first while. I didn't understand what Twitter was and I didn't understand how Facebook was beneficial to my career."
That changed once he caught on to Twitter. It gave him an avenue to connect with fans without losing his personal life outside the music career.
"I talk to them online, have little conversation as many people as I possibly can. And it's definitely benefited my career."