There are those who are happy to be along for the ride. Then there are those who want to be behind the wheel. These days, Aaron Pritchett is in the driver’s seat.
The B.C.-bred country singer-songwriter’s four albums and numerous hit singles have garnered legions of loyal fans throughout Canada. Among his accolades are a 2004 Canadian Country Music Association award for Independent Male Artist of the Year and a 2007 SOCAN Country Music Award for the hit “Big Wheel.” Now, for his fifth album, the aptly-titled In The Driver’s Seat, he’s taken the bull by the horns, overseeing most aspects of the album’s creation, including writing or co-writing seven of the album’s 12 songs.
“I didn’t want so much to be the control freak,” Pritchett says with a laugh. “I just wanted to be a bigger part of the process… I wanted to have more say in the making of the album, with song selection, and with writing as much of it as I possibly could… I just wanted to be more responsible for it.”
Known for his intense and energetic live shows, Pritchett seems to have stacked the album with songs that were written for the express purpose of getting country fans up off their denimed derrières and pumping their fists. This is high-octane, arena-ready new country.
“I just like to have fun any time,” he laughs. “Doesn’t matter when it is. But onstage, that’s amped up times ten, and I really needed people to almost feel like they were at a show while listening to the CD.
“That’s what I wanted the record to represent: me and my show that I do live,” says Pritchett. “And anybody that’s seen my show knows that it’s high-energy, it’s in-your-face rock. Country-rock is what it is.”
But for Pritchett, it’s not all about writing songs that drive the concert experience. They also have to meet the age-old criteria for any good country song. “In country, it’s all about the story that you tell within a three-and-a-half minute period,” he says, “and I think if you can tell a great story within that short period of time, then you’re on the right track.”
” I did want to have more say in the making of the album, and with song selection, and with writing as much of it as I possibly could”
As he typically does, Pritchett traveled to Nashville a few times for some songwriting sessions with friends there, but he also had a few of his Nashville buddies come up north to write with him. One of these was Willie Mack, a prominent Nashville writer who’s had success with a number of other Canadian artists, including George Canyon, Adam Gregory, and Jason McCoy.
Pritchett also co-wrote with members of Emerson Drive, and with Shaun Verreault of the Canadian blues/funk/rock band Wide Mouth Mason. Pritchett met Verreault through one of his songwriting friends, and the two decided to try working together to see what might come of it.
“We ended up writing a song called ‘You and Me’ that made the record,” says Pritchett. “I think because of the fact that Shaun comes from a different genre – even though he was brought up on some country, being from Saskatchewan – I really believe that it added that cool rock/pop inflection that was needed for the song.”
When the writing was over and it came time to pick which songs would make the album, one would imagine that a natural bias for his own contributions would hold sway. Not so, according to Pritchett.
“That wasn’t the case. I treated it as though I needed the best songs,” he says. “And I really felt that the songs that represented me the best – seven of the twelve – were songs that I co-wrote.”
And now that he’s got his hands on the wheel, what’s next?
“I got a lot of big plans. I’ve got the two-year plan, the five-year plan and the retirement plan,” he says with a laugh. “The next two years, I’m still gonna promote this new record and keep that going, and in the meantime start writing a little more seriously for the next record, whenever that may be. And then the five-year plan is basically to keep on touring all those years… and get my music out to the incredible fans of country, of pop music, of country-rock, and all across the world with any luck.”
He says he hopes to make it to Australia, where he’s had a video in hot rotation and a Top 10 single.
As for the retirement plan, the way things have been going, that may be a long way off. With Aaron Pritchett in the driver’s seat, there’s no telling how far he’ll go.