These days she’s a resident of Rockford, Illinois – a suburb of Chicago – where her husband of four months, Brandon Segal, is captain of Chicago Blackhawks’ farm team, the Rockford Ice Hogs.
But B.C. Country Music Association award nominee Melissa Rae Barrie still has strong ties to the Semiahmoo Peninsula, where she graduated from Elgin Park Secondary in 2004.
“My best friends are still the same girls from high school,” Barrie said, in a phone interview from Illinois. “And I was in the Peace Arch News when I was in Grade 9, for my hockey playing.”
Her burgeoning career is still rooted in B.C., too – of which the latest evidence is the nomination of her debut album, Breakaway, for album of the year at the BCCMA awards, this Sunday (Nov. 20) at the Red Robinson Show Theatre in Coquitlam.
While she won’t be able to attend in person, it’s a good bet the results will be eagerly followed by her parents, who still live in South Surrey, and her older sister Alison, who’s a Semiahmoo Secondary grad.
“They’re very excited,” she said, adding that her family never imagined she would be pursuing a music career – her guitar playing and singing was usually something she confined to her room as a teenager.
Sports – particularly hockey – were her focus when she was in school. But writing and playing music was a great release, especially when she was sidelined by string of injuries in her teens.
“I’ve always loved country music,” she said. “I grew up with it, hearing my dad listening to Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. That’s what I’m comfortable with.”
It assumed increasing importance in her life after four concussions, a broken leg and a slipped hip disc effectively brought her hockey playing days to a close.
“Otherwise I’d probably have been trying to get on the Olympic team,” she said.
But she’s glad she found music, she said.
“I’m doing what I love, now,” she said.
“It’s really exciting just getting the album out and having the first single doing really well.”
Hockey has never been far from her life – particularly after she wed Segal in July, and moved to Illinois to support the former Dallas player in his playing career.
“I grew up around hockey players,” she said. “Brendan and I have so much in common.”
But her own career isn’t on hold by any means. She’s signed with 604 Records – the label founded by Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger and CEO Jonathan Simkin – with which she has a two to three album contract.
She took the unusual step, for a new artist, of contacting them directly by email.
“I took as shot,” she said. “I wasn’t really hoping to have anything happen, but they got back to me. I recorded a couple of demos in Calgary, where I was living at the time.
“Jonathan has me come in and audition for him and I had deal on the spot. I didn’t expect it to happen that way.”
She said she is always writing ideas for new songs, and expects to record a new album within a year or two.
And while she admits that some songs she wrote for her current album (like Unforgivable and Room To Breathe) were inspired by events in her life, that isn’t the only approach to writing.
“Some songs come from personal experience, some come from friends’ experiences, and some don’t have to do with real life.
“My writing is always evolving and I’m in a different place from where I was when I wrote the first album songs. The next album may have some more ‘folky’ sounds, some more pop and other different influences.”