Chris Brien is chasing his dream, and needs your help to do it.
The 26-year-old North Delta native is one of 26 competitors in the fan choice category of the Road to Rockin’ River contest, battling it out for a chance to perform at the four-day country music festival, happening Aug. 2-5 in Merritt, B.C.
Brien, who has lived in Calgary for the last three years managing a branch of his father’s business, is new to performing — so new, in fact, that if he wins one of the five coveted spots performing at this year’s Rockin’ River Musicfest, it would be his first time in front of an audience.
“I’ve always kind of liked singing, but not to anybody, and the last couple of years I’ve picked up guitar. Nobody really even knew that I sang; it’s what’s kind of taken everyone by surprise,” Brien said.
Though he may not have much experience playing for crowds of screaming fans, his country roots run deep.
“My dad was always singing that sort of stuff to us, right from the time we were little kids, and we’re really an outdoors [family], like hunting and fishing and all that stuff is basically what I spend my weekends doing when I’m in town. So I’m passionate about that sort of life,” he said. “I’ve always liked music and country music is mainly what I listen to; basically 100 per cent now that I live out in Alberta. That’s all that anyone really plays out here.”
Brien’s taste leans towards “classic stuff” like George Strait and Randy Travis (“My dad used to sing that to me and that’s what I’ve loved since then”), but for his submission to the contest he chose to perform the hit song “Record Year” by Eric Church, off the singer’s 2015 album, Mr. Misunderstood. Church is scheduled to headline the second day of the festival.
“Not a lot of people really know that older stuff and if you don’t really like country then kind of it doesn’t really appeal to everyone as much as some of the newer stuff does, so for that video I just [performed] one that everyone would kind of know,” Brien said.
If Brien wins the fan choice portion of the contest, he will be among 100 finalists (20 from each of the five regions: Vancouver, Mission, Kelowna, Kamloops and Prince George) selected by a panel of music industry judges who will battle it out at live regional competitions throughout the month of May in the hopes of winning a coveted spot onstage at Rockin’ River.
Each of the final five competitors will receive two weekend passes to the festival (camping included) and get to perform two songs with an all-star band in front of thousands of screaming country music fans during the contest finals.
The grand prize winner will get to perform a 30-minute set with the All Star Band, in direct support of the 2019 Rockin’ River Musicfest Saturday night headliner; record a radio-ready single with Tom McKillip; receive two premium passes to the festival, which gives them reserved seating; and get opportunities to perform at sponsored events throughout the following year.
All of which would be a heck of a way to start a music career, especially for someone whose artist portfolio is limited to “just around-a-campfire sort of thing[s].”
“But I had a lot of people tell me, ‘why don’t you ever try something with it?’” Brien said. And so finally I just said, ‘you know what? Screw it,’ and went for it.”
Voting ends at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 15. You can view all the competitors’ videos and vote once per day at woobox.com/q9knhf.