When Chad Brownlee was 19 and on a hockey scholarship at Minnesota State University, he dabbled with writing country songs.
Nothing serious, just a few lyrics and melodies, here and there, on a notepad.
Then, he was on a good run with the sport, having been a draft pick for the Vancouver Canucks in 2003 and, four years later, making his pro debut with the Idaho Steelheads.
Music, he said, was his release from the physical demands.
But injuries got in his way and, in 2008, he was forced to put his stick down for good. So, like all ambitious young people, he turned his other passion into a full-time gig.
It was no big deal. "I'm a huge believer in doing what you love to do. I just chased a new dream," the 26-year-old said. "It was an adjustment for everybody - even including myself, because I identified myself as a hockey player. Now, I was no longer that person.
"I don't think it was a major adjustment," he added. "I still have the same drive. I still am the same person."
His parents encouraged him and helped to make the transition smooth, as did Mitch Merrett, the producer of Brownlee's first album that was released last August.A single from it, titled Day After You, has climbed the country charts across Canada (hear it at http://chadbrownlee/wordpress/).
The inspiration for his lyrics is from "every facet of life," he said. "I'll be in conversation with somebody and they'll say something and I think, 'Hey, that could be a good song title.'
"I'm sure it frustrates people when it looks like I'm spacing out but I'm actually thinking of what song I can write next. It's almost an obsession."
And singing about daily triumphs and troubles gives the audience something to relate to.
"You have to draw from those tiny little moments - the authentic moments - to reach out to people a little bit more," he said.
He believes his vocal tone, which has more of a rock edge, distinguishes him from other country artists.
Currently, Brownlee is working on his second CD and plans to collaborate with Nashville songwriters before heading into the studio this summer, for a fall release.
"We want to keep bringing music to everybody," he said.
Chad Brownlee opens the city of Port Coquitlam's 12th annual Sunday coffee concert series - sponsored in part The Tri-City News - on Sunday, Jan. 30 at 1:30 p.m. at the Terry Fox Theatre (1260 Riverwood Gate), with a 90-minute acoustic performance featuring his CD producer Mitch Merrett, also on guitar.
Tickets are $10/$5. For more information, call604-927-8400 or visit www.portcoquitlam.ca/arts.