Mark Ledlin has spent a lifetime getting ready for the biggest opportunity to advance his musical aspirations by banging and crashing opponents on the ice.
The 25-year-old graduate of Dr. Charles Best Secondary School in Coquitlam just wrapped his eighth season of playing professional hockey in Germany — the past two with the Rostock Piranhas in the second division German Oberliga.
But without a contract for next season, Ledlin is focusing his attention on developing a music career that received a big boost three years ago when he appeared on the German version of the reality show, The Voice.
And he could be poised for a breakout with the release of his first EP this summer and an opportunity to compete as one of eight semi-finalists in SiriusXM radio’s fifth annual Top of the Country competition.
On March 30, Ledlin will head into a studio to record an acoustic version of an original song he’s written and composed.
The songs and videos of all eight semi-finalists from across Canada are then posted online for fans to vote for their favourite.
The winner receives $25,000, as well as industry mentorship and a song writing trip to Nashville.
Ledlin said playing hockey in front of thousands of fans has steeled him for the pressure of being on top of his singing game in the recording studio.
It’s also given him the confidence and self-awareness to find his voice.
“I’ve had moments on the ice where I’ve screwed up and there’s 4,000 people watching,” Ledlin said. “I can be myself on the ice and on stage, but nobody tries to fight you on stage.”
Ledlin said music has always been a part of his life: His dad, Fred, who also played pro hockey for 13 seasons in Germany, is an accomplished guitarist himself.
Mark Ledlin said he learned to play watching YouTube videos then started posting videos of his own music from his apartment during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic as he awaited hockey to resume.
That led to Ledlin’s appearance on The Voice. And while he didn’t advance, he impressed the judges enough to earn an invitation to the show’s “Comeback Stage.”
Ledlin said until now, music has mostly been a way to fill the time between practices and games. As the end of his hockey career comes within sight, he’s drawing from his experiences as a professional athlete to fuel his creativity.
Ledlin said his blue-collar existence toiling year to year for contracts in hockey’s outskirts, far from the bright lights and big arenas of the NHL or even the German first division, brought him to country music’s soulful sounds.
“I’ve had to learn how to do everything myself since I was 17,” he said. “I put that into the music. Every song I write comes from the heart.”
Ledlin said his teammates have been supportive of his musical journey.
“Some of my biggest fans are the guys I play with,” he said. “They’re always asking me to play songs for them.”
But as Ledlin prepares to pull off his skates and elbow pads and put on a flannel shirt and cowboy boots, he’s feeling like an underdog all over again.
And that’s not necessarily a bad place for an athlete to be.
“I’ve been a pro since I was 17,” he said. “I’m going to make some noise in the music world. That’s my destiny, that’s my drive. If it’s hockey or music, I find a way to get to the end.”
• To learn more about the artists and Top of the Country competition, go to the SiriusXM website.