Crop Circles, Dean Brody says, is an album he hopes will take listeners away from the cares of daily life for a while. “When we listen to music, we don’t necessarily want to think about what’s going on in the here and now, we want to go on a journey, and I hope that’s what happens for my fans with this record.”
Job done – On songs like ‘The Old Sandbar’ and ‘Mountain Man,’ the Jaffray, BC born, Nova Scotia-based singer/songwriter celebrates his love of the East Coast and his childhood home at the foot of the Rockies and, with his Civil War era love story, ‘Kansas Cried,’ transports listeners through time and space without missing a beat.
Crop Circles covers a lot of miles and nowhere more so than on Brody’s lead single, ‘Bounty,’ a fiery, turn of the century, murder ballad that finds Brody’s characters running from the law on a late night train to Mexico and features a standout performance by fellow Canadian country singer, Lindi Ortega. In it’s first week of release, ‘Bounty’ held the #1 Most Added song overall and #1 Most Added spot at Country radio for two consecutive weeks and displays Brody’s growth as a writer, lyricist and storyteller in equal measure with a story that has both substantial emotional weight and a certain amount of levity. ‘Bounty’ recently reached #1 on the Canadian Country singles chart!
Regardless of the topic or whether a song is purely observational or drawn from his personal experience, Brody’s music has a cinematic quality that makes it easy for listeners to put themselves into his songs and to feel as if they’re traveling along with his characters. “I see the world in pictures and I love stories and creating worlds, either using my own background, or by putting myself in other people’s shoes, because I’m fascinated by other people’s perspectives on life.”
Although Crop Circles finds Brody adopting a darker, rock-fuelled tone, it also showcases his ample sense of humour and his unique ability to weave a fine yarn, regardless of where or when a song takes place. Nowhere is that more evident than on the album’s title track, which offers up a plausible and hilarious solution to the longstanding mystery of how crop circles are actually created and the fact that they might have more to do with country boys taking their dates on a joy ride through a farmer’s fields than with aliens visiting Earth. “I am trying to have more fun on this record,” Brody says, “and ‘Crop Circles’ is a perfect example. It’s a crazy song that just got crazier when we went into the studio, and when we do it live it goes up a notch again.”
“I love shaking things up musically and lyrically,” he continues. “I wasn’t just influenced by George Jones and Merle Haggard, but by bands like AC/DC, Aerosmith, The Kentucky Headhunters and all kinds of artists, so those influences play a role in what I do and I’m lucky to have fans who’ll let me explore them.”
Truth to tell, Brody shakes it up right from the album’s opener, ‘Four Wheel Drive,’ a song that sets the record straight for anyone who might be tempted to turn their nose up at someone because of what they look like or where they call home. “What’s most important is being good to other people and ‘Four Wheel Drive’ is about the idea that you don’t have to rub elbows with high society to be popular with the ladies. You just have to romantic and be a good guy.”
That belief is heavily informed by Brody’s life experience and specifically his childhood growing up in Jaffray, BC, where he worked in the local sawmill prior to and during his pursuit of a career as a singer/songwriter. But it’s also a product of the fact that, in Brody’s experience, in order to find your true place in the world, often, you may need to cover a fair number of miles yourself.
That was certainly the case when Brody was chasing his own musical dreams. Shortly after moving to Nashville in 2004, Brody found himself unable to work in the US legally and seriously considered giving up on music entirely. Owing to the intervention of producer, Matt Rovey, (with whom Brody has worked with on all of his albums to date), Brody got the chance to record his self-titled debut. The album’s lead single ‘Brothers’ was a hit in the US and Canada and garnered Brody multiple CCMA Award nominations as well as the 2009 CCMA Award for Single of the Year.
Later that year Brody relocated to Nova Scotia’s south shore and signed a deal with Canada’s Open Road Recordings, on which he released his sophomore record, Trail In Life (2010), and his hugely successful 2012 follow up, Dirt, both of which won the CCMA Award for Album of the Year in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Additionally, Dirt’s lead single, ‘Canadian Girls,’ became the first track by a Canadian artist to hit #1 on the Canadian Country Chart since 2008. Dirt also yielded two #1 videos on CMT, two certified Gold singles (for ‘Canadian Girls’ and ‘It’s Friday’ – featuring Great Big Sea), and earned Brody the title of most played Canadian Artist on country radio in 2011 and 2012. Both records were also nominated for JUNO Awards in the category of Country Album of the Year. In all, Brody has been nominated for twenty-six CCMA Awards and recently took home the 2013 CCMA Award for Male Artist of the Year for the second consecutive year.
While Brody, like any songwriter, spends a great deal of time getting his songs just so, on record they sound so honest and immediate, it seems like he’s singing them for the first time. It’s a unique talent and one that’s been a hallmark of his songwriting from day one. But regardless of how far Brody takes listeners on Crop Circles, he takes care to bring them back home again on tracks like ‘Back To The Front Porch’ and ‘Little Things About Us,’ songs that find Brody giving thanks for the joys of home and family and reminding listeners where his own heart lives. “It’s the little things that are special when you’re in love. The things that make you feel nostalgic are usually small and, as time goes on in a relationship, they’re what you appreciate and remember.” Also, he adds: “It’s the little things you often draw on for support when you have to work out larger issues in love and life.”
On Crop Circles, whether a song is specifically about Dean Brody’s own life or not, he displays a singular talent for crafting stories so well lived in they sound like he’s experienced every second of every line, which makes it that that much easier for his audience to see themselves and their own lives and loves reflected in his music.