Doug Briney is not your typical country music singer. Having originated in the chilly air of Alaska, he only made the move to Nashville last summer–charging full steam into his budding career. When you take a listen to his second studio set, the appropriately-titled Super Country Cowboy, you can observe his uniqe perspective on contemporary country sounds (like album opener and title track), while maintaining his tight grasp on tradition.
"I’ve sung my entire life. I used to sing in churches. My first solo was in church when I was two years old," he shares with NashvilleGab recently in an exclusive interview. "I’ve led music in churches for the past 25 or 26 years. Those early influences were also country rooted."
"I'd take some modern praise music and it would come out country," he admits that country just pumps through his veins. "All these years, when I talked to my wife about putting out an album, I always assumed I’d put out a gospel album. When the time came for that, I started listening to different music with an open mind. What came out was nothing but country."
From his debut disc It's All Country to Super Country Cowboy, there is a clear sonic shift in his approach. "We wanted something to stretch me a little bit and to have a more radio-friendly sound," he says of the set, which dropped last November. "We actually had 10 songs for the album and cut them all. When we got all the proofs back, we decided that there was one song that just didn’t fit. It wasn’t quite right for the album."
As Briney edges to his one-year anniversary since relocating to Music City, he recounts why he finally made the choice to take the next step. "I did a motorcycle tour from Alaska down to California and back, promoting the single ‘Let’s Get Riding.’ We had a great time, but that was kind of the catalyst that really made me realize how far away we were from everything else–to get out there and tour and some of those things," he admits. "We lived there 21 years, and it was certainly our home. I really felt like I would never leave. We knew that to make the music happen, I need to be someplace else. Alaska was just not that place, as much as we would have loved it to have been."
Another component to his choice was the lack of a real music scene in the northern wintry state. "Country music is the #1 genre up in the area, but there’s not a lot of opportunities. It’s very limited on where you can go and what you can do," he says.
"I’d love to have the best of both worlds, to have the music scene here in Nahsville and the ruggedness of Alaska," he adds, noting that he doesn't seem them ever returning on a permanent basis. "If we get to where we can afford something, I see us getting a little chunk of land there and building a cabin and going to spend three weeks a year up there."
The newest release from Super Country Cowboy is the emotional Tom Paden-penned "Unknown Soldier," a tune that honors the country's servicemen and women. "For the album, we were really looking to do a patriotic song. I don’t know how many songs I listened to," he comments of the process. "When I came across it, I was blown away by it. 100% of the song’s profits is going to the military. We’re doing that all the way through Labor Day Weekend."
You can get a copy of the song here.
The video (above) features the national Spring Hill cemetery in Nashville. Briney shares his thoughts on the finale product, "A friend of mine, who is retired from the army and has Parkinson's and walks with a cane, Howie Goroot, came out to be a part of that shoot in his military uniform. He’s saluting the markers of unknown soldiers there. Then he turns and marches away."
He continues, "He does it without the cane, which is just phenomenal. I’ve seen him walk, and he needs that cane to get around. He can do a couple short steps here and then without it, but he mustered it up and marched quite a ways."
On choosing that song to record: "Part of the thing that drew me to the song was where the it is dedicated to the soldiers we don’t know. There’s another part, too, that struck a chord with me. I come from a long line of military. My uncles all served in World War II. My grandfather did. My dad served through the Korean War. That’s who they were to me. They came back and assimilated into society. They went on and never toot their own horns. Everyone who comes back from war…we never know who they are…just come back and live. The song salutes the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives."
Another track on Cowboy that packs a punch is "I Get To," another outside cut that really hit home for Briney. "That was the absolute first song I selected for the record," he says. "Will Mance wrote it. I was drawn to that one immediately the first moment I heard it."
"Growing up in church, my wife was a pastor’s child, and our children have been raised in church, too. 23 years ago, we promised that we’d never tell our kids that they have to do something," the singer relates. "Sunday mornings around my house as a kid, it was, ‘come on guys, move. We’re gonna be late. Get dressed. We have to go to church.’ I kind of grew up resenting that."
He adds, "We said with our first born son that we’d never say that. We’ve had discussions on Sunday mornings, ‘come on guys. We get to go to church today.’ That’s been our philosophy. I don’t have to go to work. I get to. I don’t have to spend time with my family; I get to. That song just resonated with me, and I knew that I wanted right away."
When Briney had finished cutting the song in the studio, he ventured out to a church service with his family. Lo and behold, Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson happened to be speaking that evening. "Will Mance got up, and I was like, ‘why does that name sound familiar?’ He sang that song there live. Then I got to meet him and talk about the song and tell him I just finished cutting the song. It was a special time," Briney shares of the experience.
One thing he took away from the night was Robertson's dedication to his faith and his priorities. Briney explains, "[He] said something that night we have lived and had never put into words as simply and eloquently as he did. He was asked about the fame and things that come along with that, he said it really comes down to a matter of priorities. For the Robertson family, it’s faith, family and ducks. The success you see is based on that."
"For myself, it’s faith, family, music. I can’t separate my faith out from who I am," he says.
Last year, Briney was crowned with Best Live Performance at the 2013 Independent Country Music Association Awards, something he doesn't take lightlight. Does it add pressure on him? "I never thought of it as adding pressure," he laughs, admitting now he'll be thinking about that. "I thought of it as just really humbling. The people through ICMA that nominate your are in the industry–other artists, managers, labels. To get that nod from them is really a high honor."
"I was also up for Male Vocalist with Nashville Universe. I made it to the Top 5 nominees. I got to perform live at the show in February. To make it that far was crazy."
Grab a copy of Super Country Cowboy on iTunes now!
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