Theo Fleury is back in the news again, but thankfully this time it’s not because he’s attempting another NHL comeback. Instead, he’s embarking on a new career: country music.
He’ll be making his live debut Friday night on an appropriate stage, opening for Johnny Reid in the same arena in which he was a star for the Calgary Flames: the Saddledome. The capricious Fleury claims this isn’t just a one-off performance or a novelty, but a long time passion that he plans to take “as far as it’ll go.” To that end, he and his band are intending to record an album later this year.
If you’ve been paying attention, this move shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Fleury made his singing debut in the movie Score: A Hockey Musical, where he made a brief cameo appearance alongside Walter Gretzky. He ended up doing more singing than actual professional singer, Nelly Furtado, who also made a cameo. While Score has its charms, it ultimately isn’t very good, even if its core message of “hockey is really great, you guys” resonates.
As for Fleury’s singing in the film, it’s passable, though it doesn’t help that the song itself isn’t very good and he’s given very little musical accompaniment to work with. It’s meant to be one of the movie’s more serious and inspiring moments, and while Fleury has the gravitas to pull it off, the whole thing feels really awkward and shoehorned in. At the time, though, I gave Fleury props for putting himself out there and actually singing during his cameo. I didn’t realize that singing was actually something he wanted to do for a career.
Shortly after Score debuted in theatres, however, came a signal that perhaps Fleury was serious about singer after all. It came at a time when Canada was trying to wrap its collective head around Fleury, the figure skater, as he competed on CBC’s Battle of the Blades. Week 4 was country week, and Fleury chose to skate to a song that he wrote and recorded, called “As the Story Goes.”
You can listen to the song at the top of this post. Since I’m not a fan of country, it doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but I’m not the target audience. To my ear, Fleury has a pretty average voice: it’s not truly bad, but it doesn’t stand out either. You can hear another song, “Farewell,” on his ReverbNation page. He regrettably calls it “hockey tonk,” which is a phrase that needs to die a quick death. It would be a mercy killing, really.
At the very least, it’s better than the Triple Crown Line’s “Forgive My Misconduct.”
If I’ve learned anything from listening to Blake Shelton while watching The Voice, country music isn’t about, ironically enough, the voice. It’s all about storytelling and getting across the emotion of that story. Most of the time, that story is about pain and suffering, which is where you get the old joke that if you played a country song backwards, you get your wife, dog, and truck back and your life is perfect.
I’m not crazy about Fleury’s voice, but the fact is that he has gone through a fair (or unfair, really) amount of pain and suffering in his life, so he has plenty of material to work with. Those pains have been well-documented in his book, a documentary, and a one-man play, all titled “Playing With Fire.” His success or failure in the country music industry will depend on his capabilities as a storyteller more than as a singer.
The Saddledome seems to be the ideal venue for Fleury. Since Calgary loves both him and country music, he’s likely to receive a warm welcome. As for me, my preferred mashup between hockey and music will always be this Whose Lines Is It Anyway? classic: