For Brad Paisley’s steel guitarist, it doesn’t seem like it’s been almost 12 years since he auditioned to be a part of his band.
Randle Currie, who grew up in Sturgeon Valley — located 50 kilometres west and north of Prince Albert, began touring with the popular country star and his live band in 2000.
“Believe it or not, I’m the new guy and I’ve been there since 2000,” Currie said. “If that tells you anything about Brad, he’s pretty good to work for.”
At 35 years old, Currie has had an impressive career, including playing for Martina McBride and Bryan White.
However, this career began with a passion for playing the steel guitar at a very young age.
The steel guitar is not a conventional electric guitar. The instrument has a metal bar to shorten the length of the strings. It rests horizontally and has pedals and knee levers, which affect the pitch of the sound.
“It is a very unique instrument, especially in young people,” he said. “All kids growing up want to be drummers or guitar players or whatever. Why I chose the steel guitar, I’m not really sure to be honest.”
When Currie was about eight or nine years old, his father took him to a western show in Prince Albert. At the show, Currie experienced seeing and playing a steel guitar for the first time.
“And I got to watch this guy play and it was the first time I ever saw (a steel guitar) in person, I had seen one on TV…,” Currie said. “The guy was really cool and let me sit behind it and kind of mess with it and as soon as I did that I was like, ‘Yep, that’s what I want to do.’ Why that is, I don’t know. For some reason the sound of it … there’s just something about it; it just intrigued me. I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
When Currie was 14, he and a group of friends formed a band called “Youngstir.” Other members of the band included Aaron Young (formerly with Barrage), Tyler Kushneryk (The Cleavers), Aaron Sklar (The Western Senators) and Michael Langlois.
As Currie got older, he realized just how serious his hobby was becoming.
“You know how little kids will just go through phases with instruments or sports or whatever, for some reason, of course I played hockey when I grew up ... And I took hockey pretty serious, but once I started playing steel guitar I kind of got away from hockey,” he said. “… I think my parents were kind of worried, maybe at first. A steel guitar ain’t exactly real cheap either.”
Once Currie convinced his parents to purchase the instrument, he spent most of his time practising.
“It helped to grow up in the country too, in a rural area,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of stuff to get in trouble, so I’d just sit and play a lot, a whole lot.”
When he was 19, Currie decided to make a living doing what he loved. He travelled to Nashville and close to five months later, had his first gig playing for Martina McBride in 1996.
“I was actually playing in a club right there in Nashville and the steel guitar player that was playing with her at the time started to come in and we got to be friends,” Currie said. “He decided to move on and he recommended me for the job and (I) got the gig.”
Currie said his first performances with McBride were pretty overwhelming.
“It was almost dreamlike — I guess (that) would be the best way to explain it,” he said. “… I mean, the first week that I was with her we did maybe four or five shows ... And I remember every night as soon as we start the show and I’d look around and almost in disbelief that, ‘this can’t be real, this must be a dream, you know?’ And I probably did pinch myself just to make sure …”
In 1997, he left McBride’s band and toured with Bryan White for the next three years.
In 2000, White had been booking fewer tour dates. For Currie, it was getting harder to pay bills; he decided to look for other gigs.
“I actually heard … that Brad (Paisley) was looking for a steel player,” Currie said. “I looked into it but nothing ever really happened for me. Eventually, Brad’s bandleader called me and asked me to come and audition for Brad’s thing too.”
Currie said he has gotten pretty lucky with the artists he’s worked for in the music industry.
“It’s a spider web,” he said. “It basically comes down to how many people you know; it really helps out, you know? It’s hard to get a job if nobody knows who you are.”
Since joining Brad Paisley’s band, The Drama Kings, Currie enjoys working with the country artist. He said Paisley enlists members of the band — including Currie — to play on his last nine records, a rarity in the music industry.
Paisley’s tour schedule hasn’t been a problem for Currie, who currently lives in Nashville with his wife and four-month-old son. Often, the group will play three to four shows on the weekend and be back home for the rest of the week — what Currie calls the weekend warrior schedule.
Sixteen years later, Currie said there is still a tinge of adrenalin when he goes to perform on stage.
“On average, Brad plays from anywhere to 20,000 to 50,000 people, depending on what the venue is,” he said. “But it’s funny, it really doesn’t matter if (there’s) 50,000 or 200 —there’s still an adrenalin rush and an excitement that I’m getting to do this.”
Currie said he doesn’t plan anything to change for his career in the near future.
“As far as I know, I’m still going to stay with it. Brad’s still having a lot of success, he’s a wealthy man; he could stop today and his grandkids would be well. … He’s still going and as long as he keeps going, I’ll keep going.”
Although Currie is living the dream, he hasn’t forgotten about his home.
“I’m very proud to be Canadian… ,” he said. “And when people ask where I’m from down here, I’m proud to say where I’m from.”
Currie said he usually tries to visit his parents in Sturgeon Valley for the Christmas holidays, however the tour schedule often conflicts with that time of year.
“I do miss home,” he added. “I wish it wasn’t so far away, I do know that … There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about back home and it was a really great place to grow up.”