Theo Fleury‘s life story reads like a country song: He suffered sexual abuse as a youth, he was addicted to drugs, he drank too much, and he even put a pistol in his mouth and debated whether to pull the trigger.
So it seems only natural that the former National Hockey League star decided to try his hand at country music, a staple of the Canadian Prairies where he grew up. And it’s fitting that the debut single from his new album is called “My Life’s Been A Country Song.”
Fleury, who is now a motivational speaker and advocate for sexual abuse victims, wrote the deeply personal songs on “I Am Who I Am,” along with Canadian musician Phil Deschambault. The seven-time NHL All-Star admits the experience was therapeutic.
“The songs are about my life, my struggles, my experiences,” the 47-year-old Calgary man told Reuters ahead of the Oct. 23 release of the album.
“Maybe they find their own voice or it inspires them to start that process of healing,” Fleury said, referring to sexual abuse victims.
After retiring from the NHL in 2002, the diminutive Fleury said he had trouble finding his passion. He had a concrete business for a few years, followed by several jobs that did not pan out.
“It just wasn’t for me,” the Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist said of his post-NHL life. “I didn’t like it. It didn’t excite me. It didn’t inspire me. I like to entertain people and tell stories. That’s where I fit in the world.”
Paddy McCallion, a composer and musician as well as a “longtime drinking buddy” of Fleury’s, produced the album and helped write some of the songs.
“Theo’s not focused on being Garth Brooks,” he said. “His whole focus is helping people who have been where he’s been. It might be through a song. I’ve seen him pat a guy on the back and change his attitude. That’s what he can do.”
McCallion said the album has “old-school country sound” with steel guitars and fiddles, “but we put our own stamp on it.”
In 2009, Fleury, who played with four NHL teams and won the Stanley Cup championship with the Calgary Flames, wrote a best-selling autobiography titled “Playing with Fire” detailing his troubled life. After the book came out, he became a motivational speaker.
Fleury now considers the struggles he has had in his life as “gifts.”
“When I’m driving the bus, so to speak, the bus always crashes,” he said. “Now I sit in the passenger’s seat and I don’t question anything. Now I just go with whatever the universe wants me to do. Since I’ve been doing that, it seems like I’ve got a lot of serendipity in my life.”
Fleury, who said the album came together more quickly and easily than he expected, waited six years to release the collection because he wanted to get it right.
“If you had told me 10 years ago when I had that loaded gun in my mouth that this is the direction my life would take, I’d have said you’re out of your mind,” he said.
“But once you start to put one foot in front of the other and get honest, good things start to happen. I’ve done a complete turnaround because I started participating in my own life. I stopped living in my past.”