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Nickelback – From Small Town Boys to Rockstars

Hanna, Alberta in Canada boasts “pride in offering urban amenities with country flair” can now lay claim to being the home to one of Canada’s top rockers.

Grunge rockers, Nickelback, in the face of harsh criticisms from their peers and critics alike have sold 30 million albums worldwide since 2001, with over 13 singles making it into the top 40 of music charts around the world. They have been ranked the 11th best musical act of the century to date and the second best selling foreign act in the US, just behind The Beatles. This is their story.

Nickelback from Alberta CanadaSmall Town Beginnings

The group was formed by singer and songwriter Chad Kroeger and his bassist brother Mike in 1995. The name was inspired by Mike’s days working in Starbucks when he would return customers’ change hence giving their “nickel back”. With their cousin Brandon Kroeger on drums and childhood friend, guitarist Ryan Peake, the quartet began penning their music, a blend of post-grunge rock and heavy metal. Their first release was a seven-track EP called Hesher.

Public attention and admiration followed a series of live performances and numerous air plays on Canadian radio, and so a full-length album went into production. Curb also enjoyed moderate success within their home nation and was followed by the band’s second album, the independently produced The State, released in 1998. Before its release, however, Brandon Kroeger and the band amicably parted company, and new drummer Ryan “Nik” Vikedal joined the fold.

The second album was such a success that it attracted the attention of Canadian EMI and the US-based Roadrunner records who approached the band with an offer. Nickelback signed a record deal, and The State was re-released in the US in 2000. The album was certificated gold in Canada, with two singles from the album, Leader of Men and Breathe achieving noteworthy sales and entering the top ten of mainstream rock music charts on the American continent. This marked the beginnings of that classic meteoric rise to fame and fortune for these four boys from Hanna, Alberta.

Silver Side Up

With their third album, the band worked with producer Rick Parashar, famous for his work with grunge bands Alice in Chains and later with Pearl Jam on their Ten album. The album was released in September 2001 and went straight in at number one in many of the album charts, catapulting the group into the limelight. The single from the album How You Remind Me – a moving ballad about the pitfall of bitter breakups and the hurtful words ex-lovers spit at one another – enjoyed equal success. It reached number one in both rock and mainstream charts in the US and Canada while making it to number four in the UK top 40 and number one in the rock charts.

The album’s predominantly grunge rock/heavy metal sound and hard-hitting storytelling won the hearts and ears of rockers the world over with tracks such as Too Bad chronicling the toils of financial hardship on a small town family which may or may not be autobiographical. The song hit the number one spot yet again in the US and Canada and number one in the UK rock charts, although disappointingly only number nine in the UK Top 40 charts. Not ones to shy away from any subject matter regardless of controversy Never Again is a brutal story of spousal abuse. While it pulled no punches on its subject matter with lyrics such as “I hear her scream, from down the hall. Amazing she can even talk at all” it proved too blunt even for fans barely registering a blip on the music chart radar.

Much of the themes recurrent in the album range from relationship breakdowns or violent acts, and while may not have universal appeal, it does showcase the band’s musical talent as well as a penchant for straightforward storytelling, a combination that helped Silver Side Up become a multi-platinum selling album.

Kroeger Solo Projects

The success of the album not only brought the inevitable fame and fortune that follows such rapid success but also opened up unique opportunities for Chad Kroeger to undergo solo projects. In 2002, Kroger worked with Josey Scott, lead singer of the Memphis rock band Saliva, on a theme song for the first Spiderman movie. Hero became an instant worldwide hit, equaling Nickelback’s releases, and to date is the most successful and recognizable track from the web-slinging movie franchise.

Kroeger also provided lyrics for Santana’s Why Don’t You and I which featured on Santana’s Shaman album in October of the same year. It also marked a departure in theme for Kroeger as it was a surprisingly upbeat track all about the dizzying effect s of falling in love. The two artists would work together again on the single Into The Night in 2007.

Another opportunity for Kroeger arose to serve as mentor and producer for another fledgling Canadian rock band. Kroger put his co-producing weight behind the underrated Vancouver based grunge rockers, Default. Thanks to Kroeger, the band’s debut album The Fallout became a platinum seller with the singles Wasting my Time and Deny reaching the number one spot on the US and Canadian rock charts as well as the top 20 Canadian mainstream charts. Naturally, speculation about Kroeger’s departure from the band was bounded around, however as their second album proved to fans and critics, Nickelback’s journey was far from over with Kroeger at the helm.