Hat Man Can
February 15, 2013
Sharing his love of music with Corby, our town centre has its own little corner of musical heaven with Chris Browne and his interesting guitar.Have you ever wandered down Corporation Street in Corby and felt strangely up-lifted? Could it be due to the presence of our very own town busker? Out in all weathers filling the air with the beautiful sound of just his voice and his guitar. Borne out of his passion to give music as a gift in return for a few coins, Chris Browne (AKA Hat Man Can) just loves to play.
As a kid, Chris would lock himself away whilst learning to play his guitar. His guitar was his best friend and his soul mate and so it has stayed all his life.
Now, at the age of 25, Chris gets out of bed in the morning with music as his sense of purpose. Playing is his life, do it or die. “Where there’s no music, there’s no beauty” says Chris. And he gives that beauty to the people of Corby every day as the general public support him whilst standing on his spot outside McDonalds and playing his music, guitar case on the floor gathering the coppers. Some days, there’s no money in it for him but the public still reward him with a smile and that’s enough to bring him back again.
When I got the guitar, I just sat and looked at it for about four hours!Chris has been out on the streets busking since he was 14 years old; Southport, Merseyside, Northampton, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Dublin and London but Corby is the place he loves best and the place he calls home. There have been a few small breaks for Chris; when he was 20 he supported English Indie Rock band Athlete at Manchester and as part of a band, The Message, almost got signed but that fell apart, When he arrived back in Corby in 2008 he won the singer/songwriter Acoustic Battle at the Everard Arms, beating 200 Northamptonshire artists to win first prize.
As a singer and songwriter, Chris tells his story, each song an emotional journey from heartache to hope, from despair to optimism: “I want to show people that music is a way to express what they’ve been through personally. See, there are a lot of people out there who think it’s all over [for them]. Every day is a new step. Music is my gateway to fighting for freedom for the whole world. If I donít make it, I’ll die trying.” Chris, under the artist name Browneproject, has seven albums out on iTunes and across the web, with his latest song “Crazy Little Things” making it to number 1 in the Reverb Nation Indie music chart.
Recognising Chris’s talents locally, Tom Bingham of Corby Independent Creatives was moved to do something for Chris and by using his own talent for making superbly unusual and incredibly complex electric guitars; Tom donated his prize winning guitar to Chris. Now this guitar is really something special…
The guitar itself won 4th prize in an international competition staged in America, run by Cigar Box Nation in 2011. Tom’s guitar was the only prize winning entry from the UK in fact, and it has some extra-ordinary features. OK, so the fact that it contains 4 cigar boxes and looks phenomenal is great but it also houses an enormous 12″ cigar, a clock, a Zippo lighter, a 12″ flute, a tuner, a bottle opener and most incredibly a 9 Volt AMP. The guitar literally plugs into itself to create the most amazing sound. The theme of the guitar is freedom with anti-slavery messages contained within the design, including a message from Ulysses Grant, the 18th President of the United States and original instigator of the abolishment of slavery in the US. This message sits perfectly with Chris who is himself a free spirit and being given this amazing creation has served to spur Chris on in his pursuit of bringing music to people.
“When I got the guitar, I just sat and looked at it for about four hours!” Chris told me, and he did not even dare to touch it. This gesture of kindness and support has meant the world to Chris. It has given him the incentive to go out there and play even more, starting with a nationwide tour which is already underway.
Chris’s goals include playing on “Later, With Jules Holland”, but, true to his humble character, what Chris would love to achieve the most from any kind of success, would be to be able to give something back. He would love to come back to Corby and set up a place to go for the kids; where they would be able to practice their music, lay down tracks in a recording studio and not have to pay for any of it. So next time you see Hat Man Can outside McDonalds, go and have a look at his guitar, say hi, or just sit and enjoy the music.
A message from Tom Bingham Corby Independent Creatives (CIC)
“Busker” guitar was given to Chris Browne purely as a philanthropic act
to both encourage and technically assist him in his playing. Simply by
being in the town, HAT MAN CAN has woven himself into the fabric of the
After giving out some 4 commissions for paintings in 2012, we (CIC) thought it might be good to help Chris in this way and encourage his talent. Just as “SPIKE” is Corby’s poet, and I am Corbyís weird guitar maker, HAT MAN CAN is Corby’s busker. Buskers very often through their own courage and talent go on to become ìKnownî and often hit the “Big time” in other guises.
I feel the determination of Chris and his focus could emerge any time, anywhere, and if giving him a hand with the guitar helps him, then CIC will have fulfilled its purpose to some degree. Philanthropic acts are hard to come by these days, and people become suspicious of any acts of kindness towards then.
CIC tries to “Acquire” from those who can afford to give a little, and pass it on to those who would make best use of it. For a lot of people there is a great deal more pleasure to be had in giving than receiving. The “Busker” guitar has been lucky for me, I just hope it is lucky for Chris, he deserves it!