Chris Giles might not be your typical country singer.
Yes, he grew up on a ranch near Barstow and DeWolf in Clovis, raising horses, beef cattle and occasionally ducks and geese. But he’s no cowboy.
In fact, his life after graduating from Buchanan High School in 2001 has been very white-collar.
“After college (Fresno State) I got a job on Wall Street and was an investment banker for about five years,” Giles said. He left Wall Street to earn his MBA from UC Berkeley and became the head of business development for the PAC 12 conference.
In October 2012 the San Francisco 49ers hired him to develop the businesses around their stadium and he was quickly promoted to vice president of sales and marketing.
While Giles enjoyed his job and football, he knew he wanted to spend more time with his family and do what he loves: write songs and play guitar.
He quit his lucrative sales job with the 49ers in November to pursue music full-time.
“The job was great in that it gave me the financial means to take some time off and focus on things that I find important,” he said. “I figured if I didn’t try to do the music thing now, there would probably never be another time.”
Giles said he’s loved music for as long as he can remember.
“I grew up singing as a kid, doing talent show performances,” he recalled. “In high school I played drums in a rock band and that’s where I picked up the guitar.”
A buddy taught him how to play as they sat outside of performance venues waiting to take the stage, Giles said.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time lately playing guitar and I started doing club shows playing songs that I had written,” Giles said. “Then I realized that people actually like the songs I wrote and people were asking me ‘hey, where can I buy this?’ And I thought, ‘I can actually turn this into something.’”
He’s recorded three songs, which are available on iTunes.
Giles described his music as “fun but also honest.”
“I have a very white-collar career so I try to actually mix that into my music,” he said. “(My songs) are about the contrast in my life. I have this very blue-collar country upbringing … on a ranch in Clovis. And I’m drawing those parallels between what my family life is back home and how that’s different from my day to day life when I was an executive for the 49ers. I like to keep it authentic and honest at the same time.”
He plays three to four shows a month; on Saturday he opened for Chase Bryant at the Rodeo Club in San Jose.
You won’t find him trying out for The Voice or other televised talent shows.
“I’ve got a family, too, so I can’t have a standard approach to my music career. I can’t try to get on a show and then stay there for weeks on end, or go on a club tour across the country,” he said.
Giles has a different plan for breaking into the business. He plans to write songs in hopes that they get picked up and recorded by a major act.
“I have a couple of good friends who are songwriters, so we’ll collaborate on different things. It’s about generating that pipeline of songs — for every 10 or 20 you write there’s one that you feel you should spend the time and energy on to produce it.”
Giles doesn’t write his songs picturing other artists singing them, however.
“I envision me performing it when I write, typically,” he said, noting that his inspiration comes from all sorts of different settings. “For the “Party Me” song that most people know, the inspiration was just one day hanging out with my buddies — actually ones from Clovis who I hadn’t seen in a long time. We were having a good time, having a couple of drinks together, and they got to talking about how there’s this contrast between ‘business you’ — you know, the executive thing Monday through Friday — and then ‘party you’ which is just hanging out drinking with them. So I took out my cell phone and made that note ‘business you and party you.’”
Giles recently released his single, “Party Me,” with bonus tracks, so his next step is to release an EP with about seven songs, he said.
He continues to do sports business consulting and lives in the Bay Area.
Since he transitioned into his music career, he’s been able to spend a lot more time with his wife, Leah, their daughter Emmerson, 7, and their 5-year-old twin boys Jake and Benson.
The boys enjoy listening to their dad’s songs in the car, and Giles is teaching Emmerson to play guitar.
“I have a recording setup — not quite a recording studio, but just equipment for songwriting — and she loves to play on that,” Giles said. “She’ll get Taylor Swift karaoke tracks … and she’ll record her own recordings upstairs.”
The family comes to Clovis about once a month to visit extended family. Giles said he hasn’t performed in his hometown yet — at least since high school — but he is open to it.
Country music is becoming more mainstream, Giles said, because people from all walks of life can relate to it.
“(Country) is more of a way of life, a mentality and an approach to things,” he said.
Kind of like Clovis.