Canadian country singer Brett Kissel talks with C&I about being big in his home country and his newest album, We Were That Song, available today.
From his effortless humble nature to his rustic upbringing to his family-man mindset, country artist Brett Kissel sure fits the Canadian stereotype of an all-around nice guy. You wouldn’t necessarily guess it, then, that this 27-year-old unassuming guy from Flat Lake, Alberta, has been dominating the Canadian country music scene, with accolades that include CCMA Award’s reigning Male Artist of the Year, a Juno Award, and sold-out shows across his home country.
Kissel has been having a moment, and now, with the release of his new album, We Were That Song, he’s set to expand his already mass following to the States.
Recently, Kissel talked with C&I about his new album, growing up on a cattle ranch in northeastern Alberta, and his biggest accomplishment as an artist yet.
Cowboys & Indians: You’re currently the CCMA’s reigning Male Artist of the Year, have a Juno Award, and are selling out shows left and right. How has this experience changed your life?
Brett Kissel: Performing has always been a part of my life, but performing at this level has been amazing for me, for my family, and for my band. I love being able to do what I do — and to get the recognition from my peers in the business. When I won Male Artist of the Year this year, my wife and I were sitting beside Blake Shelton, who was a guest at our Canadian show. Blake gave me a big ol’ bear hug, and everyone saw that on TV. I got more texts about that than winning the award. And not that I’m into awards or the trophies themselves, but something to show my kids one day is pretty cool. One day I hope they look back and say, “I guess Dad used to be good.”
C&I: What has been the greatest memory of your career so far?
Kissel: Career-wise, I have to say that performing with Garth Brooks was the ultimate. He is the best entertainer on planet Earth, and I feel so lucky to have been able to not only open for him, but to perform on stage with him. And, best of all, getting to know him and his wife, Mrs. Trisha Yearwood, has been an honor for my wife and for me.
C&I: Speaking of Garth, you got to open for him on 16 dates. What was it like to work with him? Did he give you any good advice?
Kissel: Working with Garth I learned something new and something valuable every show. Whether it was an amazing lesson on how to entertain and truly give it your all for a crowd, or an amazing lesson backstage on how to treat people, I was constantly learning. And I was learning from the best of the best. Garth gave me many tidbits of advice, often just in conversation. You can bet I soaked it all in and will carry these memories with me for the rest of my life.
C&I: Your upcoming album, We Were That Song, was released on December 8. What do you hope your fans will get out of it? How does it stand out from your other work?
Kissel: I sincerely hope that my fans enjoy the diversity of this project. It’s almost chaotic how random the songs are, yet it has a constant theme of diversity. If you are a straight-ahead “today’s country” fan, then I have a lot of great songs on this record for you. If you are a traditional country fan, then I have a perfect duet with country legend Charley Pride. If rockin’ country is your thing, then I have a duet with one of rock’s biggest influencers: Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. And, last, if you like “story songs,” well, I have a large selection of those. This album is completely different from anything else I’ve ever done because I truly feel it’s bigger and better.
C&I: What was the writing and producing process like?
Kissel: This process was completely different from previous records. My previous albums were very streamlined, very well-organized, and I had a lot of time to make decisions. This album took extra time because I was fortunate to be so busy on the road performing around the world. So instead of feeling bad or guilty that I couldn’t use the same studio for months on end, I embraced the crazy lifestyle and schedule and recorded many different songs in many different places — different studios with different vibes, different vocal tones, different instruments, and different plans. The only constants were my band members and my producers. We collectively worked our tails off to make each song the best that it could be. We didn’t focus on making a great album. We focused on recording killer songs, that in turn would create a great body of work/album.
C&I: Are there songs that didn’t make the album that we can expect sometime in the near future?
Kissel: Great question. There are always songs that just fall short and don’t make the cut for the record. Interestingly enough, there were about three songs on this project that I was hoping to perform on the last album, but they didn’t make it. Hindsight is 20/20, and I should have recorded them. So I made sure I didn’t make that mistake again, and recorded those particular songs first because I have more confidence in the songs, more confidence in myself as a performer, and more confidence that the industry is ready for these particular tracks. And, like always, there are songs I’m thinking about now that should have been on this project.
C&I: Out of all of your albums and singles, do you have a song or songs that you are most proud of? Why?
Kissel: A song I recorded called “I Didn’t Fall in Love With Your Hair” has become an anthem for people and families going through cancer. I recorded this song for my dad and my mom. My dad watched my mom go through cancer and stayed strong for her, which is what the song is all about. On a daily basis I get calls, emails, and letters from people all over the world that tell me their stories, and tell me how this song has affected them. That’s the power of music. What makes this even more special is that every single cent from the download of this song went straight to the Canadian Cancer Society, which raised over $50,000 in the first month it was available. So I’m very proud of that.
C&I: You grew up on a cattle ranch in northeastern Alberta. How does that experience play into your music?
Kissel: Growing up on a ranch was very special for me — and even more important looking back now. I loved that way of life, and still do. In fact, I miss it a lot. It played a significant role in who I am, my work ethic, and my level of pride for my country and my upbringing. Living off the land and being so close to animals and nature like that was essentially the perfect childhood — looking back now.
C&I: With a family that operates a successful cattle ranch with Angus and Speckle Park-cross cattle, how did you get into the music industry?
Kissel: It’s funny because nobody in my entire family is into music whatsoever. No one can even play an instrument. So the fact that I got into the music business is still a mystery to everyone, including me. Luckily there was a country station that we played religiously on the radio in the tractor, the grain truck, and the school bus. I was surrounded by country music, and that genre was the soundtrack to my life. To be truly honest, I would sing and practice to the cows when I was feeding them during morning chores. And they were great listeners. They never complained.
C&I: What’s next for your music?
Kissel: The American country music market is considerably larger than Canada’s due to population and because all of the worldwide record labels are based on Music Row. I am very proud of my homeland, and I love that I’ve been able to accomplish some great things in Canada. My new goals, however, are to work toward integrating into the American market more. Events with the CMAs and ACMs, events with the Grand Ole Opry, and all the big theaters, arenas, and festivals in America are on my new bucket list. Not to mention, I love TV shows like Ellen, [Jimmy] Fallon, and [Jimmy] Kimmel. I would love nothing more than to play on those shows one day.
C&I: Lastly, as a country artist from Canada, what do you miss most about home when you’re on tour in the United States?
Kissel: There are certain Canadian elements, like sayings or songs, that I can only play in Canada. Sometimes I throw out a Canadian-ism on stage while I’m in Tennessee or California. And I’m used to a massive response. Yet in America, no one knows what I’m talking about. So I laugh, my band laughs, and we realize, Oh yeah, no one knows what Tim Hortons is here.
Watch the video below to see Kissel’s outstanding performance at the CCMA Awards.
For more information on Brett Kissel and his upcoming tour dates, visit his website.