/ FACES Magazine January 2017
Meeting Brett Kissel at Crazy Horse before his show, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of his performance for Facebook Live. Waiting and watching, I knew it was going to be a good interview – and I wasn’t disappointed. Brett is exactly like you would think – genuine, hilarious, an all around great-guy. A true Canadian, Brett has climbed his way into the hearts of country music fans across Canada – he continues to release fantastic country music and he isn’t slowing down.
Brett is very humble about his successful career—he always makes time to give back, and makes time for his fans. Whether it be donating proceeds from songs, replying to social media messages, or just hanging out around the Rideau Mall, Brett is up close and personal with his fans and his community, and FACES had the opportunity to speak with Brett about it all.
In 2014 you won Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the Juno’s, 2016 Male Artist of the Year at the CCMAs, and your album “Pick Me Up” was nominated for Country Album of the Year at the Junos. Along the way you have also been nominated for and won multiple other awards. Tell us what this journey has been like for you. Is it everything you thought it would be?
It’s a lot more than I thought it would ever be. I’ve always had dreams and aspirations of trying to make it in the business, but to be standing on stage holding those awards is something you can never predict or imagine as a new artist. I’ve imagined being on stage and performing at places around the world, but having them call my name and winning the awards is something I will never get used to and it feels so good, and so special, it is such a big moment of celebration. It has exceeded my expectations on every level thus far.
What was it like to see “Pick Me Up” become so popular? Is there anyone that helped to play a large role in the process of creating the album?
I was really pleased with the reaction that we had from the fans on this album. We wanted to make this album bigger and better than the previous one and I think we did that. The biggest help on the creative side comes from our producers. Bart McKay, a great Canadian producer, and Mickey
Jack Cones, a great producer in Nashville, worked together to make each song an event. When we talked about “I Didn’t Fall in Love With Your Hair”, we knew what that song meant and we took each song and tried to make each one very special. With Airwaves we added a lot of “ear candy”, a lot of cool sounds, and that became my first #1. I wanted “Cool With That” to have a live feel, so I made sure the band I play with live played on that track. There are a lot of elements we put into the tracks that make me very proud of them. Also, my wife Cecilia is my go-to to bounce off my songs and ideas – she is very honest and I think she has a great ear for music.
Where do you draw inspiration from when you are writing lyrics for new songs?
For the most part it comes from true experiences. If I’ve attended a party and had a really good time, I can write about it. If I’m holding my baby girl in my arms, I can write about that (and there will be a song about her on my next record, for sure). Love, losing someone, having a good time – they all draw on great experiences I have had.
You are set to kick off your tour in January 2017 – What can fans look forward to on this tour?
This is going to be a very intimate show that we are doing. By intimate I don’t necessarily mean that it will just be me and my guitar, but I believe that after touring across Canada a couple times, this is the time for the public and country music fans to get to know who I am, where I come from, and how proud I am to be doing this. This will be a tour dedicated to our fans, the people who bought the tickets, and this will be a tour that sheds a light on who I am as a person – so if anyone has any questions about me, they will probably be answered in the first few songs of the set list (laughs).
What are the most enjoyable, and least enjoyable parts of touring for you?
The most enjoyable is travel, and the least enjoyable is travel. I love going to new places and I feel very blessed that I’ve been across Canada. I’ve seen every ocean, and been to places people dream of going. I got to meet the Prime Minister and spend time backstage. So I am very lucky to travel, and travel with my wife, my daughter, and our dog Charlie - who could be the world’s best wiener dog (laughs). But, travel is also a challenge – missing flights, bad connections, lack of sleep, go-go-go, you miss out on a friend’s birthday, your parent’s anniversary, or your best buddy’s wedding. Travel takes its toll. We work really long hours, but really, it isn’t work at all, or at least not hard work. I have to be very conscious to say it isn’t hard work. My dad and Grandpa are cattle ranchers, my brother works in the oil patch – that is hard work – what I do is not hard work at all, it just takes a long time.
You are no stranger to Ottawa and will be stopping here again on January 23rd to perform at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. Are there any favourite places in the city that you always visit when you are in town?
I always try my hardest to find a beavertail and there is an excitement here when we step on stage that we don’t find in other places.
If you could have any artist join you on stage for this tour, who would you want it to be, and why?
Garth Brooks. Who do I love the most? Garth Brooks. Who do I look up to the most? Garth Brooks. Whose been the nicest guy in the world to me? Garth Brooks. He is the best to his fans, and if I could be 1/100th of what Garth is to the fans, or to the industry, I’d die a happy man.
What was it like hosting the Western Canadian Music Awards this year?
I was very nervous for that! I love to be on stage, and you might sense that I am talkative (laughs), but when it comes to being a host, there is so much more than just being a personality. So much changes at the last minute and you need to roll with the punches. It was difficult, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. My goal is to one day host the Canadian Country Music Awards, I would love to do that.
You worked with Hunter Hayes on the song “I Can Play Guitar”. Tell us a bit about that experience – what was the chemistry like between you?
Hunter and I have great chemistry because we have developed a great friendship. We are both signed to Warner, both young guys coming up through the ranks. He had heard about the song and asked to hear it, so I sent it, but I when I asked him to come work on it, he actually couldn’t get to the studio, so he recorded it and sent it to our producer and we got it done. Though I couldn’t collaborate with him face-to-face he did an outstanding job.
Is there a song on your most recent album that means a lot to you personally? One that you are looking forward to sharing with your fans?
“I Didn’t Fall in Love With Your Hair”. The reason it is so special to me is because of my mother’s own battling cancer – and the battle of so many other Canadian families. The song talks from my dad’s perspective and I think it is the most meaningful song I have ever recorded, and maybe one of the most important songs I have ever written. We raised close to $50,000 working with the Canadian Cancer Society from the downloads of the song which I am really proud of. I know that that money will go a long way.
Speaking of those donations, you have done so much for charity throughout your career, most recently with the proceeds from downloads of “I Didn’t Fall in Love With Your Hair” being donated to the Canadian Cancer Society. What does it mean to you to be able to give back?
I think it is a responsibility that we have as Canadians living in the greatest country in the world. There are so many other countries that are less fortunate, and so many people that are less fortunate, so it is very important to give back to them. That’s what do as Canadians, that’s what I do as an Albertan, that’s what I do as humans.
It is a very important part of what musicians do because we can heal through music and we have a huge stage the stand on. A lot of people come to hear what we sing, and what we say, so giving back is a huge part of who I am and I want to continue doing it for the rest of my life. I want to be a good influence for my baby girl as she grows up, and my wife and I want to show her that giving back, no matter how big or how small, is an important part of who we are as a family.
You have been invited to perform on the Opry at the Ryman on November 12th and 19th. What are you most looking forward to about this?
Garth Brooks said to me, “I hear you’re playing the Opry”, I said yes and he replied, “Well just try not to **** your pants” (laughs). We get to do what we do because of this – because of the early generation of fans, so to be able to pay homage to one of the greatest shows in the world, The Grand Ole Opry, the show that made country music famous, is a big moment. To play on the Ryman Stage has me anxious and excited and I’m freaking out! I’m gonna try my hardest to soak it in. It’s the best of the best.
What importance has social media had in your career thus far?
We live in a day and age where I can connect with anybody at any time, and I love that. Country music fans are the reason I do that I do, and I love responding to tweets and Instagram messages and Facebook DMs and Snapchatting people. Not that long ago, we couldn’t do that and we didn’t have the same sort of access to the people we admire, so that is very special. Anyone who wants to get to know me better, please follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat.
Brett Kissel will be kicking off Canada’s 150 Celebrations with a concert on Parliament Hill on New Year’s Eve, and will be performing at Algonquin Commons Theatre on January 23rd! You don’t want to miss these!