It’s a shame us American country music fans often fail to realize there’s a bustling country scene just north of the border. For far too many of us, Canadian country music maybe started with Anne Murray in the ‘70s, continued in the ‘90s with Shania Twain and rolls on now only through Lindsey Ell.
Such a limited scope, of course, is completely, and fantastically false. Canada has a long, proud western tradition. Cowboys, mountains, rodeos and, indeed, country music are every bit the key thread of Canadian fabric that ice hockey and general politeness is. It’s a safe bet Alberta-native Brett Kissel will make his way into the ears of country fans everywhere relatively soon. He’s been a star up north for years now, taking home a truckload of Canadian Country Music Association and Juno awards since 2014.
The 29-year old singer spent a good chunk of the summer opening for global country kingpin Garth Brooks across Canada, and recently released the video for his new song “Drink About Me,” starring Bachelor television show favorites Kaitlyn Bristowe and Jason Tartick. The song is set to serve as Kissel’s introduction to American country fans. We recently caught up with him and discussed the new song, misconceptions Americans have about Canada, and how he came to sing with a country icon and a heavy metal legend.
Tell us the story behind your forthcoming single “Drink About Me.” Why did you choose this particular song for your US debut?
Well, “Drink About Me” is a song that is completely captivating. It captures what is so fundamental to the genre of country music, and that is evoking emotion. The song is about being in love and takes you on a journey that is so relatable to both the magical times that two people share together in a relationship, but also to a place where we’ve all been, where you miss someone so badly that it hurts. Through the song, we’re able to explore both feelings. Really, it’s a modern twist on a classic tale, and to me, brings to life the real magic and power of country music.
Can we expect a full album from you anytime soon?
Hell yeah! “Drink About Me” is of course the lead single, but we’ll have a full-album out on January 1, 2020 that I am extremely proud of, and can’t wait to share. It’s some of the best work that I’ve ever done. The most complete package, and so relevant to where I am now as an artist, and in my life as a husband to my beautiful wife Cecilia and as a father to our three children. It’s also inspiring, in fact, the album is called Now or Never, and that captures so perfectly how I feel. There’s so much to be grateful for and now is the perfect time to put this new album out into the world and just go for it.
Canada and the United States are so close together, especially in this digital day and age, it’s got to be a bit odd for you to have such a massive following in one country and not the other doesn’t it?
I look at it two ways; I mean, I’m a kid who grew up on a cattle ranch in Northern Alberta that has such a special opportunity to affect, inspire, and entertain people through my music. To have had the success that I’ve had in Canada is extremely special and I’m grateful for that every day. At the same time, it motivates and drives me to keep pushing forward and have the same success south of the border, if I can. That would be the ultimate goal, and at the end of the day I get to have such a blast trying to achieve it!
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We took our family to “the Royal Ball” last night. (At least that’s what we told our little ones…). I was “Daddy King”. Cece was “Mommy Queen”. Mila and Aria were princesses. And Leo was “Baby Prince.” I am so honoured that we were able to have a real life experience like that — where we could dress up, celebrate each other, and enjoy an unforgettable night together. To everyone on the red carpet who cheered our family on… “Daddy King” thanks you!!!!!!!! Hahahaha 📸: @ccmaofficial / @warnermusiccanada
What should American audiences know about the Canadian country music landscape?
There are just so many incredibly talented artists and musicians in Canadian country music – and such a rich history. I mean, from Hank Snow, to Anne Murray, to of course the amazing Shania Twain, Paul Brandt, Terri Clark. They’ve all paved the way for artists like myself, and Tenille Townes, and my friends from Alberta, the boys from High Valley to do what we do. We’ve truly been blessed to become a part of that landscape and follow such tremendous people first and foremost, and of course such tremendous artists and performers. Our industry is almost identical to the American industry, it’s only smaller. I’m hoping to bring my small town roots to Nashville and give it a shot.
Describe the nerves or insecurities and risks involved with trying to establish your name, music and a new fanbase in America?
Really you just want people to engage in your music, your performances, and leave an impact so that fans dig what you’re doing and keep buying or downloading your music. I’m not worried or insecure to be honest, because even though there is no recipe for success, I believe that if I put out good music, and put on a good show, then good things will happen. Simple. If I put out great music and put on a great show, great things will happen. My goal is just to have people partying their asses off at my shows, that’s the end game. I view it as a challenge, and it’s a fun one to tackle, especially when you’re surrounded by such incredible talent here in the States.
Not many singers, regardless of genre, regardless of where they’re from, have recorded with both Charley Pride and Dave Mustaine! How did those partnerships come about and how were the experiences?
First, I’ll talk about my friendship with Charley Pride. I met Charley when I opened a show for him when I was 11 years old, up in Edmonton, Alberta. From there, I remained one of his most loyal fans. I think he took a liking to me because I was a little kid who adored his music, when his traditional fan base was obviously a lot older. It wasn’t until this last album where I reached out to his team and said, “I would like nothing more than to do a song with Charley,” and they replied on his behalf with, “Absolutely.” So, we flew to Dallas and recorded “Burgers and Fries,” one of his big hits from the ‘80s and went full-nostalgia on the track. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and career and sing such a gorgeous song together. Charley is older than me by about 50-some years. So, it was amazing getting a chance to look across the microphone at him when we were singing together thinking to myself, “Is this real life?”
Then a few years back, I was at dinner with my agent, when he surprised me with his other dinner guests, Dave and Pam Mustaine. The Mustaines and my agent Jim, were going to do some business together, and I was along for the ride, I guess.
So, Dave and I struck up a friendship that night and stayed in touch. Shortly after I was over at his house chillin’ with his family, and was also invited by his daughter Electra, who’s an amazing artist in her own right, to travel to Scotland for a songwriting camp she was putting on. Dave was on tour in Europe, and flew into Glasgow, where I went to pick him up. It was on that drive from Glasgow back to the estate we were staying at that he mentioned, “So, Cowboy, when are you and me gonna do a song together?”
I laughed and said, “Are you serious? You’d actually want to do a song with me?” He said “Absolutely, but it has to be the most bad ass track on your record.” So, we recorded “Damn!” together.
What’s it like, living in Nashville now after so many years in Canada?
Our family loves living here in Nashville! We’ve been here for close to a decade now and it really feels like home to us. The community is so welcoming and there’s such a creative vibe that encompasses the city. It’s easy to love, you know? I mean, at times you crave some of the things you get used to up in Canada, like Tim Horton’s coffee or Ketchup chips. Of course, I’ll take the Nashville winters over the Canadian winter any-day though!