Brett Kissel has had a lot of memorable moments in his career, including taking home the Apple Music Fans’ Choice Award during the recent Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMAs) and winning Country Album of the Year for We Were That Song at the 2019 Juno Awards, which are the Canadian equivalent of the GRAMMYs. But there was a moment off stage and away from the spotlight that the young artist admits he’ll never forget. After all, how many people can say they’ve carried on a conversation with Garth Brooks wearing nothing but their underwear?
“I was opening for Garth. I was getting ready for my show and all my clothes are off except for my t-shirt and underwear, no socks or anything,” says Kissel of a show at the football stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. “There’s a knock on the dressing room door. I open it and it’s Garth. My wife starts to howl laughing and Garth starts to giggle. I start to giggle and he just waltzes in. He’s in his hoodie and ball cap and he says, ‘I can’t wait to tell Ellen [DeGeneres] about this’ because I was wearing Ellen’s [brand of] underwear, and so we laugh for five minutes.”
After the laughter died down, Brooks delivered some bad news. Due to rain, Kissel’s opening set had to be cancelled. He wanted to share the news with the young singer in person, and he had an idea he hoped would cushion the disappointment. “He says, ‘If you don’t mind, why don’t I bring you up for “Friends In Low Places?” That’s our last song of the night and we’ll make it a thing,’” Kissel recalls. “So now it’s went from the worst case scenario to the best case scenario. And Garth says, ‘So please, for the love of God, get dressed and we’ll get you out there.’”
Kissel says performing Brooks iconic hit on stage that night was a moment he’ll never forget. “It’s only the most iconic country song in the world,” says the young Canadian, who now makes his home in Nashville. “The crowd went nuts and 50,000 people sang it with us. It was amazing. ‘Friends In Low Places’ turned into a 12-minute extravaganza with fireworks and confetti and I feel like I won. It was an incredible opportunity, and at the end, on the microphone and also backstage he said, ‘By the way, choose any date in North America and we’ll do a makeup show,’ and he looked at me dead in the eye and said, ‘Make sure it’s a big one.’ That’s why he’s the greatest guy in the business.”
Kissel, who is already a major star in his native Canada, recently released his first U.S. single, “Drink About Me,” with a video featuring Bachelor Nation’s Kaitlyn Bristowe and Jason Tartick. The song is currently featured on Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify as Kissel’s career gains momentum stateside.
Kissel hasn’t rescheduled the show with Brooks yet, but is looking forward to it. He still has fond memories of the first show he opened for Brooks, and says he was amazed at how the superstar treated his family. “The first show we did, we only had our daughter Mila at the time,” says Kissel, who is now a father of three — Mila, three-and-a-half, Aria, two-years-old and Leo, eight months. “The first show was in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. We opened for him and he again knocked on the dressing room door to welcome us. I thought it would have been an usher or handler or tour manager but it’s Garth himself and Trisha to say hello. They didn’t know we had a baby, so he says, ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ and takes Mila, who was three months old at the time. He holds her and as he’s talking to us, he’s rocking back and forth and she’s sleeping away.”
The next day Kissel and his wife had an unexpected surprise when they walked in their dressing room. “We get to the arena, same dressing room. We open it up. It’s completely different. It’s like a baby nursery. He had a crib in there. He put white noise machines. He had a kettle there to warm up breast milk. He had a microwave. He had everything. It was set up like an apartment and that was within 12 hours.”
Then Garth did even more that the young couple didn’t expect. “He talked to Cecilia, my wife, and said, ‘I know you probably want to see the show but don’t want to leave her. One of our team members on staff is a nurse, so we’ve asked her and if you want to you want to come enjoy the show, she can take care of Mila. There’s a baby monitor. It’s hooked up to your app on your phone. We trust her and she’ll look after Mila so you can come out and enjoy the show.’ So Cecilia starts to cry. I’m teary-eyed. That type of care and attention is something I’ll never forget and that’s just one of the stories. We opened for him 20 times and 20 more shows. That’s why he’s the greatest human being in the world.”
Kissel is working on his U.S. debut album and as his career gains momentum, he admits he’s learned a lot from his role model. He’s looking forward to the future. “Collectively, not only me, but our whole team is very excited about this new era that I’m about to cross over into,” he says, “because everything we’ve done in Canada has been really special and fun, but I know we’re elevating our game which is great songs, great production and great storytelling.”