Country music star Brett Kissel is winding down his national We Were That Song tour with a performance in Drumheller.
Kissel – who was Canadian Country Music Award (CCMA) Male Artist of Year twice – started the tour in January, performing more than 100 shows since then.
“It’s the most extensive tour in Canadian music history,” said Kissel in a phone interview while on tour in B.C. Nov. 15. “We are playing over 100 dates in every province and three territories.
“It’s been so much fun to be able to do this, travel across Canada. There are days where it’s tiring. Any time I feel exhausted I stop and smell the roses and feel better and stop complaining. I’m pretty lucky I get to do this. I’ve been on the ultimate Canadian road trip playing everywhere and it’s been magnificent.”
Kissel performs his final two shows in Drumheller at the Badlands Community Facility on Dec. 6 and in Bonnyville on Dec. 7. These last two shows are special because he has lots of family and fans in Stettler and area and since he grew up in St. Paul, Bonnyville is his stomping grounds.
“Boy oh boy are we ever going to party those two nights,” he said with a laugh.
“It is so special that I get the opportunity to travel and come back home where I feel I truly belong.”
Kissel’s guitar player, Matt McKay, is from Stettler.
“He has been player of the year for the last two years at the CCMA’s.”
Country music has always been a part of Kissel’s life.
Country life shaped Kissel
“I grew up on a farm, a cattle ranch in Alberta, and country music was a part of me. It’s all I’ve ever known. Country music came naturally.”
Legends like Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash influenced him.
In fact, the day that Johnny Cash died, Sept. 12, 2003, is the day Kissel received an autographed photo in the mail from the legend.
“It was an honour to receive it in general, but to receive it on the day he died, some people may think that is spooky, some people may think it’s a coincidence, but I truly believe it was a blessing.
“When I look at it now maybe it goes to show that I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do. I’m very blessed to have his hand on my shoulder kind of guiding me in my life and career.”
Garth Brooks also influenced Kissel. He said he likes the way Brooks entertains and treats people.
“The fact that I have been able to be friends with him and learn from him is extremely special.”
Kissel also likes George Strait and his longevity.
“He is his own guy. He’s a cowboy from Texas. He sings his songs and he does his thing. It gives me confidence to chase my own dreams and be my own person and not try to chase what everybody else is doing, but be my own guy.”
With growing fame comes responsibility.
“I say this respectfully, as an artist sometimes there comes responsibility where you know if there is something wrong in the world, or if there is an opportunity for you to feel or say something that will have an impact, it’s great to be in a place where you have fame and followers on social media and you have people that listen so that you can do your very best in a broader spectrum.
“It’s like a ripple effect. You throw something in the water and it starts out small and it goes big, big, big. People without celebrity status can do a lot of great things. If I have an ear of people in politics or in business and there is an opportunity for me to do good things we can achieve things quicker as a celebrity. I use that in the form of fundraising, raising awareness for important causes or standing up to things that need to be stood up to.”
One of those causes is STARS air ambulance.
“My dad almost lost his life in a farming accident last summer and STARS saved my dad’s life. I was lucky to be part of their giant fundraiser, raising $1.1 million at a gala in Calgary. That was very, very special and I’m thankful I could do that.”
Kissel did two more events for STARS in Edmonton and Saskatchewan raising another million.
Kissel also raises awareness and money for mental health issues.
“I partnered with Brett Wilson (Dragon’s Den) and together we raised $10 million.”
In addition, Kissel fundraises for cancer.
“My mom has been through cancer. I did a song called I Didn’t Fall in Love With Your Hair. It was a very special song. It’s a very beautiful song that talks about inner beauty.
“When I released that song we donated every single penny straight to the cancer society. It is close to a quarter million raised now.”
Kissel says there are no downsides to celebrity status.
“There are no negatives to this. There are absolutely no negatives to being well-known. I’ve missed my family. I’ve missed a lot of birthdays and anniversaries but you know what, guys who work in the RCMP miss those too. Guys who work in the military, in the oilfield, miss that too.”
Kissel gets his start in small town Alberta
Kissel got his first guitar when he was six.
“And the rest, as they say, is history,” he said. “I never wanted to put it down. I thought it was the best gift ever.”
When he was 10 he performed at rodeos. When he was 12 he was booked in theatres in Edson and Stettler. When he was 14 he played at a stampede barn in Drumheller. Then, at 16, he was the youngest person to be nominated for a CCMA award. At 18 he began playing at the Winspear in Edmonton and when he was 22 Warner Brothers signed him.
“Now I’m 28 with two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife and travelling across Canada, opening for Garth Brooks and playing at the Grand ol’ Oprey.
“I can’t believe things happened the way they happened,” he added. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Inspiration comes in many forms
Kissel draws on his life experiences for inspiration when writing songs.
“If I’m writing about having a good time and partying, throwing back a couple of drinks I remember great moments in high school or just turning 18 and partying out in the bush and doing what red-neck Albertans do.”
When it comes to writing about loss and sadness Kissel also writes from experience.
“I lost my grandparents in a car accident a few years back. I wrote a song for them, Tough Times Don’t Last Tough People Do.”
And love songs come easy for Kissel when he writes about his wife.
“I have the best inspiration in my life.
“Inspiration comes in different shapes, sizes and moments in time,” he added. “As a songwriter and creator in the arts I can look at anything and try to be creative with it.”
Kissel has won CCMA and international awards. At the Junos in 2014 he won Break Through Artist of the Year. In 2016 Kissel received the Allan Slaight Honour from Canada’s Walk of Fame recognizing him as one of Canada’s top country music performers.
But Kissel remains humble.
“It just comes and you take it when it comes and you get excited. I think it’s important to celebrate those moments. At the same time, those don’t measure your worth as an artist. As long as my family is proud of me. As long as I can keep selling out shows and people want to come and see me, that’s what matters most. The glass trophies are undeniably special and I’m thankful to have them but that isn’t everything and that’s why I don’t feel a lot of pressure from that.”
In the end, he wants to be remembered for the simple things in life.
“Number one, being a great dad and husband. That is the most important. And that I was able to bring some good to this world through music.”
Kissel lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife and children. For tickets go to www.brettkissel.com
The FINAL 4 SHOWS in #BC are: 11.23 – North Vancouver / 11.25 – Maple Ridge / 11.26 – Oliver / 11.27 – Kelowna — I would love to give you 2 Tix + a M&G to one of these final 4 so comment👇🏻and RT… and I’ll select a winner on TUESDAY! — get your tix here: https://t.co/SbJNeAL3ax pic.twitter.com/SOWK9WFgVW
— Country Singer Brett Kissel (@BrettKissel) November 18, 2018