FORWARD FOCUS - Country singer Brett Kissel performs at this year's Westerner Days on July 16 on the ATB Financial Mainstage.

FORWARD FOCUS - Country singer Brett Kissel performs at this year's Westerner Days on July 16 on the ATB Financial Mainstage.

Singer Brett Kissel featured at Westerner Days

Emerging country star to feature songs from his latest disc

Canadian country singer Brett Kissel will be showcasing tunes from his latest project Started With a Song at this year’s Westerner Days.

Sharing the stage with Tim Hicks who also has a set that night, Kissel performs July 16th on the ATB Financial Main Stage. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with showtime at 8:30 p.m.

Kissel will also be returning to Red Deer later this year, when he joins Brad Paisley at the Centrium on Oct. 9th.

He’s excited about both opportunities to connect with fans, and explains how particularly the show with Paisley marks a personal milestone. Kissel met Paisley during a meet-and-greet 10 years ago when he was just 14 years old. Paisley wrote him a message about how some day, Paisley would save him a spot on a tour.

Talk about a dream come true.

“Fast forward 10 years almost to the day, and I’ll be touring with him coast to coast,” he said. “Brad Paisley has been one of my favourite artists for my entire career. So when I got that call, it was hard to keep my feet on the ground and not jump up and down for joy because it’s one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had.”

Originally from Flat Lake, Alberta, Kissel has released two indie albums, sold out countless shows and earned two Canadian Country Music Association Award nominations, becoming its youngest nominee ever. His latest CD, the aforementioned Started With A Song, was released last fall.

Positive response was almost immediate – the video for the debut single reached number one at CMT, he has scored three top 10 radio hits and he headlined a cross-Canada tour.

He also won his first Juno Award – becoming the first country artist to be awarded with Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 17 years.

Started With a Song was co-produced by Kissel with Ted Hewitt and Bart McKay.

“That album changed my life,” he said. “A lot of people that have seen me performing around Alberta know that I have a deep connection with traditional country. So the previous albums I made weren’t necessarily for radio, they were to pay tribute to my roots.”

The plan with Started With A Song was a bit different. He said during production the team wanted to create tunes that would really pop on radio as well. No question they have succeeded.

“The doors have opened up and there have been opportunities I would have never believed coming our way.”

A passion for music was sparked early on. And his folks have pointed out that he’s been an attention-seeker his whole life. “I craved the spotlight. Any opportunity to stand up on the couch and belt out a tune when I was three or four years old, I always took.”

He was given a guitar as seven and it wasn’t long before a gift for making music was very apparent. At 10, he was playing three-chord Johnny Cash songs at talent shows.

“When I was 12 and I got a $50 honourarium to play for a local 4H Club – I realized I could do this for a living,” he chuckled. “Usually it took me two birthdays and a really generous tooth fairy to make $50. And I made that in 20 minutes just playing and singing songs? I was over the moon.”

One thing was for certain – there was no looking back. Kissel said he’s always felt very much at home onstage. “Music is the only thing I’ve every really wanted to do.

“And being onstage is my favourite thing – there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Being able to entertain is the best thing in the world. There is no way to describe that feeling.”

At first, opting for a musician’s life may have caused his parents – both teachers – a few sleepless nights. They were always supportive of his music, but also believed in the practicality of post-secondary education towards a career.

“But the minute I was out of high school, I went straight to a concert – I played a gig in Grande Prairie and I’ve never looked back. I’ve been riding that bus ever since.”

Meanwhile, several tracks on Starting With A Song delve into his experiences and reflections. Country In My Blood was written about the cattle ranch that has been in his family for over a century. Then there is the ballad Together (Grandma and Grandpa’s Song) and Girl In A Cowboy Hat about possible romance.

Recognized as a hard-working family man who is embedded with his fans, Tim Hicks soared into the Top 10 at country radio in less than eight weeks with his first gold single Get By and dominated the digital charts with the number one selling Canadian country single for more than 17 weeks.

Hicks’ second single Hell Raisin’ Good Time rocketed up the charts upon release, and was the number one most added track at Canadian radio overall, and held the number one selling Canadian country digital single for three weeks running – proving to be an unyielding preview of the artistry and music mastery to come on Hicks’ debut CD Throw Down.

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