When you come from a place called Flat Lake, Alberta, it’s pretty tough to get noticed. For Brett Kissel, it’s pretty tough to be ignored.
The 24-year-old singer/songwriter has been THE country music story of 2014 – recently winning 2 awards at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards – for “CMT Video of the Year” and “Interactive Artist of the Year”, after recording 8 nominations. Brett also took home a Canadian Radio Music Award – for Breakthrough Artist of the Year in Country Music, on top of 2 Association of Country Music in Alberta awards, and 2 Edmonton Music Awards. With countless sold out shows across North America, Kissel was primed for his major label debut album through Warner Music Canada, Started With A Song, released late last year.
Even before the album’s release, Kissel had already made radio history. With more than 93% of Canadian Country stations adding the first single “Started With A Song,” the track eclipsed the record for most adds at Canadian Country radio in one week, a record previously held by Taylor Swift. Since the album’s release, Brett has become the talk of Canadian country music. He has seen 2 of his music videos reach No. 1 at CMT, he has scored three top 10 radio hits, and he headlined a cross-Canada tour. To top it all off, Brett won his first Juno Award – becoming the first country artist to be awarded with Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 17 years.
The album, co-produced by Kissel with Ted Hewitt (Rodney Atkins), Ben Phillips (Blake Shelton) and CCMA Award-winner Bart McKay, is an exhilarating collection of music that can be best described as the New Wave of Old Country: each song a slice of real-life sentiment; emotional touchstones that run the gamut of highs and lows and explore such subjects as deep love, trying moments and poignant reflection, measured out by party anthems and a sense that something special is happening here.
Listening to the rousingly playful title track “Started With A Song”, the invigoratingly catchy “3-2-1” and the modern country gem “Something You Just Don’t Forget,” it is no wonder why Bob Doyle, the manager behind Garth Brooks, proceeded to sign Brett to a co-management and publishing deal upon meeting him in Nashville.
Kissel makes it clear how personal these songs really are with tracks like “Country In My Blood” – written about the Alberta cattle ranch that has been in his family for over a century – the poignant true-life tale of his grandparents in the moving ballad “Together (Grandma and Grandpa’s Song)” and “Girl In A Cowboy Hat,” an upbeat song about potential romance.
During the summer touring season, Kissel headlined Canada’s largest country music festival – Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta. After a late set and a long autograph line, he returned home to the ranch at 3 a.m. At 6:45 a.m. there was a knock on his bedroom door. It was his grandfather (“who we affectionately call Grandpa Bear”).
“I said, ‘Grandpa, I’d really like to sleep in. I just played Big Valley Jamboree last night and I’ve only had two hours of sleep.’ And he said, ‘Wake up, because you’re no country star on the farm!’
Kissel realized at that moment, “My Grandpa was right. No matter what I do, even if it’s playing in front of 25,000 people, once I get home, work needs to get done. It doesn’t matter who I am onstage.”
It’s a much different kind of work when he hits the road, which he does often. An energetic and electrifying performer, Kissel plays upwards of 150 shows a year.
His parents remind him 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 3 or 4 years old, I always took.”
When his grandmother bought him a Sears-catalogue guitar just before his 7th birthday, Kissel’s fate was sealed.
“It was this deep-rooted passion inside of me. When I was 10 years old, I was playing three-chord Johnny Cash songs at talent shows, but singing them two octaves higher than his deep baritone voice.
“When I was 12 and I got a $50 honorarium to play for a local 4H club – I realized I could do this for a living,” he chuckles. “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.”
Kissel continued to perform at various agrarian events and celebrations, even being paid for one concert with a pure bred bull.
Influenced by the likes of Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Buck Owens and George Strait, Brett Kissel is still very much his own man: a dynamic, charismatic performer, singer and songwriter and ready to make an imposing impression on the global country music scene with Started With A Song.
“I write and record music that’s true to myself, about experiences that I’ve had in my young age,” Kissel declares, “and it’s my hope that the fans and all the people listening are either touched by it or can escape wherever they need to escape from for three-and-a-half minutes.
“I’ve been working on these songs for three years, and cannot wait to begin making new fans by playing around the world.”
When he finally reaches that goal – and you know that Brett Kissel has the confidence, determination and talent to pull it off – remember, of course, that it all Started With A Song.