Singer with eight CCMA nominations kicks off Boots & Hearts Festival Thursday night
Music, Published on Wed Jul 30 2014
When Canadian country star Brett Kissel hits the road for a nationwide tour with headliner Brad Paisley in October, the eight-time Canadian Country Music Award nominee will be financing the trek by selling a few of his cows.
The 23-year-old Kissel, who was raised on a 100-year-old cattle ranch in Flat Lake, Alta., about two-and-a-half hours outside Edmonton, reveals he was once paid for a concert by cow instead of cash, a newer breed called Speckle Park.
“All my cows calved out, so the herd has increased from 30 to 60 since then,” Kissel explained yesterday from a Calgary recording studio, where he’s working on new material.
“There’s a plan for us to keep what’s called a ‘replacement heifer’ so you keep your heifers, which are female, to increase the herd, and you sell the steers and make some money on that.
“The good news is that a few of those steers I’m going to sell are going to help fund my participation on the Brad Paisley tour.”
Before he hits the road with Paisley, however, Kissel appears at the Thursday night opening blast-off of this long weekend’s Boots & Hearts Festival in nearby Bowmanville, warming up for fellow Canuck Dallas Smith.
And although the fest is headlined by such veteran acts as Toby Keith, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Kissel isn’t intimidated. He says he and the former singer for rock band Default plan to give the country greats a run for their money.
Kissel says the homegrown stars are quite capable of kicking butt onstage.
“Dallas Smith and I are performing the show together and, even though he’s the headliner and I’m opening, we both have the same collective goal: we are there to play the kickoff party and we are there to set the bar very high for the rest of the weekend. We want to make sure we put our foot on the gas pedal and don’t let it off.”
The “gas pedal” reference could apply to Kissel’s career. The public largely knows him through his debut album, Started With a Song, the energetic hits “Started With a Song,” “Raise Your Glass,” “3-2-1” and “Tough People Do,” and winning a Juno Award in March for Breakthrough Artist of the Year, but he first picked up the guitar at age seven, performing Johnny Cash covers at talent shows at the age of 10 and releasing his first album at 13.
Before he signed with Warner Music Canada, Kissel’s independent album sales were each in the five figures and he had headlined Canada’s largest country music festival, The Big Valley Jamboree, in Camrose, Alta.
He also had the distinction, at the age of 15, of being the youngest ever CCMA Award nominee, for Rising Star. So you can imagine his excitement at being nominated for eight CCMA Awards this year. He’ll be in Edmonton on Sept. 7 to hopefully hear his name called.
“There’s no better feeling really, because a lot of hard work has gone into my career in general over the last few years,” says Kissel, who is co-managed by Bob Doyle, Garth Brooks’ manager.
“It’s great to feel this recognition, but in some ways it doesn’t even feel real because it’s a pretty outstanding feeling to get eight of them. We expected maybe one or two. To quadruple my expectations is remarkable.”
Aside from the usual nods for Male Artist, Single and Songwriter (for “Started With a Song”), and Album, one award that Kissel is curiously up for is Interactive Artist of the Year.
He says that his social media activity is one of the more important aspects of his career.
“In this day and age, it’s one of the most important factors to determine success,” Kissel notes. “I now have a direct link to 25,000 people who follow me because they’re interested in what I’m doing, whether I’m hanging out on the farm with the cows or I’m out on the road with my Young Guns tour. These are the people that care about me and it’s important for me to show them that I care about them back.
“Whether they’re confiding in me about a tough time that they’re going through or they’re expressing their excitement about coming out to Boots & Hearts, for example, it’s just important for me to engage. I know the feeling I get when Brad Paisley or George Strait will tweet me back, and say, ‘Thanks, Brett, for the comment.’ I still get giddy myself.”
But whether he wins or loses, Kissel is hoping for one thing at the telecast: good seats.
“The first year I attended the CCMAs was over in Edmonton 10 years ago and I swear I had second-to-last-row seating with my mom,” he says. “Fast forward 10 years and I hope I’m somewhere close to the front row. At least if I have some good seats, I’ll be happy.”