Fri, Feb 28, 2014.
You can't blame Brett Kissel for being in a great mood these days. The 23-year old break-out country singer from rural Alberta is not only climbing the charts with radio hits, but raking in major nominations as well. Although he's been making albums since he was 12 years old, Kissel considers his new album, Started With A Song to be his true debut, his first since signing with Warner Music in a national deal. The partnership has paid off, with two Top Ten singles, the title cut and Raise Your Glass, plus a third, 3-2-1, now blazing away. Add to that the recent honours he's received, two Juno Award nominations, for Breakthrough Artist, and Country Album of the Year.
Now comes the topper. Earlier this week it was announced that Kissel would be performing on the TV broadcast of the Juno Gala as well. Calling in from his bus, on the latest leg of the Young Guns tour that's taken him across the country and back, Kissel admits he didn't see that coming. "I can't believe it, they haven't had country (performances) on the show in many years, so to be one of the guys that helps do that, it's amazing. I'm very surprised and honoured. The performance is probably the biggest thing, even more than the nominations."
Kissel loves to play, that's why. So far he's enjoying the touring life, even with the inevitable bus break-downs and ridiculously long drives from gig to gig. But it's worth it for what has been waiting at the end of the drive. "We're selling out some of these really great clubs, 500 - 1000 seats, so it shows we're connecting with people. I'm really liking it, and I'm learning a lot. It feels like I've been training for this for years. It feels like I was playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs, having a great time, but then getting called up to the NHL."
He's also enjoying meeting his new fans across the country. And that means every last one of them who wants to talk. "One of my favourite parts of the show is after we finish, we wrap up and go right to the autograph line. That was one of the things that used to bother me as a fan, I would go see somebody and stand in line for an autograph, and then I'd wait and wait and they'd finally come out for 20 minutes, and the line would get cut off just before me! I didn't want to do that, I want people to be happy, and I want to meet and talk to everybody." He says that's part of what he learned from watching an earlier generation of Canadian country stars, who acted very differently from their U.S. counterparts. "I learned more from watching guys like Paul Brandt, George Fox, Charlie Major, because I saw them, I met them, and I took a lot from how they acted, and the unique perspective they brought to it. I think those guys were very humble. When you're from Canada, that politeness and humble attitude is just part of it. Even when you look at the big stars who've made it internationally, like Michael Buble and Anne Murray, that's the way they still are."
Kissel and his band roll into New Brunswick for two shows next week, at the iRock in Moncton on Friday, March 7, and the iRock in Fredericton,Saturday, March 8.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).