by Scott Roos
“You can't connect on a zoom call. You really can't. You can't connect on facebook live,” remarked Canadian country music sensation Brett Kissel in a recent conversation with NSMZ.
Kissel has clearly missed his lack of direct connection to his fans throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and it's a truly legit sentiment in spite of his status and stature within the Canadian music scene. Like most other artists, Kissel was able to get creative and still continue to perform, including being a pioneer of the drive-in shows in Canada, but it just wasn’t the same.
“We did 24 (drive in) shows across Canada, raised over a quarter of a million dollars for charity in doing so. However, that was to windshields. Playing to windshields and honking horns was an extraordinary experience, one that I'll never forget, but still it was not real people,” Kissel continued. Real people, to Kissel, can be defined clearly as those in close physical proximity. In other words, the ability to reach out and touch and spend time with at a distance less than six feet apart. Drive-in concerts filled a much needed void when COVID protocols dictated the necessity but now Kissel is ready to reconnect with his audiences in full force.
During the pandemic, Kissel also worked through new material including his 2021 Juno winning full length ("Country Album of the Year") entitled What Is Life . It’s an introspective record in which Kissel examines several themes surrounding the meaning of life and the importance of family and friends. But even as Kissel was turning inward, he was still writing big, bold, radio friendly singles like “Make a Life Not a Living” and “Night in the Life”. Kissel, over the last five years, has been slowly building to a “leveling up” of his musical credibility and using this and other recently released material to help launch an arena style tour. He’ll be looking to play much of this newer material when he comes to Prince Albert’s Art Hauser Centre on Friday, June 3rd.
“It's time for me to graduate to the arena level and knowing that P.A. has not had a lot of live entertainment in the (Art Hauser) Arena (since the pandemic began) - that's why we wanted to come there. That's why we wanted to throw a giant party as a kind of a dark cloud has lifted up off of Canada right now (with the loosening of the COVID restrictions),” stated Kissel.
Of course, right now Kissel is in the midst a new album release cycle starting with one of the lead-off singles “Ain’t the Same” that features late 90's boy band stalwarts 98 Degrees. The release date for the new record is yet to be determined, but the promotional juggernaut has begun. Kissel enjoyed his time working with 98 Degrees on this ambitious collaboration.
"I've certainly become a boy band guy,” mused Kissel of working with his dreamy counterparts, “You spend a minute with Nick Lachey and you wind up getting lost in his eyes (laughs) like everybody else. It was the most special collaboration for me. (98 Degrees) are celebrating their 25th anniversary in the business, they've only done duets or collaborations with two other artists and that's Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder and there's a guy from Flatland, Alberta called Brett Kissel. So I'm in an esteemed company. I'm pretty grateful for that,” Kissel said.
Kissel had been waiting for the right moment to record and release “Ain’t the Same”. In terms of 98 Degrees involvement, it was a simple case of both artist’s camps being in the right place at the right time.
“I didn't know what this song could become until my manager Jim Cressman, who is very close to the 98 degrees camp and especially Jeff Timmons one of the singers in 98 Degrees (made a phone call). Jim had sent this song to Jeff and said ‘what do you think’ and Jeff instantly loved it and in a matter of moments, literally moments, Jeff was with the band, they all heard it, they all approved it, they went into the studio and they just recorded their version of it. As you hear the song right now that is how their demo came back to me. So their level of professionalism and their excitement for the song was really really special,” said Kissel.
Now that the collab with 98 Degrees has happened, Kissel also has a bucket list of A listers that he'd like to work with in the future. Hopefully one or more of these will be able to happen as Kissel continues his upward trajectory on the music industry ladder.
"I've got (a list of artists I'd like to work with in the future) on a vision board. One of these days I'd love to do something with George Strait. One of these days I'd love to do something in terms of recording with Garth Brooks. I'm hoping to get a chance to work with Dolly Parton one day whether it be on stage for five minutes or we actually go in the studio and we create something amazing. I really want to do something with her one day. Another thing in terms of Saskatchewan: I've been a big fan for a long time of Colter Wall's so I'm also hoping maybe one of these days this Alberta cowboy can get together with the Saskatchewan cowboy and we can write song or do something together. You never know,`` mused Kissel
Tickets for Kissel’s Prince Albert show have been for sale since March 25th and can be purchased at SaskTix.ca. Platinum selling, CCMA Award winner Jade Eagleson will join as a very special guest. The concert will take place at the Art Hauser Centre on June 3rd.