Brett Kissel ~ South, East, North & West ~ Find your direction.

One week ago Brett was in Truro for his second sold out show in a row at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre. Both shows were unreal. The energy not only from Brett & his band but the crowd .

Brett was very thankful to be back in Nova Scotia and back on stage. He said “this is exactly what we missed, we didn’t know if we would ever get to be back on stage; frontline workers, you kept this country going.” He added “I can’t believe how lucky I am, how lucky we are to make up for lost time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and this is family.”

Brett told us the day Nova Scotia opened up to the rest of the world I got on a plane that day, Kevin picked him up at the airport and they went straight to Peggy’s Cove.

Brett told me the day before the show when we had a phone interview a secret… He said he invited Heather Rankin to join him at both shows to sing a few of his favourite Rankin Family songs. The crowd went wild, it was absolutely incredible and the entire venue was singing and dancing along to every all night.

Here is my interview with Brett – he has so much exciting things happening, it was great catching up with him. Make sure to go follow him on his social media along with Apple Music or Spotify. (Links below).

Jenn: Can you tell me a bit about your journey to creating the Compass Project and your inspiration behind it?

Brett: to look back now it is 10 years in the making. I always wanted to do a box set, I always wanted to do a project that can really cast a wide net that with all of the great genres, the sub genres of country music but I didn’t know how to do it so finally, finally I realized that my internal compass has been such a great guiding light for me and so calling it the compass project had a very special and personal tie and then I love acoustic music. The singer, songwriter stuff that you would hear at the Bluebird Cafe, just a guy and his guitar and lyric and melody and that’s it. How do you make an album like that? I also love purely country, I’m talking real western, tradition country music but should I make an album of just that? Then I always wanted to do a live album but why would I do all those things when really my team says you need to focus on the hits man, focus on what’s big going on in Nashville but then when I realized hold it what if I put all of this together in one big project, then all of a sudden that light bulb went on and I’m like ok I think I’m on to something here. 

Brett: The production value of the East album is unlike anything I’ve every done and I think it’s perfection, I’m so proud of my producers who are my band members too, Justin Kudding he is my musical director and Spencer Cheyne. So these guys, we won Juno’s together, we won CCMA’s together, and I think they are the best kept secret in Canada. So I when I said hey I want you guys to do the East album for me, our approach was so amazing, unlike anything I’ve ever done, all about zen, all about intention, finding the right sounds, instrumentation, guitars, it was not a commercial project where we were chasing a hit. We were totally in the zone to make really, really meaningful music and because when we started doing that the East was sounding so good, I actually took that approach setting the intention and being very very particular with the choices that I made, we actually took a lot of those ideas back into the South as we re-recorded some songs to essentially make them better because the East was so strong and so meaningful.

Jenn: I heard you are opening for Tim McGraw in July! How does that feel? What are some other goals you have on your vision board?

Brett: It is amazing to look at the list of the extraordinary acts I’ve been able to either tour with or open for, a few summers ago I got to open for Brooks & Dunn and that was amazing but even more special now is the fact when you put it on your list of goals, on the bucket list or vision board whatever everybody else has. I got them all, I even have a dream journal of all of these crazy dreams that I intend to achieve and Tim McGraw was just something that kept coming up over the last year and how much I love his music. I met him briefly in Nashville at an event with my sister in law, it was called a concert for love and acceptance and my sister in law who came out, she and I walked the red carpet and we were like “holy shit, Tim and Faith are right beside us”. We had such a great, brief conversation which I don’t know if Tim would recall but anyway kind of from that moment I was like “man this guy is so cool, he’s cooler than everybody else in country music, he is the coolest, man I would love to do some work with him; I’d love to open for him”. I just kept writing that down and when I got the call from my agent that said hey, there was another artist that ended up backing out at this festival and they were like they want you to fill in, do you think you can do it, I know it’s short notice. I’m like “that’s the stupidest question I ever heard in my life”, is it okay, do you think you can open for Tim McGraw; I look at my agent on the zoom call and I’m like uuhhhh YEAH, like why are you even asking me permission, like you should have confirmed it already!!! I can’t believe it, that was a round about way, I talk too much basically “are you excited to open for Tim McGraw and the answer is YES absolutely! 

Jenn: What are some other goals you have on your vision board?

Brett: A lot of it has to do with venues and places I want to play. I really want to consistently play at the Grand Ole Opry, I’ve been very lucky and played about 14 times but I’d love to do it at least a few times a year, that’s a really important thing for me because it’s such an extraordinary venue. I really want to play the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, I’ve done a lot of stuff with the Canadian Finals Rodeo but I just really want to do something with the NFR one day and the biggest thing is International play. I look at opportunities in London and I look at opportunities in Ireland, all of those things cause country music is just getting so big around the world that I feel that my brand of country music would really do well and everybody loves Canadians – so let’s go there! We are working on a lot of really cool things my next 3- 5 years in country music. 

Jenn: With not being able to tour the last couple years with the pandemic, What are your future plans with touring?

Brett: I was very very lucky that during the shut downs and lockdowns we did figure out a way. When we did our drive in shows, especially out west and we did a few in Ontario that were very successful that at least gave me the opportunity to still play live in a unique setting. A way that I never want to do it again, not in a negative way but because that means we are in a lockdown. I’m very grateful for those opportunities. As we plan a new tour, the reason why I am bringing this all up is because we were looking back at the last time we really went out and played that many shows was when we did a drive in tour and we loved that but it wasn’t the same. As we sit down as a team and plan the next tour, there is more excitement then I ever had in my career and my band feels it too. These guys and I have been across Canada 50 times, we have been to every province, every territory umpteen times and yet this time around in 2023 we are more excited about the venues, about getting on the bus, about you know hauling gear in the semi truck, we are more excited now. It’s like it’s brand new, so yes we are touring. We are going to announce sporadically where we are playing but the fall of 2023 and spring 2024 we are going coast to coast, like up to the Arctic as well. 

Jenn: We know how much you love the East Coast, what is one thing you love about Nova Scotia?

Brett: It is a very very long list. A lot of it has to do with like I would say food, drink, people and places. Food and drink it’s spots like the Press Gang, which is one of my favourite restaurants in the whole world that is just downtown Halifax, we are going for a big dinner there tonight, we rented out the whole restaurant, it’s going to be awesome, my bass player Justin Kudding, it’s his birthday. I eat at the Press Gang probably 3 or 4 times a year. I just love it, Oysters I’m addicted to them. Casanova use to eat 50 of them every morning to start his day, I’m like he ain’t got nothing on me. I had a record I ate 126 oysters in Newfoundland last summer. The wine scene in Nova Scotia is really gaining in popularity, I’m actually considering investing in a winery right now out in the Annapolis Valley and a brewery there. Then people, I have a lot of great friends here, my tour manager who just retired from the road but still one of my best friends, he lives out in Great Village area, so I love spending time with him and all his buddies. And the shed parties, once you experience a shed party- I use to think Albertans knew how to throw down on a Friday night and it’s literally like Jimmy Rankin’s and the Rankin Family’s mull river shuffle , it’s like Johnny MacMaster’s place Friday night, half way through a bottle of moonshine, yup that’s my kind of people. And then places I took my daughters last summer, we have four kids as you know but I just took daddy/daughter date and came out here to Nova Scotia and went out to Pugwash and went to the beach. Spent the day on the beach in the Northumberland Strait and I can see us having a cottage right here.  Food, drink, people and places- Nova Scotia has it all. 

Brett: We always talk about social media and following me on social media but now you can follow my music, actively follow or like me on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon. That is really great because when we have so much content, I’m going to talk about it on social media but if you really want to hear it follow me on those music platforms.