by Roman Mitz
The success of Canada’s most accomplished songwriters, composers and music publishers is being celebrated at the 29th annual SOCAN Awards on June 18 in downtown Toronto. SOCAN (The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) represents the performing rights of more than 135,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers and collects license fees through a music licensing program. Canadian music legends such as Burton Cummings and Sarah McLachlan will come together to celebrate with contemporary Canadian producers, writers and publishers of rap, country, rock, film & television, jazz, electronic dance, folk-roots, pop, classical and virtually every other genre of music. The show will be hosted by Canada’s hottest male country star Brett Kissel, who says he’s honoured, if slightly nervous, about his appearance.
“I’m really excited obviously as a song writer, but as an entertainer too,” Brett says, calling from Toronto’s Air Canada lounge on a stop from Nashville to Alberta. “It’s a very special show recognizing the great talent that we have in Canada, and how well we’ve done around the world. To be the guy up there telling the stories and taking people on the journey throughout the evening is a very special honour. As a fan of the music first and foremost I’m just excited to be in the building to celebrate the amazing year for Canadian artists. It’s multi-genre and a very true bilingual show given that we’re honouring some of our Francophone artists and composers, so it’s important for me to put my best foot forward and I usually do that through country music. But now, adjusting my stance and not playing something that’s overly country on the show is something very unique and I am a little nervous.”
Brett is alluding to the fact that he will be on stage with electro-pop artist and film composer Steph Copeland who will lead a special orchestral performance. For a guy whose latest single on the Canadian charts is called ‘Guitars & Gasoline’, you might say that he will be somewhat out of his comfort zone.
“I think sometimes you need to have a bit of a risk to open the door to something else that might be very fulfilling and creative for me as an artist,” he says. “I think it’s going to be very cutting edge, what Steph has cooked up and what she’s letting me a part of. It’s actually started me on a move to do more orchestral stuff. I’ve got an event later this year in Banff where I’ll be playing with a philharmonic orchestra and I’m kind of getting addicted to this whole thing. I think country music has always has always had a place for symphony arrangements, especially in previous generations. Just look at Glen Campbell, Ray Price or Kenny Rogers. Who knows, maybe I’ll follow in their footsteps and bring it back.”
Orchestral arrangements notwithstanding, right now Brett is delivering his straight ahead, lean and mean country that’s bringing out fans in droves, including those at his recent shows in Nashville during CMA Fest. Although he’s still a relative newcomer stateside, you would never guess that from the fervent reaction generated by his live performances.
“It was way bigger than I expected,” Brett admits. “As a guy just starting out in the U.S. I’ve got the pedal to the metal right now but it seems it’s still a slow build. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised and inspired by the reaction that I got from the American public for my shows. It was just really re-energizing for myself and my career worldwide. Playing before packed houses at the Hard Rock, Margaritaville and B.B. King’s was really great. To have essentially three sold out shows for a Canadian was a really special thing.”
Now that he’s back on native soil Brett will be taking his We Were That Song tour on its second leg across the country, making Canadian history along the way for the most shows on a music junket. Fortunately for Brett his latest album, for which the tour was named, keeps sprouting singles that will help him sustain his momentum as he goes across the nation.
“We made that album specifically deep so that it could buy me a little extra time to focus on recording my next project, and at the same time have enough singles that we can extensively tour. My love and appreciation for country radio in Canada really has no ceiling. While other artists may have two or three singles in a calendar year I usually get four or five. Guitars & Gasoline is the third single but I think we have a few more left.”
Before he heads out on tour, however, he’s chomping at the bit when it comes to hosting the SOCAN Awards. He’s also eager to take part in what could be a ground breaking symphonic performance with Steph Copeland that may play a role in shaping his future musical direction. Who knows? Maybe once renovations are completed on Toronto’s storied music venue Massey Hall in two years’ time, Brett will launch the reopening with a symphonic performance.
“If that happens I promise you not only will I get you tickets, we’ll pop some champagne in order to celebrate. I would love nothing more than for that to become a reality.”