Brett Kissel Wraps Record-Breaking Canadian Trek

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Ben Dartnell
Brett Kissel performing on ‘We Were That Song’ tour.

The "We Were That Song" singer played 112 shows in every province and territory across Canada.

Country singer Brett Kissel can finally stop and take a breather.

The "Airwaves" singer is enjoying a break in Hawaii after a whirl-wind tour spending ten months in 2018 performing 112 shows in the Maple Leaf nation, hitting every province, territory and major city in his home country, with a number of dates promoted by agent Jim Cressman of Invictus Entertainment in partnership with Kissel. 

Kissel, a father of two and a Junos and Canadian Country Music Awards winner was touring in support of his album and breakout single "We Were That Song" on Warner Music Canada. A native of Flat Lake, Alberta, Kissel grew up on a cattle ranch and got his start opening for Danny Hooper during a school fundraiser in St. Paul, Alberta. He went viral last year when the sound went out during the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner" before a Edmonton Oilers playoff game and Brett got the entire crowd to sing in unison. Last year he opened for Garth Brooks' tour across the country and has already announced plans to perform the Big Valley Jamboree in Alberta next year.

Earlier this year Mediabase revealed that Kissel was the highest played Canadian Artist on country radio and now Billboard has caught up with Kissel, while he and his wife and two kids enjoyed a little down time in Maui, to discuss his marathon journey and what he learned spending most of the year on the road.

You were on tour for nearly ten months this year. How do you travel that much with a three-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old at home?

I took them with me -- it's something that my wife and I have always tried to make a part of our life, integrating our family into our music life and integrating music into our family life. I'm really thankful that my wife has bought into that system and has been such a saint on the road with our two daughters, who really thrived on tour. They had the best time. We had the best time. And to see all of Canada in that way with my family was such a blessing. It was without question the best year of my life.

The tour is in support of "We Were That Song," which has a truly epic video, both in terms of your live show being featured and the forlorn couple in search of a resolution to their broken romance. How did the video come together?

The couple in the video are really good friends of ours and the first couple that I've ever heard of that created a new last name by legally changing both their names — his last name was Koper, her last name Pedersen. So now their last name is Kopersen. Anyways, we're at my friend's wedding in Calgary, we're having a great time and my wife and I were talking about the song, which was gonna be our first single. I had this concept for the video, but the only way we can do it is if we had a real couple. And then we were just drunk enough to say, "you guys should fly to Toronto and be in the video." So the next day we left the wedding and flew to Toronto to film the video and we thought that they did a terrific job selling the story and the concept of the song of finding love, losing love, and then getting back together. It was nominated for Video of the Year at the Junos and was a really, great way to kick off album number three and the biggest tour of my life. 

How long have you wanted to play this type of large Canadian tour?

It's something I've wanted to do for a while. The biggest thing was to go out and reach the people who follow me on social media — it is such an incredible tool. And I think a lot of Canadian artists see Americans announce a Canadian tour that will go from Vancouver to Toronto and play like six, seven shows. And then that's it. There are so many other small towns, other provinces and the Northern Territory in the Arctic that make up Canada. I wanted to put my money where my mouth was and do it up right. I know the show we offer fans and I know the type of experience that our fans are going to have when they come to our show and I want to make sure I took that to places that had never seen a show like that before. We started the tour doing 60 shows, which is a record in Canada for country music. Then I got the bug again and said “let's actually do the biggest tour in Canadian music." So we shattered the record and we did 112 shows in one year.

One of the stops you made on the tour was Humboldt, Saskatchewan a few months after a terrible bus accident that killed 16 junior hockey players. You made a point of honoring the victims during your show — what was that like for you?

I try to make my shows a healthy and positive distraction from the day to day life, and in this case, a tragedy that a lot of people are feeling. Every single person was affected in that community and the surrounding area. We had always planned to go to Humboldt and booked the tour before the bus accident, but we went there with a different frame of mind and I think it was an extremely special show. We actually did two sold out shows back to back on a Monday and Tuesday in November. And I'm really proud that we did that. It was an incredible night of music and healing and camaraderie.

What else stood out on the tour?

We played Dawson City in the Yukon at the oldest theater in Canada. It was built in the late 1800s and it felt like a wild west movie. Dawson City maybe has 1,000 people in it I felt like Elvis at that show. People knew when we arrived. They knew in the airport, they knew in the one hotel downtown, and it was an amazing experience. And what was supposed to be a 60-minute concert ended up being a three-hour show because people just weren't gonna let us go. We went to the casino that night and had a party. It’s the oldest casino in North America called Diamond Tooth Gerties — it's like a small community hall with wood floors and cancan dancers and three blackjack tables. They had us drink one of their famous Sour Toe cocktails which was invented like a hundred years ago. Basically there was a frostbitten toe severed from the foot that was kept in an alcoholic brine back in the day. And one old miner drank that brine by accident in a drunken state. Now they actually put real toes severed from real people in your cocktail and you have to drink it and let the toe touch your lips. It's the most horrendous yet amazing thing I've done on this tour.

Did you achieve what you sought out to achieve?

Yes. Ofcourse there were shows we did that we knew we would lose money on but it was the right thing to do for the context of this tour and for the goal that I had. It was a small investment to have such large return and really accomplish what we set out to do, which was the reach and the experience. I was able to travel across Canada with my family. We sold over 100,000 tickets. We had an incredible journey and all of these amazing adventures. It was the perfect tour and it was the most incredible experience I've ever had in my life.

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