Brett Kissel’s latest tour is coming through the Okanagan as the country singer taps into the full spectrum of his favourite genre.
His latest work is the Compass Project, which will consist of four albums. The third installment – the West Album – just came out Nov. 3.
“For me it was really just a self reflection,” Kissel said. “I realized, holy Toledo there’s all these sub-genres of country music that I love.”
While capturing the many flavours of country, the Compass Project is also a reflection of his personal struggles – like persevering as a farmer through generations of red tape and corporate interests; facing a schism in his family over greed; and leaving the rural Prairies for Nashville to pursue his dream of becoming a musician.
“Each song is a real piece of me,” he said, admitting that may sound cliche. “But this is a side of me that nobody’s really seen.”
Rounding out the Compass Project will be the North Album, East Album, South Album, and his latest release the West Album. Fans and music lovers can listen on Spotify.
The recently-released West Album is about growing up on a Prairie ranch. One of the tracks is called Oil and Cattle.
When Kissel was a teenager in rural Alberta, having dreams of making it as a professional musician in the big city, he never thought he’d want to move back to Flat Lake, Alta.
But although he succeeded as a country singer, he eventually realized how important that ranch is to him and has since purchased the property from his grandparents. Albeit, he still owns a home in Nashville.
Kissel released four albums between 2003 and 2008, and achieved mainstream success with his fifth album in 2013.
He remembers the first time he heard his first hit, Started With A Song, on the radio while driving in Winnipeg.
“To be in a different province, hearing my song getting played on the airwaves, that’s when I felt like I made it. It was like being a hockey player stepping out onto ice for my first NHL game.”
By that point in his career he was married. When asked what it was like achieving commercial success as a family man in the music industry – which is rife with drugs and attractive women – Kissel said those things are out of sync with his goals of being a great dad, husband and musician.
He gives credit to his parents and grandparents for instilling values that helped him navigate the “extraordinary distractions” that are part of the scene, and the mentors who warned him about what to expect.
“I’m grateful I have fans that love me. There have been some wild times and offers, but none of that is real, it’s all superficial.”
Kissel clarified that he still enjoys letting loose from time to time, saying he’s excited to celebrate when the Edmonton Oilers win their next Stanley Cup.
And singing about beer is a big part of his job. In 2019, he released one of his most popular songs, Make A Life, Not A Living, which includes the lyrics “Girl in my hand, the other one drinkin’ that Bud Light.” Earlier in 2023, consumers of Bud Light – who largely identify as blue-collared folks – became upset by the company’s decision to hire a trans influencer to promote the brand.
Kissel said he doesn’t give a sh-t about the situation. Some fans who were “really upset” asked him to change the lyrics but he’s proud of the song the way it is.
However, he is willing to change things up – just not in response to a cultural backlash. Kissel’s uncle’s favourite brand is Busch Lite, so while performing at his 50th birthday party, he sang “Girl in my hand, the other one drinkin’ that Busch Light.”
And during a concert sponsored by Coors Light, he was happy to change the lyric again that night.
Bud Light will be for sale at the Venables Theatre in Oliver when Kissel performs there on Saturday, Nov. 25. But anyone who prefers to support local can drink craft beer from the Firehall Brewery. Single tickets are still available for $64.50 and $85. They can be purchased online at: venablestheatre.ca.
Kissel also plays Nov. 24 in Kelowna.
Dan Walton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Penticton Herald