Interview: Brett Kissel’s New ‘What Is Life?’ Album to Reflect Right Here, Right Now
Brett Kissel believes we've just started a new era of country music, one that will be well-documented by historians in the decades to come. Concert anthems that call for waving a lighter in the air, or the kind of communal dancing we were once used to are on timeout. Hits like Luke Bryan's "Country Girl" or Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" just won't get written and recorded in 2021.
“Without question, we’re going to hear a different era," the CCMA and Juno Award-winning singer says.
"Worldwide history during the pandemic has forced the creators like me, like Thomas Rhett, like Brothers Osborne, like Maren Morris, to write songs about what we’re going through right now. Because country music, for forever and forever, will be the music of the people. We’re not here to distract, we're here to tell the story."
"Music is not about the money," Kissel says. OK, that's a little cliche, but hear him out.
"You could play music and make good money, in the olden days, pre-COVID. Whereas now music needs to do what music has always done: Bring people together safely, tell the story, distract from the real challenges going on in the world right now. And that’s what I wanna do and not focus on profit. Have as much covered by sponsorship as I possibly can, or throw my own money in the hat to go out and do this and make sure my band and my crew is paid, but me the artist ... [shakes head] It's not going to be about making money for years, in my opinion."
Side hustles, Kissel says, are becoming priority hustles, but this works for him because he's the king of side hustles. Every independent artist needs to be, sure, but this singer and his wife are developing an enterprise. Last year during CRS Kissel told Taste of Country about their blog and Keeping It Kissel lifestyle brand. This year he was proud of a new vodka brand called Deuce Vodka. Sales, and marketing are his area of expertise here — no, he's not out there farming the potatoes, but he says he's the company's best taste tester. The pandemic hobby-turned-micro-business kept him sharp when a desire to play music just wasn't there after the world shut down.
Late 2020 and early 2021 brought creative days, but, "It didn’t start off that way," he says from his home office in Edmonton. "I was pretty blue, that’s for sure."
In fact, six months passed before Kissel picked up a guitar to write music. Once he did, the songs came pouring out of him. You'll hear the experiences across his new studio album, the follow-up to Now or Never (2020). Like all of us, he felt the weight of the pandemic in a personal unique way. The 30-year-old even had FOMO.
“I was looking at my peers and my heroes in the business, guys like Thomas Rhett who were on Instagram, like 'I wrote this song today, I wrote this song today, I wrote this song today,'" he recalls. "I'm thinking to myself, 'I just don't have that creative spirit in me.'”
On April 9, fans will truly find out if that creative spirit has come back for Kissel and what that sounds like. It certainly won't be the same.