There must be something in the kick drum drumming, there must be something in the guitar strumming.”
It’s tempting to describe the chorus of Brett Kissel’s latest smash single, “Airwaves,” as what’s gotten him to this point, but that barely scratches the surface of the artistic growth Kissel displays on his new album, Pick Me Up. The pride of Flat Lake, Alberta has already reached a place very few other Canadian country music artists have attained, but defying the odds has been Kissel’s mission his entire life, the result of a tireless work ethic instilled while growing up on his family’s farm. Following the incredible success of his 2013 major label debut, Started With A Song, Pick Me Up shows that, like a thoroughbred just out of the gate, Kissel is hitting his stride.
For the new album, Kissel once again teamed up with CCMA Award-winner Bart McKay, as well as one of country music’s premier producers Mickey Jack Cones (Jason Aldean, Trace Adkins). The common thread was not an attempt to replicate the success of its predecessor, but to have the results reflect Kissel’s unstoppable drive to make his music bigger and better.
“There’s no other place I prefer to be than on stage,” Kissel says. “With all of the shows we did for the last album, we were totally prepared as a band when we went into the studio to cut the new material, and determined to exceed the fans’ expectations. Looking back, I might have been preparing for it even while we were finishing the last album, knowing that the next one needed to have more energy.”
It’s clear that rationale was behind the choice of “Airwaves” to be Pick Me Up’s first single, as the song established itself as a fan favourite after only a few live outings. Building on that kind of feedback from his audience has always been important to Kissel, and he takes a lot of pride in being one of the most active Canadian country artists on social media. It’s all fuelled his efforts to expand and enhance his live show, something that kicked into high gear once he hit the road in the fall of 2014 as special guest on multiple Grammy & CMA award winner Brad Paisley’s cross-Canada tour. Channeling that joyous experience into Pick Me Up became job one.
At the same time, Pick Me Up displays how far Kissel has come as a singer and songwriter, most evident on tracks such as “I Didn’t Fall In Love With Your Hair,” a tribute to his mother, a multiple cancer survivor, as well as “I Can Play Guitar,” containing playful insights of life on the Brad Paisley tour, and “Come Pick Me Up,” a poignant rumination on a failed relationship. A desire to present these varied facets of his life played a big role in choosing the material for the new album, Kissel explains.
“I really want everyone who buys one of my records to feel as if they’re getting a piece of me at that moment. I’m very fortunate to be a 25-year-old guy touring the world, but at heart I’m still the same kid who grew up in an amazing family on a cattle ranch in Alberta, and going though a lot of the same things my listeners are. To try to get all of that on to one record is always a pleasant challenge.”
After the year Kissel had in the wake of the success of Started With A Song, no one could be blamed for kicking off their boots, cracking a cold one or two, and imagining things couldn’t get any better. But coasting on his accomplishments has never been part of Kissel’s makeup.
The numbers say it all, however: His JUNO Award for Breakthrough Artist marked the first time in 17 years a country act earned the honour. That accolade seemed a lock for Kissel, despite some stiff competition, as it came on the heels of five Billboard Canada Top 10 singles from his major label debut album, Started With A Song. And that’s not to mention his staggering eight Canadian Country Music Association Award nominations, of which he won two.
It was the fulfillment of the dream Kissel has had from the moment he received his first guitar at age six. At 12, he released his first album and took his first trip to Nashville soon after. Many, many, many more trips later, Kissel and his wife settled in Music City, and suddenly the notion of being accepted by the country music establishment was within reach. Kissel’s debut on the Grand Ole Opry in the summer of 2015 brought that into even sharper focus.
“Getting a chance to spend time with Brad Paisley, George Strait and Garth Brooks—my heroes —and having them be so kind and generous, has been one of the best experiences of my life,” Kissel says. “I’m trying hard not to take it all for granted, but soak it all in and learn as much as I can. It really does feel like a big family here.”
Kissel is indeed adding his unique artistic perspective to the rich musical tradition that has inspired and sustained him for as long as he can remember. On Pick Me Up, there is no disputing he now belongs to that tradition and will continue adding to it for years to come.
Texas native and Nashville-based singer/songwriter, Kacey Musgraves’ first two releases with Mercury Records Nashville, Same Trailer Different Park in 2013 and Pageant Material in 2015, both co-produced by Musgraves, Shane McAnally and Luke Laird, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums Chart and were met with massive critical acclaim and recognition. Musgraves has won two Grammy Awards for Best Country Song (“Merry Go ‘Round”) and Best Country Album (Same Trailer Different Park), and also took home awards for New Artist of the Year at 2013’s CMA Awards, the ACM Award for Album of the Year (Same Trailer Different Park), and the 2014 CMA Award for Song of the Year (“Follow Your Arrow”).
Musgraves releases her first holiday album, A Very Kacey Christmas, Featuring Leon Bridges, Willie Nelson & The Quebe Sisters in Oct 2016, giving the season four festive original tracks co-written by Musgraves in addition to her take on eight holiday favorites.
The Kacey Musgraves Country & Western Rhinestone Revue has sold out famous venues all over the world, including the famed Royal Albert Hall in London. Other stops on the tour included Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre and two performances at The Fillmore in San Francisco. She recently opened for George Strait’s exclusive Las Vegas shows at the T-Mobile Arena, with additional performances scheduled for Dec. 2016 and Feb 2017.
It has been years since the pop music charts have been as diverse as they are today. Acts like Mumford and Sons, Vance Joy and the Zac Brown Band have served notice that it doesn’t always take synthesizers, drum machines and a Swedish production team to have a hit. Of course, this is something that Canadians have always known. True artists like Gordon Lightfoot, Ian Tyson and Anne Murray first brought Canadian music to the top of the charts around the world. In subsequent years, it was groups such as Blue Rodeo, Spirit of the West and Great Big Sea that kept the spirit alive and scored multi-platinum albums of their own. And now, The Washboard Union are prepared to turn everything upside down once again as they throw together a melting pot of music including bluegrass, country and rock in to one big stew and serve it with a spoonful of unbridled energy.
In the few years they have been together, The Washboard Union have defied classification and have become one of the most exciting and talked about new bands on the Canadian Country music scene. They’ve being nominated for Roots Artists of the Year by the British Columbia Country Music Association, have signed on with the country music power house team at Sakamoto Agency and inked a recording deal Warner Music Canada/Slaight Music. The Washboard Union are a sextet out of Vancouver, British Columbia that are led by principle members Aaron Grain, Chris Duncombe and David Roberts. The three share a very similar unconscious soundtrack and unbridled love for the art of songwriting and storytelling. The three have been friends seemingly forever and the music they make has set them apart as one of the most unique talents in country music today. Aaron and Chris share a particularly special connection as the two were brought together at the age of 15 when Chris’s dad and Aaron’s mom began
dating. “Instantly there was just this musical bond between us. It amazes me that we had such diverse musical influences when we started out and are still making music together now; and it really feels like we’re just getting started” recalls Grain.
Duncombe & Grain eventually packed up and left their hometown of Kelowna, BC. and ventured to Vancouver where they moved in to a magnificently beautiful 1920’s Tudor style mansion. By coincidence Roberts was himself renting in the same mansion and would occasionally join the brothers for impromptu single malt fueled jam sessions. It was here the all three began writing and singing together. These early session would be the kernels of what would blossom and eventually give rise to The Washboard Union. Living there at that time Roberts would reminisce “was like living in a garden gone to seed.” Grain provided guitar and vocals and Duncombe added his own voice and a banjo. Roberts, a singer and multi-instrumentalist with harmonica, guitar, mandolin and of course, the washboard in his arsenal, became the team’s secret weapon. “We call David the Sparkle as he’s got this vocal range that produces these unbelievably high notes. I cannot imagine ever not making music with him. He never ceases to surprise us with what he comes up with.” says Duncombe.”
The Washboard Union is an authentic blend of where country and bluegrass have come and where they are headed next. It is for that reason that the band has gathered so many fans along the way. Serving notice that they are not about to confirm to convention, the band’s independently released self-titled debut album was produced by noted rock producers GGGarth Richardson (Nickleback, Biffy Ckyro, Hedley) and Canadian Music Hall of Famer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd) – on the track “Half Cree” – whom the band are proud to call a friend and mentor. That record led to the band’s BC Country Music Association nomination.
In January 2015, The Washboard Union returned to Nashville, Tennessee to record their latest EP In My Bones in the legendary RCA Studio A. Originally built in 1964 as the home for Chet Atkins, RCA has been home to some of the most prolific recording artists in Nashville’s rich history including Dolly Parton, Tony Bennett, The Beach Boys, and more and more.“… Standing in the great room you can literally hear a chorus in every wall. It remains as one of the most legendary music rooms in the world. I can tell you this, you don’t sing in Studio A, Studio A sings to you” says David Roberts.
In My Bones was produced by Trey Bruce (Faith Hill, Randy Travis, Diamond Rio), a name known well in Nashville circles and one of people responsible for saving RCA Studio A from potential demolition. The band met Trey after having written the song “Someday” together earlier in 2014. Trey called the band immediately after that first session and demanded he take the producer helm for the bands next record. The answer, of course, was “yes.” The Washboard Union were joined on the recording of this album by a group of accomplished Nashville musicians including Bob Britt (Dixie Chicks) on guitar, Greg Morrow (George Strait , ZZ TOP) on drums, Michael Brignardello (Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan) on bass and long time guitar player Craig ”Long Haul” McCaul
The Washboard Union is a band that you simply have to see live to fully appreciate and in the summer of 2016 they will share the stage with some of the biggest names in country music including Zac Brown Band and The Band Perry, and will head to Europe to headline the American Tours Festivals ‘Canadian Night’ in Tours, France.
With a six-decade career and 200 plus albums, this iconic Texan is the creative genius behind the historic recordings of Crazy, Red Headed Stranger, and Stardust. Willie Nelson has earned every conceivable award as a musician and amassed reputable credentials as an author, actor, and activist. He continues to thrive as a relevant and progressive musical and cultural force. In the last five years alone he delivered 10 new album releases, released a Top 10 New York Times’ bestsellers book, again headlined Farm Aid, an event he co-founded in 1985, received his 5th degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul, headlined the last three years of the on-going Luck Reunion food and music festival at his ranch in Luck, TX during SXSW, announced the launch of his cannabis company Willie’s Reserve, and graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. In 2015, Nelson added two more titles, “It’s A Long Story: My Life,” the unvarnished and complete story of Willie, hit bookshelves and landed him on the New York Times’ bestsellers list; and the new studio album with Merle Haggard titled Django And Jimmie, which debuted at #1 on Billboard‘s Country album chart and #7 on Billboard‘s Top 200 album chart. In November 2015, the Library of Congress honored him with their Gershwin Prize for Popular Song for his contributions to popular music. He is the first country artist to receive the distinguished award. And this year began with the release ofSummertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, a collection of 11 newly recorded Gershwin classics. The album debuted at #1 on both the Top Current Jazz chart and the Top Traditional Jazz chart.