“Nashville definitely had a huge role in shaping where I am today,” Paul Brandt told MusicRow in a phone interview last week. “Pete Fisher managed me before he started managing the Opry. The biz was changing then so much, but his great management style set a lot of firm foundations to build the successes that we have accomplished. Nashville was a big part of that for us.”
Brandt, the most awarded male Canadian country artist in history, was in Music City (10/25) rehearsing at SoundCheck for his upcoming Now Tour, scheduled for November and December across Canada. He was also recording a theme song for the World Junior Hockey Tournament, an event that helps youngsters get discovered and move into the big leagues.
The singer/songwriter was signed to Nashville’s Warner/Reprise Records in the early ‘90s. His first big break came in 1996 with the single, “My Heart Has A History” from the Gold selling album Calm Before The Storm. “I Do” followed and topped the charts. Through the end of the decade Brandt released a total five albums and enjoyed multiple chart successes on the Nashville-based label.
“We actually returned to Calgary about six years ago,” Brandt said. “I was talking with my business manger Cheryl Harris of O’Neil and Hagaman, and she said, ‘Well Paul, after you left Warner Bros. everyone thought you went and got a job at Wal-Mart.’ Of course, even before my wife Liz and I moved back to Canada we started doing things up there professionally.”
It took some time and courage to change course from major to independent label. “We’d been going back and forth for quite a while, with me asking to get out of the deal with Warner/Reprise,” says Brandt. “Finally they saw fit to let me go. I’ve never been more terrified and more excited both at the same time when I got the call. Suddenly there was a blank slate and I had the opportunity to do what I wanted. That’s when my own label began.”
Brandt started Brand-T Records and his first release was awarded Album of The Year by the Canadian Country Music Association. In fact, every album he has released on the label has earned that title, which is remarkable in itself. “The added control of having your own label is great,” laughs Brandt, “but you still have to pay your dues and pay for it as well. There’s a lot of risk that comes with that.”
Brandt’s career spans across many channels, but perhaps most notable is his new NOW box set. “It has four Brand-T catalog discs,” Brandt explains. “Plus it also includes our new album Give It Away. That was something I wanted to celebrate. There’s also some musical extras, a DVD to remind people of what we’ve been up to for the last 15 years and a book I wrote which tells the story as well. There’s even a blank space in the box set with a QR code discount for the upcoming Bluegrass/Gospel album, Just As I Am that will arrive early next year.”
I asked, was NOW a retrospective or finale of some sort? “I think it would be a bad marketing plan to call it a ‘retrospective’ at this time in my career [I hope],” laughed Brandt. “In some ways the theme of it can be wrapped up in a song we had out in Canada called ‘Didn’t Even See The Dust.’ The idea is that it is OK to look back at the past, but not a good idea to dwell in it. And that’s really what I hope the spirit of this project is all about. It’s about reminding people where we’ve been together, thanking them for being along on the journey and then giving some hints as to where we might be moving next. For me music is always going to be part of the equation. I love doing what I’m doing and can’t imagine doing anything else.”