It’s that time of year again; the JUNO Awards are back! Celebrating its 45th year, the nation’s largest music award ceremony returns to Calgary on Sunday, April 3, but the party is already underway this week. In lead up to the big day, we’ll be running through the list of Alberta artists nominated for JUNOs, including brief bios and what they were nominated for. So, join us each day for a look at one of the artists, and a celebration of Alberta’s diverse, vibrant and thriving music scene.
Today we look at the nominees for Country Music Album of the Year.
Pick Me Up, Brett Kissel
Brett Kissel is a fifth-generation Albertan, born and raised in Flat Lake, just south of Cold Lake in eastern Alberta. Even though he’s only 25 years old, Kissel is already somewhat of a veteran in the Canadian Country music scene. At six years old he received his first guitar from his grandmother and that same year, he joined Alberta country star Danny Hooper on stage at a fundraising event in front of a sold-out audience.
At 12, Kissel released his first album, Keeping’ it Country. In the years that followed, he released three more independent albums before Warner Music Canada scooped him up in 2013. His debut album, Started With a Song, hit number one on the CMT Top 20 Countdown.
Kissel is no stranger to the JUNOs; in 2014 he won for Breakthrough Artists of the Year, the first time in 17 years that a country music artist had taken home the award in that category. Kissel has since gone on to win two Canadian Country Music Awards in 2014 and three Association of Country Music in Alberta Awards (including Male Artist of the Year and Album of the Year) in 2015.
Now, Kissel returns to the JUNOs with his latest album Pick Me Up. Here’s the hit single from that album, ‘Airwaves.”
County Line, High Valley
Like Brett Kissel, the Rempel brothers, Brad and Curtis, began their music careers early. Growing up just outside of La Crete, the brothers had three focuses: farming, family and music. They booked gigs wherever they could, growing their following until, in 2001, they held their first recording session in Nashville.
Since then, they’ve worked with a number of country music’s biggest stars and producers, including Paul Brandt, Seth Mosley and award winning Canadian country music songwriter Deric Ruttan. They’ve opened for major stars like Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, and, most recently, Shania Twain at the 2014 Calgary Stampede.
Since that time, High Valley has been busy. Their latest album, County Line, started out with around 50 demo tracks! In a unique move, the band reached out to their fans to help them pick the 10 best that would make up the album. The result was an album now nominated for Best Country Album of the Year!
Here’s one of their latest singles off of County Line, “Come on Down”
Frontier, Paul Brandt
Calgary’s Paul Brandt is the most awarded male Canadian Country Music artist in history with eight JUNOs to his name already. A former Pediatric Registered Nurse, Brandt got his break with the 1996 debut single, My Heart Has A History, which made the Top 10 Billboard Hot Country Songs charts in the United States, bringing him international acclaim. He’s since produced 11 career albums and multiple hit singles, including what many have called our province’s unofficial anthem, Alberta Bound. Brandt’s song For You (a duet with Steve Rosen), was performed by Johnny Cash and Dave Matthews for the soundtrack of the major motion picture We Were Soldiers.
Brandt, who lives in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains with his wife Liz and their two children, is an active humanitarian, philanthropist and volunteer. He’s used his celebrity to bring attention to causes close to his hear. His Buckspring Foundation http://buckspringfoundation.org/ aims to “raise money and awareness for those most in need, including widows and orphans, the poorest of the poor, marginalized people, and those in emergency need both in North America and abroad”. It was recently announced that Brandt will collaborate with Mount Royal University business school as the storyteller-in-residence, a new role in which he’ll serve as a resource for students working on social justice projects.
Listen to I’m an Open Road off Brandt’s JUNO nominated album Frontier:
Check back tomorrow for more Alberta JUNO nominee profiles. Good luck to all the nominees and be sure to tune into the JUNO Awards on Sunday, April 3!