36 CANADIAN MUSICIAN
with Travel Alberta , and Travel Alberta immediately started using that as their theme song for the year .”
The Compass Project South also features a collaboration with boy band 98 ° with “ Ain ’ t the Same ” which Kissel says was a couple of years in the making following an introduction at the Much Music Video Awards when he filled in for Florida Georgia Line to perform “ Meant to Be ” with Bebe Rexha . “ My manager sent the song to Jeff Timmons of 98 °. He loved it , and he circulated it with the band . I guess they were all getting together in Vegas . And so they went and recorded it right away . I loved it . There was no red tape . No bullshit . No record label , no lawyers , no nothing . They ’ re like ‘ we love the song . ‘ We ’ ll sort out the royalties ’ and later they just went in they recorded it and they sent me back “ Ain ’ t the Same .” ‘ This is a trial run . What do you think ?’ I said , ‘ There is no trial here . This is perfect . [ It ’ s ] exactly as you hear the song . It was unbelievable .’”
Kissel is also very pleased with the production on the current album which features work from five producers with the bulk being handled by award-winning Saskatoon-based Bart McKay who has produced his previous albums . Kissel also utilized two bandmates : bassist and band leader Justin Kudding and drummer Spencer Cheyne . “ These guys are I think the best-kept secret in Canada right now in terms of their talent , even though they ’ ve won a bunch of Junos with me ,” shares Kissel . Thomas “ Tawgs ” Salter and Karen Kosowski round out the production . “ I think we did what was best for each particular song ,” he says .
When prompted for insights into Brett Kissel ’ s creative process , Kudding , who joined the band in 2015 and has held the role of musical director since 2017 has several . “[ My ] role has given me an incredible number of insights into Brett ’ s creative process , what makes him tick as an artist , how he likes to work , where his roots are , and how he has evolved as an artist over the years ,” notes Kudding . “ Although most of these insights were garnered in a live-music setting , they very much translated into how we approach the music creation process in the studio together . Additionally , as his musical director , I ’ ve assumed somewhat of a leadership role in the organization , which means Brett and I have had to navigate a wide array of situations together . This has allowed us to really hone in on our synergy when communicating and our dynamics when dealing with issues . The reality is , the creative process can have all sorts of twists and turns , ups & downs , and high-pressure moments . Thanks to our many years managing the live show and the band together , we ’ ve learned how to communicate effectively and trust each other to the absolute core , which has proven to be essential ingredients in our journey into creating so much of The Compass Project together .”
Mention guitars and Kissel will proudly tell you he ’ s a Gibson guy . “ I record with this absolutely stunning 1957 Gibson J-45 . My grandfather gifted it to me a couple of years ago . So that ’ s a real staple for songwriting and recording but also on stage , I ’ ve got these beautiful road warriors Gibson SJ-100s — they sound like a million bucks . They ’ ve been destroyed and put back together . I think they ’ re gonna look like Willie Nelson guitars , you know in 40 years ,” he says with a chuckle . “ So those are the two acoustics that I play . We always get a backline guitar provided for me so I could riff on a Les Paul if I need to for the Canadian rock medley that we ’ ve got in our set . So those are my go-to ’ s . I just absolutely love them . And also every now and then if I feel inspired , I ’ ll break out this limited edition , beautiful black Gibson Hummingbird that Gibson gifted to me to play at the Canadian Country Music Awards . And we made a deal . I said , ‘ If I don ’ t win the Fans ’ Choice Award , do I get to keep it ?’ And they said , ‘ Well , you ’ ve got to win first .’ So we laughed and later that night they called my name , I won the Fans ’ Choice Award . I got to go home that guitar .”
Talking to Brett it becomes apparent that his early years on the ranch have instilled in him a potent work ethic that has helped sustain his career throughout industry changes and the rise of social media like Instagram and Tik Tok . Avenues that weren ’ t available at the beginning of his career in 2010 .
“ The value of hard work in any business is I think the most important piece . You know what ? There are some people that will be more talented than you . There are a lot of people that will write better songs and sing better and play guitar better . I certainly know that to be the case . I mean , I could go down the list of so many of my friends . Dean Brody is a much better songwriter than me . Jess Moskaluke is a much better singer than me . But I know that I work very hard . I think it ’ s really important for all the other artists coming up through the ranks to understand the value of hard work ; putting in the time and understanding that