Christmas is still weeks away when we catch up with Brett Kissel. But already it’s a special one for the country-music star, who’ll be celebrating the holiday for the first time as a family of four. “It’s going to be amazing,” says the Alberta-born artist, whose daughter Mila turns two in January, while daughter Aria was born this past May. “We’re very excited.” Brett, 27, and his wife of six years, Cecilia, have already decked the halls of their Nashville home and are sharing a sneak peek with Hello! Canada.
Spending the holidays with family will be the perfect way for Brett to wrap up a landmark year. Over the past 12 months he’s shared the stage with Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley, took home three Canadian Country Music Awards (including Male Artist of the Year) and finished recording his latest album, We Were That Song (available Dec. 8).
As his star continues to rise, the singer-songwriter maintains that he and his family are no different than any other gearing up for the festive season. “Every parent tries to find balance, tries to do the best thing for their marriage and for their kids,” he says. “Our struggles aren’t different from any other young couple doing what they can to last 50 years.”
Ahead of Santa’s arrival, Brett filled us in on his new songs, romantic love story and plans for an even bigger 2018.
Brett, where will you and your family celebrate the holidays?
We’ve decorated our home in Nashville to really get our daughters in the Christmas spirit. But we will get back home to Alberta to spend time with Mema and Grandpa Bear [his parents], as we call them, along with Cecilia’s family.
You spent your childhood on a ranch in Alberta. Are you hoping to give your children a glimpse into what that was like?
Absolutely. It was great to grow up feeling at one with the land and having farm animals around. I didn’t realize how lucky I was until I moved to America, where I live in the city. It’s the opposite of the slow way of life I grew up in. I miss it.
Speaking of sharing, what’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve ever received from your wife, Cecilia?
She made me a coupon book. The coupons were to do with restaurants of my choice, movie nights of my choice ... It was the best idea ever!
How did you meet?
She was at a fundraiser I was performing at in our hometown. I’d never seen anyone more beautiful. Halfway through my concert, I walked off the stage while the band kept playing to ask her to dance. It was a big risk, because either I was going to get shot down in front of everybody or look like a hero. I danced with the most beautiful girl, then walked her back to her table and got back onstage. After that we wrote to each other on Facebook for a year. I have no idea when we started dating. All I know is we were best friends for a year and a half before I asked her if she would marry me.
What makes Cecilia your perfect match?
If you expect one thing, she’s going to give you the other. She always keeps me guessing. She has so many great qualities. On a scale of one to 10, she’s a 15. So she has five extra to give to me in all of the places that I lack, to be honest.
One of the songs on your new album is called “Cecilia.” Why was this the one you wanted to put your wife’s name on?
Even though I’ve written many songs about her, I thought it was important as she gets more well-known and people see her character, and the type of mom and wife she is, through social media ... I’ve got a platform to publicly profess my love to her. It’s about a guy who loves a girl and can’t wait to get back to her. I know she loves it and that makes me very happy.
Are all of your songs inspired by personal experience?
Very much so. I have to draw on personal experience. If I’m talking about love, well I can talk about that, because I’m in love. If I want to talk about my family, I’ll talk about that because I’m a proud dad.
The girls clearly inspire another song from your new album, “God Made Daughters.”
I love my girls so much that I want to do things in every facet of my life that will make them proud. I just wanted to put how I was feeling when I brought my first daughter home and when my second daughter was born on paper. It’s a song for them, but it’s a song for every parent.
What was your experience like recording this album?
Being a new dad, I was lucky enough that my family and I stayed in Saskatoon, where we did some recording. That way, I could go to the studio and be back for bed and bath time. Then I’d work all night, and get back in time for breakfast with my girls, have a nap when they were napping, and then go back to the studio. I needed to make sure that my girls were taken care of and I was there for every bathtime, every bedtime, every story ... It was fun.
You’re heading out on an ambitious tour in 2018. How are you feeling?
I’m excited to go across Canada again. It’s the biggest domestic Canadian tour country music has ever seen. We’ve got a family bus and a band bus. I’m nervous about how it’s all going to go down. I hope it goes as well as I envision it to.
What are the must-haves on the family bus?
A working TV so that we can watch a lot of The Wiggles. Splash’N Boots has become a big thing in our house. Just making sure that our girls are taken care of and entertained. This is a very unorthodox lifestyle for us. We’ve got two suspended shock-absorbent cribs on the bus. My wife and I are very proud that we’re in the point in our careers that we can take care of them as we get out on the road.
What have you learned from working with other artists?
I’ve been very lucky to tour with Garth Brooks. Spending time with him has been one of the greatest things for my life, not just my career. Seeing the way he’s always put his family first and let that guide his decisions has been really inspiring.
With such a busy year ahead, how does your family continue to inspire you?
They are so invested in my career. It isn’t just about me. My wife is so supportive and shares this with me. I always say it’s our career. She’s the one I write all my songs about. My daughters sacrifice so much at such a young age to travel the world so that I get to pursue my dreams. Now they’re our dreams.