Canadian Country Superstar Begins The Busy Next Chapter
One might say that Paul Brandt could be the star of a modern-day Western. The bravado and mysterious picture of a Western’s protagonist certainly isn’t representative of Brandt – an approachable country music veteran, family man, devoted humanitarian and influential songwriter 16 years into his solid career. But the megastar’s nobility and hands-on dedication to making a difference, however, undoubtedly align with philosopher Shai Biderman’s picture of the Western hero as “a man motivated by his will to do the right thing.” That is Paul Brandt to a tee, and he’s now returned to his roots to do more.
Last Saturday, it was announced that Brandt – a celebrated Canadian artist who has seen tremendous international success over the course of his illustrious career – will be headlining ten performances at July’s 2012 Calgary Stampede. The musical event, titled “Century” to commemorate the Stampede’s Centennial Grandstand Show, will also feature The Young Canadians of the Stampede – a group of budding stars finding their musical bearings similar to a young Brandt when he first emerged at the Stampede Talent Search in 1992. According to Brandt, the Grandstand Show exemplifies family values and what it means to be Western – and is “proof of what can be accomplished if one only dreams big enough.”
“The whole experience has really come full circle,” Brandt says, sighing with a chuckle. “I drove past the theatre where I got my start the other day and I had a really neat moment as I thought, ‘Man, I’m one of the people that gets to do this for their whole life’.”
As part of what Stampede board President and Chairman Mike Casey says will be their “biggest show ever,” Brandt hopes he can provide wisdom and mentoring to the young artists performing alongside him in July. In the thick of his early 1990s climb to stardom, he admits he could have used some advice while transitioning from a small gig-playing registered nurse in Calgary to Warner Music’s newest sign in Nashville – the center of the country and western universe.
“At the time, I didn’t expect to be in Nashville very long – I thought I’d come back and apply to medical school if it didn’t work out,” Brandt remarks. “But within a year my career took off and we began touring the world.”
Currently heading East on the second leg of his nationwide tour, Brandt has jumped wholeheartedly back into the chaos of tour busses, packed stadiums and returning to the performing limelight. The touring journey, however, has matured into one that includes his wife Liz, a singer in his band, and their two toddlers, Joe and Lily, who are along for the ride. According to Brandt, the kids know that “Dad plays music,” but that might be the extent of it.
It could take awhile before they’re aware that Dad’s music dates back to 1996, when the smash single “My Heart has a History” hit number one in Canada and made him the first Canadian male country artist to reach the US Billboard Top Ten since 1974. Following that, the album Calm Before The Storm struck Gold in the US and Triple Platinum in Canada. And these days, Brandt is enjoying the success of his sixth studio album Give It Away – which was named 2011 Canadian Country Album of the Year by iTunes Rewind.
As well as running his own record label and consistently writing new material, the Calgary native maintains that his allegiance to Western family values, as well as his recording industry success, are what have enabled him to participate actively in philanthropy and carry out his belief in “helping out your neighbour.” Brandt is renowned for his intense involvement with a number of charitable initiatives like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse – and more recently he’s contributed as the host of CMT’s hit television show Build It Forward, which documents the construction of new homes for families living in uninhabitable conditions.
“Helping others, through music or anything else, is really the reason I do what I do,” he says. “When I get up on stage, knowing that I’m raising money to free someone from human trafficking or give them clean water, it really puts the wind in my sails and convinces me that I will continue to do this for the rest of my life.”
And so it is, that the humble Canadian hero will continue his journey through the frontier – family in tow, unwritten songs up his sleeve and admittedly more chances to “jump from one incredible opportunity to the next” – and his audience will continue to watch proudly with bated breath as two more remarkable decades unfold.