Paul Brandt has come a long way from the 13 year old aspiring poet writing his own music. Inspired and driven, not even winning the Youth Talent Showdown at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede competition was enough for him to walk away from his beloved paediatric nursing career. It wasn’t until Paige Levy of Reprise Records Nashville offered him a deal that he began making trips to Music City in Tennessee. He’s now the most-awarded male Canadian country music artist in history.
Born in Calgary, Brandt has performed on the world’s largest stages and has been given an audience with music legends, global leaders, and royalty. He’s undoubtedly a huge star, but he is humble, down-to-earth, and his big heart shows. He may just take the title of nicest guy around.
With his wife Liz and their two children, Joseph and Lily, Paul loves gardening, tucking heirloom tomato plants in every nook and cranny of his acreage (a self-professed obsession, but a pretty healthy one we think). We had the chance to chat with Brandt before he heads out on the whirlwind Road Trip tour with Dean Brody. We talked about family dinners, eating on the road, and food that feels like home; it was like talking with an old friend.
Everyone is in back-to-school mode these days, what is your kids’ favourite lunch?
My kids have funny tastes; they’re pretty adventurous. Lily, who is four and a half, would much sooner sit down to eat a plate of asparagus over french fries. She’s over the top about hamburgers (with “the red stuff”, even though she knows it’s ketchup) and with pickles. Joseph has this thing for prime rib, he’s seven!
Please tell me you send your kids to school with hamburgers and prime rib!
Funny prime rib story for you. I was asked to visit the Prime Minister’s office to receive an award, and they said, “bring the kids.” I needed to clarify that they’d been locked in a bus for a month, but they wanted to whole family to come. We were waiting in this holding room for 45 minutes, the kids were getting pretty antsy, just bouncing off the walls, but then they walk in and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Before we knew it Joseph was making snorting sounds under the Prime Minister’s desk and Lily was jumping on the couch. We were trying to take a nice photo and Lily had Joseph in a headlock and he was dragging her across the leather couch. As we left, Joe commented, “I thought we were going to meet the Prime Minister, Dad! I thought he’d be fat, you know, he’s the Prime Minister so all he eats is prime rib.”
Yeah, it was a little embarrassing.
What’s the most loved meal in your household?
Anything off the grill is a real favourite for us. I like to barbecue and use my smoker. Two nights ago, I was up watching the salmon that had been smoking for 48 hours. Southern barbecue, rotisserie chicken or prime rib on the grill; that’s how our Sunday meals are spent.
You’re heading out on your Road Trip tour with Dean Brody soon: 22 shows in 30 days. Do you have a ritual diet that keeps you going on such a jam-packed tour?
Good balanced meals, no fried foods: there are lots of rules to follow, but let’s be serious, none of these things are possible on the road. You try to be disciplined and good on the road, but you have to have some fun, too. I love working out and staying in shape, but you have to enjoy yourself every once in awhile.
Are there specific foods you won’t eat on performance day?
I usually keep it to a pretty light meal, something like salad and chicken. Nothing that weighs me down while I’m on stage. I’ll have a bigger meal after performing. Since we don’t go to bed until 2 a.m., we can eat a full meal after our show and then wind down.
What is the worst part about having to eat on the go while touring?
Not knowing what you’re going to get. The inconsistency can be challenging, but the use of apps and reviews makes it much easier. I’m pretty adventurous so I’ll eat most things on the road.
Have you ever had any intense fans try to bring you home cooking?
Actually that does happen! Some people have brought a full meal. I’ve been touring for 25 years, and things have really changed. Now, you can talk to fans and form a relationship with them just through social media. And we have people who come to our shows every year; we recognize them and know them. I look forward to receiving that plate of cookies from them.
What home-cooked meal do you miss the most while on tour?
We stay really busy on the acreage with chores. My wife, Liz, and I love gardening. I love cooking with fresh ingredients. The perfect day is when I can walk out to my garden and grab something fresh to cook. I love a good caprese salad with the heirloom tomatoes and basil we grow and beautiful soft mozzarella.
Is there one city that surprised you with better food (or food scene) than expected?
Yeah! It’s not open anymore, but there was this place when John Candy was around, it was pretty well known that he’d Fedex in Ukrainian food from Alycia’s. I’d heard about that and knew it had to be part of my routine when we went through Winnipeg as well. We’d order it and have it brought to the bus on tour, and the guys from the U.S. would just go crazy over it. I realized that not only was it really good, but those are my roots, it transported me back to my childhood. It felt like home.