Country music star Brett Kissel on Canadian whisky and why he loves Alberta's food scene

Some of Kissel's favourite moments and foods

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Two years after being awarded a Juno for Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Brett Kissel opened for his idol, Garth Brooks, in Hamilton and again in Winnipeg a few months later. Since then, Brett has had a string of top 10 songs from his albums Pick Me Up and We Were That Song; he’s twice been named CCMA Artist of the Year (2016, 2017); was named International Artist of the Year by Worldwide Radio Summit (an award bestowed upon the likes of music mega-stars, Ed Sheeran and Adele); he’s performed with some of the biggest names in country music, and is up for six—that’s right, SIX!—CCMA nominations this year, tying with Jess Moskaluke for the most CCMA nominations ever.

I caught up with Brett as he was heading home to the family farm near Flat Lake, Alberta—northeast of Edmonton by St. Paul, for those of you wondering. We talked about some of his favourite moments (singing “Calling Baton Rouge” with Garth Brooks on stage, going home for his Hometown Homecoming concert, and making breakfast for his two little girls); what it means to be a Canadian farm boy living in Nashville doing what he still can’t believe he’s fortunate enough to do; and of course, his favourite foods.

Touring means a life of restaurant food, and during a busy schedule, sometimes all he and his crew want is good food that is consistently prepared well. On those occasions, they seek out a Joey’s location. Brett’s favourite dish is the Panang prawn curry, or any one of the steaks. Seems you can take the boy out of Alberta, but you can’t take ‘berta out of the boy.

That farm background makes him appreciate the work that goes into raising Canadian foods, and for that reason, Brett singled out chef Scott Downey at Edmonton’s Butternut Tree, commending Downey’s commitment to providing “uniquely Canadian cuisine.”

At Edmonton’s Hardware Grill, Brett and his wife beg for the kitchen to prepare two dishes that are no longer on the menu: the foie gras and the crispy duck leg confit, and really, who can blame them?

But his most favourite dish of all is nalysnyky, a Ukrainian crepe filled with cottage cheese and dill, covered with farm fresh heavy cream and baked in the oven. It is a dish prepared by his Mema (Grandma) and what Brett asks for over any birthday or Christmas present when he goes home.

Wine, whisky or beer? Yes to all of the above, but it’s JP Wiser whisky that gets this Alberta boy gushing as if he’s the Canadian distiller’s own PR spokesperson. Brett knows almost everything there is to know about the country’s oldest continuously produced whisky that he says is his favourite, hands down.

Find dates for Brett Kissel’s We Were That Song Tour Part 2 at a city near you.  And if you want to see Brett in his happy place (as in on the farm), watch the video, Guitars and Gasoline, shot on location where Brett grew up—and the source of much inspiration for his music.

Fun fact: Brett has the land coordinates of both his grandfathers’ cattle ranches tattooed above his heart. He may like a “Girl in a Country Hat”, but I say God bless this country boy.

Cheers, Brett! And, good luck at the CCMA’s in Hamilton this September.