Music

Canadian country star Paul Brandt’s Journey continues with EP and ambitious new tour

When you’re ramping down, they’re gearing up.

Look at all of the events that are hitting town in the next few weeks or the past few weeks and understand that while you and your family were taking a couple weeks off to get ready for the end of the year, there were a lot of people making sure you could start the new one off right.

Take Alberta boy Paul Brandt, for example. 

The most awarded male Canadian country artist and recent inductee into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame is undertaking the largest most ambitious tour of his career in January and February, with a stop in his hometown Thursday, Jan. 31 for a Saddledome date.

Not only will it be a show to promote his latest album, the six-song EP The Journey BNA Vol. 2 — the sequel to his other EP The Journey YYC Vol. 1, both referencing his time in Calgary (YYC) and Nashville (BNA) — but it will also be a celebration of some of his favourite prairie country acts and friends.

Joining him for the tour are fellow Albertans High Valley and Sasky natives Jess Moskaluke and Hunter Brothers, which the country was given a preview of what it might look like when they all performed a cover of the Johnny Cash classic I Walk the Line late last year at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards.

Prior to hitting the road, Brandt spoke with theYYYSCENE. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Q: How were your holidays? Was it the calm before the storm?

A: (Laughs) Very much so. Christmas went by in a flash because there’s so much planning going on at a time when you’re future-thinking getting ready for a tour.

Q: This is a big one.

A: Yeah, I think this is the biggest tour that we’ve done. That’s kind of always been the goal is to every time step it up a little bit more. And to have this many acts on the bill as well I think is really offering fans something unique and exciting, and it’s fun for me because they’re all great friends, too, so that energy translates onstage.

Q: Yeah, but you’re making things more difficult for yourself. You’re at a point in your career where it should be easy.

A: (Laughs) I should be cruising, huh? That’s never suited me too well. There are moments where I kind of go, you know there are a lot of people I know, a lot of friends who’ve been doing their jobs now for 25 years, they’re kind of coasting — isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? And then if I ever let myself go there I start getting bored. I don’t know, I think it’s good to keep pushing yourself.

Q: Congratulations on EP No. 2.

A: Thanks. Yeah, this project The Journey, I kind of wanted to split it up into the two eras and two ideas. The unifying song is YYC BNA (on the first EP), that journey between Calgary and Nashville, when Alberta Bound became the quintessential Paul Brandt song, and the trip from Nashville back to Calgary and home always drawing you, but I’ve spent a lot of time going the other direction as well and have a lot of great friends there. There are mixed feelings, there are beautiful friendships that were created down there and there were some painful things that happened, too. I think that’s the part of any great journey. It’s been exciting to share this music with everybody and see it so well received.

Q: Again, you’re making it difficult on yourself. People are going to want to hear all of the hits, but I’m guessing you want people to hear the new songs, hear them live.

A: My band will be excited because it means that I can’t talk as much. (Laughs) They’re like, “Shut up, Paul.” No, it’s kind of funny we’ve done some interviews on the bus from time to time and I’ll be in the middle of telling a story and one of my band members will come on and they’ll finish the story for me because they’ve heard my stories so many times. 

You know, it is a challenge when you have this many songs that the fans have allowed to go the Top 10 and have success with to try and pick which ones you play. I’ve found that the way that people consume music today it makes it a little bit easier for me to gauge what people are going to like and what they’re not going to like — you can quickly just pull up your Apple Music or Spotify profile and you can see what people want to listen to. And that’s kind of cool, it gives me even more of a connection with people. So we try and play those songs that people just absolutely can’t get enough of and, yeah, we want to share some of the new stuff with them, too. But I hate going to a concert where I hear a bunch of songs that I don’t know, so we try and stick to songs that people can singalong to at least, and I think it will be a good time for everybody.

Q: So will there be an I Walk the Line moment during each show?

A: (Laughs) I telegraphed that too much. It is going to be an absolute blast to be out there. Not only just to see Jess, and the Hunter Brothers, High Valley do their thing onstage, but I’m having them all be a part of my show as well. It won’t just be the recreation of I Walk the Line, although that’s a moment that we’re all really looking forward to. I want to try and infuse them into a number of different things that we’re doing onstage. When we first played that new version of I Walk the Line at the CCMAs that was the first time we’d ever played it onstage together and I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s nerve-wracking enough to try and cover a Johnny Cash tune on live television, let alone do that with a bunch of artists for the first time, and it was electric. There’s just something really cool about the way that all of us connect onstage and I’m excited to bring that to the show. I think it’s going to have a really, just a fun Friday night, party atmosphere. We’re going to have a lot of fun out there.

Q: I’m guessing you will. I said you’re making it hard on yourself, but it also sounds like you’re making it fun for you and the fans.

A: Work hard, play hard. (Laughs)

Paul Brandt’s The Journey Tour with with High Valley, Jess Moskaluke and Hunter Brothers is in Calgary Thursday, Jan. 31 at the Saddledome. Tickets available from ticketmaster.ca.

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