It was a Monday night in Ottawa and all through the city not a creature was stirring…except for a sold out crowd at the Algonquin Commons Theatre who packed the house for our favourite Canadian Kid, Brett Kissel and his Ice, Snow and 30 Below tour.

Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons - photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons – photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

There’s no question that country music fans in Ottawa love Brett Kissel. I think it’s safe to say that Brett Kissel loves Ottawa too as he’s performed in Ottawa more often than most other Canadian country artists, 3 times in as many months including ringing in the New Year on the steps of Parliament Hill.

I’ve had the pleasure of covering a lot of shows at the beautiful Algonquin Commons Theatre over the last several years but I can’t recall a single show that got as loud as the crowd did last night for Brett. That sold out crowd was hungry for country music and that’s exactly what they got.

Country music tours have been following a bit of a “lather, rinse, repeat” theme over the last several years. Where the same headliners tour with a similar rotation of opening acts, Canadian country music has been no exception to this. When Brett first announced this tour many of us were expecting one of his Invictus Mates or Warner label mates to join him on his tour much like in the past. But Brett had other plans and we, for one, couldn’t be happier. Emerging artists are the lifeblood for any musical genre and for an artist of Brett’s calibre to open up his national tour to some of Ontario’s rising stars was extremely generous.

Abby Stewart
Abby Stewart at Algonquin Commons - photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Abby Stewart at Algonquin Commons – photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

The night started out with a performance by a young lady we’ve been talking about for a number of years now, Abby Stewart. Hailing from Kingston, Ontario Abby is loaded with so much talent it’s a treat to watch her hone her skills show after show. Every time I see her perform she moves the bar just a little bit higher.

Abby Stewart at Algonquin Commons - photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Abby Stewart at Algonquin Commons – photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Last night Ottawa was in for a special treat as Abby was joined by her good friend, Beamer Wigley, for a few songs. Beamer flew in from Calgary especially for the show after having spent Sunday at the Alberta Country Music Awards, where his single “Meteorite” was nominated for Song of the Year. Beamer treated the crowd to a performance of his latest single “Boombox” before the duo, who has been busy of the last few months writing together in Nashville, performed a few songs together. The closed out their set with a chillingly tight performance of Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s hit “Don’t You Wanna Stay”.  Take my word for it and keep your eye on these two because in the coming years you’ll be hearing their name’s a lot more often…count on it.

Brett Kissel
Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons - photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons – photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Brett Kissel hit the stage next and didn’t miss a beat kicking the show off with the first single off of ‘Pick Me Up’ “Airwaves”. The fuse was lit and the crowd was on fire. Every Brett Kissel show is a special event for the audience, something has to be said about the special bond he has with his fans. It goes without saying that most artists love their fans but Brett shares a deeper connection with his and I believe that’s part of what makes his performances so magical.

Tough People Do and I Didn’t Fall in Love with Your Hair
Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons - photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons – photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Like most country music shows there was also a lot of deep emotion packed into last night’s performance. Brett lost his grandparents in 2011 to a two-vehicle crash in Alberta as they were enroute to watch him perform. Everything about this event speaks to the character of Brett Kissel, who kept a scheduled performance 2 nights after the accident but ended up having to cancel halfway through telling the crowd that his heart was willing, but his body just couldn’t do it. The event led Brett to write and dedicate the song “Tough People Do” for his grandparents.  It was the first of two very emotional moments throughout the night that strengthen the bond between Brett and his fans, no doubt that Brett leans on his fans for strength in tough times and his fans draw strength from Brett to deal with their own tough times.

Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons - photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons – photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

The second of the two emotional moments came with Brett’s performance of his single “I Didn’t Fall in Love with Your Hair”. The song rings true for anyone with a loved one battling cancer and it’s clear that it has become an anthem for the philanthropic side of Brett who spoke highly of his support for the Canadian Cancer Society during our interview earlier in the day. The song is from the perspective of the partner of someone battling this horrible disease which, as Brett says, has touched far too many of us. The eyes welled up with tears and the room lit up with cell phone lights as Ottawa joined in chorus to sing this incredible song.

Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons - photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Brett Kissel at Algonquin Commons – photo credit to Scott Martin Visuals

Brett wasn’t going to let the night end on a sombre note as he quickly picked up the pace and brought the party back by paying tribute to some legends. First he started with one of his idols Johnny Cash for which he went into the crowd and stood on a railing and sang “Ring of Fire” before returning to the stage for John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and then capping it off with Garth Brooks’ “Baton Rouge” (“Baton Rouge”, incidentally is one of three songs Brett picked when answering a fan question asking which three songs Brett would chose if he could only sing 3 songs for the rest of his life.)

What would a Brett Kissel show in Ottawa be without a visit from his friend and fellow member of Invictus Entertainment Jordan McIntosh? Jordan was in the building and joined Brett to perform “Raise Your Glass”. As the night wound down Brett ended the show, or did he, the way it all began…with “Started with A Song”.  But the crowd had other plans and they let him know to the extent that, I’m certain, a poor student in a residence nearby was having issues studying because of all the racket coming from the Theatre.

Brett and his band returned to the stage and delivered exactly what the crowd wanted….3, 2, 1! It was the perfect note to end the night on because I can assure you that I, as well as everyone in that sold out theatre, will be counting down the hours until we get to see Brett Kissel again! Something tells me he’ll be back in Ottawa again very soon, would love to see Brett on a stage at RBC Bluesfest this summer which has already seen performances by Tim Hicks and Dallas Smith.

Brett hits Sherbrooke, Quebec tonight for his only stop in La belle province. Local boy,  Jon MacAulay, will be joining Brett tonight. Jon is a guitarist/singer from the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. His repertoire combines elements of folk, blues, and jazz. Visit his website to learn more:

Following Quebec Brett jets off to Nova Scotia for 4 nights before heading slightly west for 2 shows in New Brunswick and then back east to wrap up his tour in beautiful Prince Edward Island.

Brett has taken the time to build a roster of emerging artists that he would like to introduce to his fans so we’d like to take a moment and introduce them to you. Rounding out Brett’s east coast dates are:

Chelsea Atkinson January 26, 2017 Astor Theatre Liverpool, NS

Chelsea is a 16 year old singer/songwriter from Nova Scotia. Check out her Facebook or Twitter profiles to watch this emerging artist get the opportunity of a lifetime, to open for Brett Kissel

Amanda Riley January 27, 2017 Mermaid Imperial PA Centre Windsor, NS

Riley hails from Chester, Nova Scotia where she is known as “the little girl with the big voice”. She gained nationwide popularity as a finalist on CMT’s “Big In A Small Town”, and has shared the stage with Aaron Pritchett, Charlie Major, Deric Ruttan and Dean Brody. She was recognized as one of Ole’s top 8 singer/songwriters during CCMA week in Halifax in September 2015. She also had the privilege to open the MDM Recordings Showcase during CCMA week and has been a featured artist on George Canyon’s ‘ Down East Country’ radio and television program several times.

Bailey MacKinnon January 28, 2017 Glasgow Square Theatre New Glasgow, NS & January 29, 2017 Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre Port Hawkesbury, NS

Follow Bailey and her journey on Twitter

Tyler Deveau February 1, 2017 Capitol Theatre Moncton, NB & February 2, 2017 Fredericton Playhouse Fredericton, NB

By the age of two St. George New Brunswick’s Tyler Deveau was singing along to George Strait on the radio. After winning Country 94’s annual talent search in 2013 in Saint John, he is now laying the groundwork to make his dream of being a professional country music artist come true.

This win gave him the resources and opportunities to pursue his music career further, allowing him to fly to Nashville to meet with a top label A and R manager and well as co-write with top songwriters in the business, which have had songs cut by Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Dustin Lynch, and Cole Swindell.

Trinity Bradshaw February 3, 2017 Harbourfront Theatre Summerside, PE & February 4, 2017 King’s Playhouse Georgetown, PE

Trinity should be no stranger to our readers. Trinity Bradshaw became the youngest winner of the Summerside Festival Talent Search in PEI and performed twice at the East Coast Music Awards before moving to Calgary in 2010 where she soon won SUGAR CRISP ‘s national songwriting contest, and the Amp Radio Rock Star contest. She was Alberta’s 2014 representative in the CCMA Spotlight contest, and Winner of the 2014 Boots & Hearts Canadian Emerging Artist Showcase.

Naturally for more details on Brett Kissel and to follow his own journey and see what he’ll follow up his current tour with visit him at

Special thanks to Warner Music Canada for inviting my boys to join me at the show, without a doubt it’ll be something they won’t forget for a very long time.

All photos by Scott Martin Visuals for Sound Check Entertainment

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