After reaching a certain level of success, many celebrities simply choose to sit back and reap the rewards associated with fame. Brandt is not your typical celebrity, however. Aside from being one of the most lauded Canadian country music artists (Brandt has seven Juno Awards to his credit), he is well known for his philanthropic efforts, as well. In addition to nine chart-topping albums, Brandt earned the distinction of being the first Canadian country music artist since Hank Snow in 1974 to crack the American Top 10 Country Singles chart with his 1996 single My Heart Has A History.
Brandt is currently in the midst of a Cross-Canada tour in support of his latest album Give It Away, his first record of new music in more than four years. He will be performing at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Friday night.
Asked why the four-year break between Give It Away and his 2008 record Risk, Brandt sums up his “time off” as really anything but. Not that he is likely to complain about the time lapsed between records, however.
“Kids throw a bit of a wrench into things,” Brandt laughs from down the phone line. “My wife and I have been married for 15 years and we decided after 10 years that we would like to start a family.”
Brandt says that his 3-1/2-year-old son Joseph and his younger sister Lily were actually with him and his wife for the first potion of his current tour. Brandt says that the enthusiasm shown by Joseph for life on the road was really something to behold.
“It was fun to see this crazy life we lead through our kids’ eyes.”
Though Brandt has always been among the most appreciative singers for being able to successfully forge a career in the music business, he tells The Times & Transcript that the four-year span between albums helped give him an even greater appreciation of what he does.
“The time that I had between albums definitely gave me a better appreciation of what I am blessed to do,” he says. “The fact that I can walk into a Wal-Mart or a music store and see my album on the shelves is the kind of thing that I almost have to pinch myself over. While having kids definitely changed some of the perspective heard in my music, as a songwriter, it gave me a new pallet of colours to paint with. It has definitely changed the way I see the world around me. The preciousness of time is on my mind now more than it ever was before.”
A diverse collection of songs exploring the topics of love, loss and passion, Give It Away sees Brandt expand his lyrical and musical scope while remaining true to the sound that his fans have come to know him for.
“I try to challenge myself every time I put out a new record,” Brandt says. “I would love to be able to say that this record is the best thing I have ever done. Really though, I still feel that what I do never seems to be good enough. I think it’s a common trait for anyone who is creative by nature. You’re always pushing yourself to excel.
“When it comes to making a record though, it is something that you just have to finish and put it out. I feel that all records are essentially a snapshot of where the artist was at during that time in their lives.”
While Brandt is known for his singing and songwriting skills, another dimension of his personality was revealed on a CMT Television Show called Build It Forward. Inspired by television shows like Extreme Makeover Home Edition where a deserving family has a house built specific to their personal needs, the Brandt-hosted Build It Forward featured an additional twist.
“My wife Liz and I have spent a lot of time travelling to developing countries throughout the world and that in turn has really changed the way that we see things. So for the families involved in Build It Forward, we asked if they would be interested in going to another country to help a family there build a house. Some of the families involved ended up going to Haiti and Mexico and they in turn got into homes here in Canada that had a low-cost mortgage and it was ultimately a life-changing opportunity for all involved.”
Seven episodes of Build It Forward aired last fall, and Brandt is optimistic that the show will return at some point in the future.
“We are actually in discussions about continuing the show and how it could possibly evolve. At this point, it may become an episodic event where we help one or two families per year.”
In addition to Build It Forward, Brandt and his wife Liz have started the Priceless Gift of Hope Foundation, which aims to help people from all walks of life in Canada and abroad. While others in his position might see their heads swell, Brandt is incredibly grounded and says that being able to help others is more than fulfilling for him and his wife; a no-brainer if you will.
“This career can be very isolating. Most people are sold on the idea that a career in the music business is all glitz and glamour,” Brandt says. “I am very blessed to do what I do every day. There is a certain routine that comes along with it though. I’ve found the secret has been to look towards the needs of others. That has been the biggest eye-opener for me personally as to what I could use my platform for. It is important to have a mission that goes beyond music alone. To be able to share my message and word with people from across the country and beyond drives home why I love what I do.”
Article published in February 15, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript