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Brett Kissel reflects on Canada’s first socially distanced concert tour

By Admin User on December 9, 2020

Country music star Brett Kissel is a month removed from the final show of his drive-in concert tour, which held host to more than 30,000 spectators.

Today, he is sitting in his truck, exactly as his fans did at the socially distanced concerts. Even now, the songwriter is still in shock of the tour’s success.

“We didn’t realize it was going to be as big as it was” he says, grinning.

What was originally planned as a weekend of shows in Edmonton quickly developed into a cross country tour. Between June and September, he played a total of 24 concerts while managing to raise more than $250,000 for various local charities and food banks.

Today, Kissel speaks to the experience:

Brett Kissel performing in the parking lot of the River Cree Resort and Casino in Edmonton on June 14, 2020. Courtesy: Twitter/@BrettKissel

What inspired you to organize your first drive-in show back in June?

I guess I felt that the appetite for live music was there. People had been in lockdown for months. As a music fan and human being in general, I was sharing the exact same feelings as everyone else. I was couped up like crazy; I wanted to get out of the house. I wanted to do something normal. And as an entertainer, the only thing I could think about was doing a show.

Did you ever expect or hope that it would develop into a more expansive tour?

I did want it to be somewhat of a tour. I truly wanted to get to every province and territory, but due to provincial regulations we were kept away. That’s what was tough. But safety was the biggest concern and though I know that more concerts could’ve raised more money, it also could’ve caused more harm if me or my team spread the virus. But what we did manage to accomplish was amazing. In a pandemic, I am thrilled that we were able to raise such a large amount of money.

Kissel rehearsing prior to a show. Courtesy: Twitter/@BrettKissel

How does your original vision for the concerts compare to the reality of what they became?

It could have been me on a flat bed trailer, with a couple speakers on sticks, playing to a couple of people. But we thought of it with a “if you build it, they will come” mentality. So, we built something as big as a stage at the Calgary Stampede and I’m so proud of how it turned out.

Do you feel that these concerts will stand the test of time in a more unique way than other shows in your career?

Every night, before every show, I would say: ‘Tonight’s concert is not meant to be awkward. It’s meant to be unique. This truly is, hopefully, a once in a lifetime experience.’ Hopefully by next year and the year after, we’re all just going to say, ‘remember 2020?’ We went to a drive in and that’s how we had to enjoy concerts. I just wanted the crowd to know that they’re apart of history. And if we play our cards right, we never have to do this again.

A fan dances in the rain at one of Kissel’s Edmonton shows. Courtesy: Twitter/@BrettKissel

Did the mood of the shows alter the way in which you construct your setlists?

Yeah, it was a unique challenge. How do you try to balance this perfect mix of not being too down while also not pretending like nothing is happening? I didn’t want the entire setlist to be about ballads and slow songs, but I also didn’t want it to be party central and insensitive. Maybe I overthought it, but I felt it worked out.

Can you speak to the newfound pressures and challenges that came with this tour?

The pressure that myself and the band were under was so huge. As an entertainer, I really try to connect with my crowd. You can do that when you can reach out and hold someone’s hand, when you can bring a little kid up on stage and maybe give him a guitar. But all those things that I’ve done in the past, I couldn’t do because of COVID-19.

How do I interact with my band on stage? It’s such an important part of the show. My guys had to be behind plexiglass, those were the rules. So, we couldn’t interact. And we also had this sound barrier. We weren’t playing through speakers, we were playing through an FM transmitter that goes to their vehicles.

On top of all this, we were playing in the midst of a pandemic. I don’t know what people are feeling; if they’re ready to let loose and party. Maybe some people were down and blue because of what was happening. So how do I entertain these people? How do I say and sing the right things?

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire career, but I like to think that it was appropriate. I saw the smiles; I saw the joy. It’s something I’m really proud of.

For a behind the scenes look at the socially distanced concert tour, the artist has released a new documentary: Brett Kissel: Live at the Drive-in.



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