Origin: Calgary, Alberta
Paul Brandt did not grow up planning to be a star, but that is exactly what he is today. In fact, he’s the most awarded Male Canadian Country Artist in history.
Paul was born in Calgary, Alberta Canada (July, 21, 1972) and spent much of his time growing up in Airdrie, which at that time was a small town just north of Calgary.
Growing up Paul was surrounded by music. From the age of six he sang gospel music, acappella, at the family church.
At thirteen Paul was handed a guitar and that was it. After that first day in music class he was hooked. He started using his creative outlet of poetry and put it to music, performing for family and friends.
After a gentle nudge by an uncle Paul began entering music contests and talent shows, including the “Youth Talent Showdown” at the Calgary Stampede.
“Honestly it wasn’t part of some master plan,” he said about the contests. “I was really just entering doing it because I loved it.”
That passion paid off, because through the talent shows he began to become recognized. It wasn’t long before record executives took notice.
During this time music was not his only focus. He received his RN diploma, and was working at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. He had dreams of eventually getting his PhD and become a pediatrician – but life took an unexpected turn.
Paul said no to the first offer from Canadian record execs in Toronto. He was holding out for Nashville. He didn’t have to wait long.
Once the dotted line was signed with Warner/Reprise in Nashville, he never looked back.
“I do miss working with people in the hospital, but I am still able to have that reach in people’s lives through music,” he said.
Paul’s first big break was in 1996 with the single “My Heart has a History,” which hit number one in Canada and made him the first Canadian male country artist to reach the Billboard Top
Ten in the US since Hank Snow in 1974.
A Gold (US) and Triple Platinum (Canada) selling album, “Calm Before the Storm,” followed.
Some have to wait the majority of their career before they have their big break – but for Paul it came early.
The chart topping “I Do” was written for a wedding of a colleague from the Alberta Children’s hospital. Paul had left the task to the last minute, but fortunately the song just flowed out of him
in a matter of minutes.
“I remember playing that song back,” he said, “and really kind of not believing what had happened, how it all flowed together, and made sense. I feel that way a lot when I am writing songs. I really feel like I was created for this, and God gave me the gift to do this."
During this time life was imitating art, and Paul himself said “I do” to the love of his life Elizabeth (Peterson) Brandt.
Paul remembers the day that he was shooting the music video for “I Do” he was getting ready to go back to Canada and propose to Liz.
“It was kind of surreal that way because I was riding the success of this big wedding song and at the same time that was all I was thinking of,” he said.
Liz has been a huge part of Paul’s career both as a supportive wife and as a back-up singer, and behind the scenes with their business.
Liz was on the tour bus with Paul, and twelve other guys, within a month of their marriage.
“It was a real whirlwind,” Paul said. “We have done it all together in that way for sure.”
After nine years in Nashville Paul and Liz began to feel the pull of home.
“Alberta will always be the root,” Paul said. “It will always be home for us.”
Paul left his record label, because of creative differences, and decided to go out on his own.
Brand-T Records was born.
Leaving the security of a major recording label was a terrifying leap of faith for Paul but the move has paid off. Every album that has been created on the Brand-T label has won an ‘Album of the Year’ award.
“I struggled to find my direction after I left the label. I felt like God had made me to be a creative person who people listened to when I talk,” Paul said. “So I felt like stripping all the business away and the plans away and the marketing and all that stuff – I just needed to go out and do what I was made to do. I figured I’d write songs, record them, and sing to people. And pray a lot. That is probably the best way to sum up my “business strategy. ”
The first project on the label was “Small Towns & Big Dreams.” Paul and his band travelled around Canada to small towns, and while performing, recorded the live, acoustic album. “I love the process of hearing the song for the very first time and discovering it,” he said. “We wanted to recreate that for the fans.”
As Paul went forward with his self-created Brand-T label, he found his niche, and with that came great success.
“Small Towns & Big Dreams” was followed by the platinum selling album “This Time Around,” which featured Keith Urban on guitar on the hit “Leavin’.’” The album also featured “Alberta Bound,” which has become a nationally recognized anthem, celebrating the freedom and beauty found in Paul’s home province.
The album “Risk” followed and continued Paul’s success with a 2008 Juno for “Country Recording of the Year.”
Steve Rosen has been by Paul’s side through the years contributing to many of his albums. One of the highlights was creating a song for the Mel Gibson movie, “We were Soldiers.” The song was sung by Dave Matthews and Country Music legend Johnny Cash.
“As a Country recording artist to have someone like Johnny Cash to be a part of something that I worked on was one of the biggest thrills for me - ever,” Paul said. “To hear him sing words that I had written, that was, and still is a huge thing for me.”
One of Paul’s other passions is helping people. He has worked with many charities, including Alberta Children’s Hospital, Samaritan's Purse, World Vision, The Ratanak Foundation and Place of Rescue.
Through his charitable pursuits he has travelled around the globe including Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, Chile, Belize, South Korea, Egypt, Bosnia, and Cambodia.
“I love writing music and performing,” Paul said, “but to me, it’s meaningless unless it can be used to make people’s lives better.”
Paul has allowed his fans to be an active part of his charitable work by creating an online community, and through projects such as allowing fans to purchase water filters for Africa at concerts. He has even taken a couple of fans along for the ride on trips to Africa and Cambodia.
Contest Winner Lara Howsam on Paul’s ‘Cambodia Bound’ Trip in 2009
“I do feel that sense of responsibility to be able to give back,” he said. “I think it’s important for all us to use our gifts and abilities to do that. I believe there’s something inside of all of us that tells us it’s the right thing to do.”
Paul hopes to continue making a difference with the upcoming launch of his new foundation ‘priceles$.’ The idea behind the foundation was inspired by Paul’s most recent trip to Cambodia.
“When I learned that there are people being purchased as slaves for less than most people would spend in a day for food, it really made me think,” he said. “This concept of what we are worth is a really important idea. To have a charity that could take direct funds to help people understand what they are worth and help them get out of situations where they are being exploited in anyway, is really important to me.”
priceles$. will allow fans to become involved like never before.
“My fans have been amazing with money they have raised and how passionate they are about helping others,” he said.
Paul and Liz, along with their son Joseph (May 15, 2008) live on a ranch near Calgary, in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. They like to spend time outdoors hiking, fly fishing, gardening and other outdoor activities.
Paul says that he feels like he is exactly where he is supposed to be – in his career and in life.
“Music’s been an incredible journey,” Paul said.” It’s an incredible story, for someone who grew up singing in church and writing songs in his bedroom.”
“Working on priceles$., and my new music, has really shown me the importance of what we do now, in the moment; it’s key to everything. How we spend our moments is how we spend our lives,” said Paul. “I really feel like this new project is like starting all over again, it’s a clean slate. None of the awards, accolades, or recognition of the past really matters.
“Now” is the working title of the project, and for me, that’s what it’s all about these days. It’s about partnering with my fans through the fun that we have with Country Music to contribute, and to do something that really matters right now. Something that will change us. Something that will affect all of our lives, forever.”