Certified by the RIAA as the #1 selling solo artist in US history, Garth Brooks has sold in excess of 128 million albums. He is the only solo artist in RIAA history to have 6 albums top the 10 million mark. His most recent release The Ultimate Hits has been certified 5 x platinum. This year Garth became the first artist to put out a simultaneous edition of his latest collection for a charitable cause. November 6, 2007 saw the launch of the pink edition of The Ultimate hits available only at the Susan G Komen website. His body of work - including the groundbreaking No Fences, Ropin’ The Wind, The Hits, and Double Live - propelled country music as a genre to the front pages of newspapers worldwide and the covers of magazines, to the point where Forbes declared on its cover, “Country Conquers Rock” and featured Garth in a major music piece. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Garth Brooks is the top-selling solo artist of the 20th century.
Assessing his career, the UK’s Country Music International determined that, “Garth Brooks has taken country music further than any other performer. He has reached the widest possible audience, gained phenomenal success, yet still retained the basic ingredients of country music. There is no compromise.”
It has been said that through the 1990s Garth’s only real competition was himself. He brought daring individualism and a love of music, ranging from working class blues and honky tonk to bluegrass and arena rock, to the musical table. And he had the talent to serve it up tastily. His easy-going, approachable charisma was matched only by his fearless willingness to take chances and step outside the lines. He has had an unprecedented run so far, and opened the doors for many more country artists to follow.
The youngest of six children, Garth was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on February 7, 1962. Four years later the Brooks family moved to Yukon, where his father Troyal, a former Marine, worked as a draftsman in the oil industry. His mother, the former Colleen Carroll, recorded for Capitol Records in the mid-1950s and performed with Red Foley on the Ozark Jubilee. But Colleen wasn’t Garth’s only musical inspiration around the house. His father played guitar, teaching Garth his first chords, while his sister Betsy “...could play anything with strings or keys.”
Musical influences at the Brooks home were wide ranging. Troyal and Colleen loved country artists like Merle Haggard and George Jones. Garth’s siblings had tastes that stretched from Janis Joplin and Townes Van Zandt to Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Boston and Journey. Garth listened to it all, especially drawn to singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg.
The Brooks household was fertile ground for creativity and spontaneity backed by a steady sense of reality. Colleen, known as “the happy child” while she was growing up, fostered a confident, free-spiritedness in her children. “Mom wasn’t above telling little white lies to make her children feel good,” Garth has laughed. “Once when I messed up in football, she told me that the guy sitting next to her in the bleachers was yelling for the coach to send me back in. Later I found out she invented the story just to make me feel better.” Troyal was the realist in the family, mindful of the importance of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in life. The combination of those character traits developed on Yukon Avenue proved invaluable to Garth’s professional life. He became a risk-taker, willing to put everything on the line to make a better recording, a more exciting performance. Yet he paid careful attention to his career, his business dealings and his employees.
In high school Garth was more interested in sports than music, playing football, baseball, track and field for the Yukon Millers. But by the time he started college at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, he was beginning to pick and sing, jamming with friends in Iba Hall, the athletic dorm where he lived. Although he was attending college on a partial athletic scholarship (javelin), and majoring in advertising, Garth was becoming more and more interested in music as a career.
By 1983 Garth was playing gigs around Stillwater and picking up some extra money as a bouncer in local clubs. After graduating from OSU in December of 1984, he opted to make the move to Nashville. Colleen Brooks was not thrilled about his decision. “Mom had seen the bad side of the business, when management wasn’t professional,” Garth recalled. “She pretty much saw the ditches of music. So she prepared me for all that, which was great. I didn’t come in here with a sun-shiny face thinking everything was going to be rosy.”
The first trip to Nashville was anything but rosy, and Garth returned to Oklahoma within 23 hours. He continued playing the Oklahoma club circuit, married his college girlfriend, Sandy Mahl, in 1986, and returned to Music City the following year with renewed determination. Right away he began meeting and working with songwriters around town. One of them introduced him to ASCAP’s Bob Doyle, a respected song man known as a friend to writers. Bob was so impressed with the Oklahoman that he quit his job and took on management duties. And when talent agent Joe Harris heard Garth sing, he broke company policy and started booking the still-unsigned artist together with the band he’d put together, appropriately named Stillwater. Garth took the business seriously, playing any gig Joe Harris could book, and giving his all whether it was a crowd of 30 or 300.
It was by chance that Capitol Records’ A&R man Lynn Shults heard Garth sing “If Tomorrow Never Comes” at a writer showcase at Nashville’s Bluebird Café. Although Capitol had once turned down Garth, Shults offered him a record deal on the spot. The label set up a meeting with producer Allen Reynolds (Don Williams, Crystal Gayle), and the two began the process of making an album.
Released on April 12, 1989, Garth Brooks contained four hit singles including “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” “Not Counting You” and Garth’s signature song, “The Dance.” This debut recording went on to become the biggest-selling country album of the 1980s.
Garth’s live show got an early buzz on the tour circuit. On August 10, 1989, Garth and Stillwater played a show at Tulsa City Limits. John Wooley, music critic at the Tulsa World, wrote: “After seeing what he can do in concert, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Brooks, showman and talent that he is, is going to be country music’s next big thing.”
When you come from a place called Flat Lake, Alberta, it’s pretty tough to get noticed. For Brett Kissel, it’s pretty tough to be ignored.
The 24-year-old singer/songwriter has been THE country music story of 2014 – recently winning 2 awards at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards – for “CMT Video of the Year” and “Interactive Artist of the Year”, after recording 8 nominations. Brett also took home a Canadian Radio Music Award – for Breakthrough Artist of the Year in Country Music, on top of 2 Association of Country Music in Alberta awards, and 2 Edmonton Music Awards. With countless sold out shows across North America, Kissel was primed for his major label debut album through Warner Music Canada, Started With A Song, released late last year.
Even before the album’s release, Kissel had already made radio history. With more than 93% of Canadian Country stations adding the first single “Started With A Song,” the track eclipsed the record for most adds at Canadian Country radio in one week, a record previously held by Taylor Swift. Since the album’s release, Brett has become the talk of Canadian country music. He has seen 2 of his music vides reach No. 1 at CMT, he has scored three top 10 radio hits, and he headlined a cross-Canada tour. To top it all off, Brett won his first Juno Award – becoming the first country artist to be awarded with Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 17 years.
The album, co-produced by Kissel with Ted Hewitt (Rodney Atkins), Ben Phillips (Blake Shelton) and CCMA Award-winner Bart McKay, is an exhilarating collection of music that can be best described as the New Wave of Old Country: each song a slice of real-life sentiment; emotional touchstones that run the gamut of highs and lows and explore such subjects as deep love, trying moments and poignant reflection, measured out by party anthems and a sense that something special is happening here.
Listening to the rousingly playful title track “Started With A Song”, the invigoratingly catchy “3-2-1” and the modern country gem “Something You Just Don’t Forget,” it is no wonder why Bob Doyle, the manager behind Garth Brooks, proceeded to sign Brett to a co-management and publishing deal upon meeting him in Nashville.
Kissel makes it clear how personal these songs really are with tracks like “Country In My Blood” – written about the Alberta cattle ranch that has been in his family for over a century – the poignant true-life tale of his grandparents in the moving ballad “Together (Grandma and Grandpa’s Song)” and “Girl In A Cowboy Hat,” an upbeat song about potential romance.
During the summer touring season, Kissel headlined Canada’s largest country music festival – Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta. After a late set and a long autograph line, he returned home to the ranch at 3 a.m. At 6:45 a.m. there was a knock on his bedroom door. It was his grandfather (“who we affectionately call Grandpa Bear”).
“I said, ‘Grandpa, I’d really like to sleep in. I just played Big Valley Jamboree last night and I’ve only had two hours of sleep.’ And he said, ‘Wake up, because you’re no country star on the farm!’
Kissel realized at that moment, “My Grandpa was right. No matter what I do, even if it’s playing in front of 25,000 people, once I get home, work needs to get done. It doesn’t matter who I am onstage.”
It’s a much different kind of work when he hits the road, which he does often. An energetic and electrifying performer, Kissel plays upwards of 150 shows a year.
His parents remind him that he’s been an attention-seeker his whole life. “I craved the spotlight. Any opportunity to stand up on the couch and belt out a tune when I was 3 or 4 years old, I always took.”
When his grandmother bought him a Sears-catalogue guitar just before his 7th birthday, Kissel’s fate was sealed.
“It was this deep-rooted passion inside of me. When I was 10 years old, I was playing three-chord Johnny Cash songs at talent shows, but singing them two octaves higher than his deep baritone voice.
“When I was 12 and I got a $50 honorarium to play for a local 4H club – I realized I could do this for a living,” he chuckles. “Usually it took me two birthdays and a really generous tooth fairy to make $50. And I made that in 20 minutes just playing and singing songs? I was over the moon.”
Kissel continued to perform at various agrarian events and celebrations, even being paid for one concert with a pure bred bull.
Influenced by the likes of Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Buck Owens and George Strait, Brett Kissel is still very much his own man: a dynamic, charismatic performer, singer and songwriter and ready to make an imposing impression on the global country music scene with Started With A Song.
“I write and record music that’s true to myself, about experiences that I’ve had in my young age,” Kissel declares, “and it’s my hope that the fans and all the people listening are either touched by it or can escape wherever they need to escape from for three-and-a-half minutes.
“I’ve been working on these songs for three years, and cannot wait to begin making new fans by playing around the world.”
When he finally reaches that goal – and you know that Brett Kissel has the confidence, determination and talent to pull it off – remember, of course, that it all Started With A Song.
Major Bob's Jesse Frasure co-wrote the song "Mr. Almost" with Meghan Trainor for her debut album "Title".
Major Bob's Jesse Frasure co-wrote "Crash & Burn" with Chris Stapleton, Thomas Rhett's current single out on radio now; Frasure is co-producing Thomas Rhett's new record with Dann Huff.
Major Bob's Cary Barlowe co-wrote the song, "Guys and Girls" on Easton Corbin's new record.
Major Bob's Jesse Frasure co-wrote "Goodbye" with Fancy and Steph Jones.
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