Canadian country music artist Brett Kissel is joining forces with an unlikely band for his new single “Ain’t the Same” – American pop and R&B vocal group 98 Degrees. With four number one songs, fifteen top 10 radio singles, two JUNO awards, and 22 Canadian Country Music Association awards, Kissel is using his success to help an iconic band make their country music debut.
Kissel chatted with Country Now about how the collaboration came about, his experience with 98 Degrees in Los Angeles filming the music video, and his multi-faceted approach to his next album.
When Kissel sat down to write “Ain’t the Same” with Karen Kosowski and Tim Nichols, he didn’t initially envision it as a collaboration with another artist, much less a superstar pop group.
“As we really leaned in to a lot of the harmonies that I was doing to myself to make a quality demo, we all looked at each other and said, there’s a really good chance here that this song could be a really great collab,” said Kissel.
He thought it would be perfect for a band like 98 Degrees, but he never imagined a band with their stature would want to do a song with him. When everything came together, it made Kissel realize the power of his intentions. “I’ve learned a lot of lessons about being careful what you say and what you speak into existence, because the universe is always listening.”
Kissel’s manager, Jim Cressman, was the magic thread that brought the collaboration together. Cressman has been friends with Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees for a while and has done a lot of work for the band in Canada. When he heard that they were looking at songs for a possible country record, he immediately sent them “Ain’t the Same.” Even though the band’s plans for a country album dissolved, they still wanted to be part of the song and asked Cressman if Kissel would record it with them.
He immediately agreed and was stunned by how quickly everything came together. “Within days they had their vocals on it, which was the most impressive thing about any collab I’ve ever done. These guys loved the song that much that before there was any paperwork or lawyers or producers or managers got involved, they just went and recorded the song… So I’m really grateful for that.”
Kissel was also thankful for how the guys of 98 Degrees treated him throughout their collaboration. “The thing that I will take away from that is how much they genuinely care,” Kissel shared. “When you’ve got four incredible personalities and you’ve got four incredible voices, how well they all work together is so impressive to me. And their level of kindness… these are guys that have done collaborations with Stevie Wonder and Mariah Carey and sold millions of records and they treated me so well.”
When it came time to shoot a music video, Kissel headed to Los Angeles to play the role of a geeky tourist who explores the town with 98 Degrees as his guide. He felt like it was the perfect fit, where he could “be my most authentic self, which is a guy who likes to have a lot of fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously.”
Throughout the shoot, Kissel was surprised by the amount of paparazzi that surrounded the guys of 98 Degrees. The band is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and are even bigger stars now than when they launched their career. Kissel admitted that he was even starstruck being with the band. “Anybody who’s ever spent 10 seconds with [Nick] Lachey is gonna wind up getting lost in his eyes,” Kissel laughed. “If you’d have told that kid on the farm that he’d be on Hollywood Boulevard with these guys, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Kissel is working to keep the relationship going, with possible live performances in both Canada and the United States. They’re coordinating schedules to hopefully “play some of the late night shows and probably get these guys up to the Canadian Country Music Awards,” said Kissel. “I’m really working hard on figuring out a way to get these guys to play on the Grand Ole Opry, because if they wanna dip their cowboy boots into the country music waters, there’s no better place than the Opry.”
If history is any indication, Kissel may be speaking it into existence.
He’s also working on a new album, which he says is “the most extravagant and extraordinary album” of his entire life.
Kissel says that he’s using his internal compass to guide his songwriting decisions and that he’ll be showing the four unique sides of him as an entertainer. Part of the record will be live, where he plays his greatest hit songs, such as “She Drives Me Crazy,” “Drink About Me,” or “Make a Life, Not a Living.” The second part of the record will be acoustic to showcase his storyteller side. The third side of Kissel’s album will reflect his appreciation of the country music that comes out of Nashville, which is where “Ain’t the Same” fits in. The last side will represent his childhood growing up as a ranch kid, performing at rodeos every weekend. He’s written several Western songs that will round out the project.
In addition to his upcoming album, Kissel is excited about the return of live music in Canada. “We’re finally getting an opportunity to get the green light to go out and tour again. I’m just so excited to get back on the bus again and to go play shows and see the excitement of my kids, especially my two daughters who grew up on our bus and took their first steps on the bus… knowing their level of excitement that we get a chance to go out on the road again. It’s great. And my sons are newborn Atlas and my other son, Leo who’s three years old. He’s never been on the tour bus. He’s never really seen me play because he was just a one year old when COVID shut everything down. So it’s gonna be really special to get my family back out, traveling across Canada and around the move again.”
For a complete list of tour dates, visit https://www.brettkissel.com/