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Paul Brandt discusses the intersection between music and religion, Juno Awards

By Jason Herring, April 5 2016 —

Paul Brandt visited the University of Calgary on April 5 to give a guest lecture for RELS 373.10, “Religion and Music.” The 20-year country music veteran talked about how his Christian faith influences his music and songwriting.

Brandt is currently the Storyteller-in-Residence at Mount Royal University. His 2015 album Frontier was also nominated for the “Country Album of the Year” Juno award.

We sat down with the local music icon to chat about music and religion.

The Gauntlet: How do you reconcile being a musician who makes Christian music and being a musician who is also Christian?

Brandt: I think about it in terms of the things you believe are the things you should live.

My goal has always been to be a country music singer who was relevant and relatable to people in the mainstream culture. And respectfully and gently being able to bring the messages I believe are important in my worldview and faith to them so they can consider them.

G: I know storytelling is very important to you. Can you elaborate on that?

Brandt: I think that stories are a great way to connect ideas to people. They’re a little bit like grenades — you can toss it out there, and it’s not always going to go off right away. It’s not always going to be something people walk away and get immediately, but then they’ll have an experience later and they’ll go, ‘that’s what he was talking about.’ And it can connect so many ideas through the story.

As a songwriter, my job is to write little three-minute stories and do it in a way people remember it and it’s catchy. It’s a really powerful way to express ideas and make them stick in people’s minds.

G: Do you feel open with that vulnerability, expressing your faith through songwriting?
Brandt: I do. And for me, I’ve learned over the years that without vulnerability and without taking risks, you’re really not going to do anything that’s really important.

I get up on stage, and I do feel a little bit — I don’t know if the word is nervous or excited — but I always feel like I’m a little bit on the edge. I feel like I need to be up there and honest and put myself out there and let the chips fall as they may. You’re putting yourself in a position where you’re very revealing and that can be a little bit tough for anybody to do.

G: You lost out on the big Juno this year to Dean Brody. How are you feeling about that? Was there much light-hearted ribbing?

Brandt: I think we were all pretty excited for each other. Dean was up and Brett [Kissel] was up and the Autumn Hill folks were up. The way it works in country music is there’s a lot of healthy competition and camaraderie, so I was really happy for him. We’d just finished up the most successful co-headlining tour in Canadian history together and it was pretty awesome to see his success.

G: What did you think of Calgary’s response to the Junos? How has the local scene changed since you started making music?

Brandt: Well, I’ve gotta say that this Junos, out of all the ones I’ve been to in the last 20 years, was the best organized, best hosted Junos I’ve seen — even including what we saw here in 2008.

Calgary did an amazing job rolling out the red carpet and I think we’ve seen that Calgary’s music scene is coming alive more than it ever has. We’re being recognized for more than country music, which is a refreshing thing. I love all genres of music and to be able to see such a diverse field out there right now, I think it’s an incredible city right now.

Calgary’s roots are about risks and about entrepreneurial thinking, and that’s the most fertile soil for music. I think some really amazing things are on their way here.

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