Born Paul Rennee Belobersycky, July 21, 1972, in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada; son of Claude and Edith Belobersycky; married Elizabeth Peterson, February 22, 1997. Education: Attended nursing school. Addresses: Home--Nashville, TN. Record company--Warner Bros., 1815 Division St., P.O. Box 120897, Nashville, TN 37212; Reprise Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505. Fan Club--P.O. Box 57144, Sunridge Postal Outlet, 2525 35th Street N.E., Calgary, Alberta T1Y 5T0, Canada.
After entering the country music scene in the early 1990s, Canadian Paul Brandt captured the hearts of country music fans throughout North America and Europe with his melodious baritone voice and touching, rock-edged lyrics. His 1996 debut album, Calm Before The Storm, mesmerized the country music world and reached gold status in the United States by April of 1997. During those two years, Brandt won numerous music awards and produced a second critically-acclaimed album entitled Outside The Frame.
Brandt was born Paul Rennee Belobersycky on July 21, 1972, to parents Claude and Edith, outside of Calgary, Alberta, in the small town of Airdrie. With his two sisters, Jenny and Sunny, he grew up amidst oil refineries and cattle ranches. His earliest exposure to music was hearing gospel hymns in church, and his first performances--with his sisters--were done there as well, singing in an a cappella trio and in choir. Brandt recalled in an interview with Country Magazine, "Secular music was not allowed in our household." He also explained that his interest in music was inherited from his Russian great-grandfather who had been a musician and opera singer in Russia during the 1920s and 1930s.
While in the ninth grade, Brandt took up playing the guitar. His mother encouraged him by providing classical guitar lessons, and Brandt showed an exceptionally fine ear for music and taught himself as well. Until he was about 13 years old, the family had no television. Rather than feeling deprived, the situation provided Brandt with a wonderful opportunity to develop his artistic imagination. As a teenager he began writing poetry, which ultimately he would combine with his music. By the time he performed in front of an audience, they were hearing the total Brandt package--with lyrics and music written by the young man.
Brandt has said that he initially played folk music resembling the style of Four Strong Winds. He was part of a vocal/jazz ensemble. At the same time he started to connect his poems to music. He was also being strongly influenced by popular country artists, including Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, and George Strait. Brandt also appreciated The Mavericks, as he explained in an online interview with cable network Great American Country, because they were "the artists who were traditional, yet managed to push the envelope." This was the beginning of Brandt's development of a country style with a rock edge.
During his final years in high school, Brandt began entering local talent contests for songwriters, singers, and performers. He entered the Calgary Stampede Contest three years in a row. The first year he placed in the top ten, the second year he didn't place in any category, but by the third year--1992--he won first prize for songwriting and second prize for his performance.
This contest would prove to be the beginning of a new road for Brandt professionally. Although he had always enjoyed music, he was something of a reluctant performer and it hadn't occurred to him to pursue it as a career. After high school, Brandt went to college to become a registered nurse. In a way, he was following in his parents' footsteps: his father was a paramedic and his mother had returned to nursing school at the same time as her son. However, Brandt's fascination with music persisted during his time in nursing school. He spent all of his extra time and money entering contests, recording demos, and performing around the Calgary area.
In 1993, Brandt won a national talent contest sponsored by the Canadian performance society SOCAN, when his tune "Calm Before The Storm" was named Best Original Canadian Country Song. This honor gained him the attention of Warner Music's Reprise label. Many powerful record executives had been in Hamilton, Ontario, for the competition and for the Country Music Week happening at the same time. After the contest, Warner Music Canada's Kim Cooke got in touch with Brandt and forwarded his demo tape to Nashville. Brandt then received a call from Warnr vice-president Paige Levy, who sent representatives to Canada to see him perform. Shortly afterwards Levy signed the young man to a recording contract.
Having spent two years as a pediatric nurse for the Children's Hospital in Alberta, it was now clear that a new professional path lay ahead of Brandt. Nevertheless, he had found considerable fulfillment in his medical career. Speaking in the Calgary Sun of his experiences nursing sick children, Brandt said, "It was difficult, but it was also rewarding. When you have a chance to see kids get better, everything makes it all worth it. All I wanted was to try to make a difference in my life and have a legacy in some way, but for something I had done in someone else's life." As a nurse, Brandt hoped to make a difference in children's lives, and now he hopes to use music in the same way. The singer-songwriter's work with sick and dying children exposed him to the rawest of human emotions and showed him individuals in their most vulnerable moments. He shared the joy of new parents and felt the pain of those who lost a child. These experiences probably explain why, as a young man, Brandt has often seemed wise beyond his years.
The reluctant country star first became a commercial success in Canada, with Calm Before The Storm going platinum by November of 1996 and double platinum by March of 1997. Later in 1997, Calm Before The Storm was certified "Gold" in the United States after sales exceeded 500,000 albums. Brandt now had the attention of country music lovers in both the United States and Canada. The Record magazine reported in July of 1996 that his first single, "My Heart Has A History," was the "most played song on Canadian country radio." The cut "I Do" was Brandt's first number one hit single in the United States, according to Billboard Magazine in October of 1996.
In June of 1997, Brandt won five awards at the Big Country Awards. The tune "My Heart Has A History" earned Song of the Year and Video of the Year. The music industry newcomer also won Album of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, and Canadian Country Artist of the Year. The following month, Brandt returned to Calgary for a benefit performance. He was greeted enthusiastically by more than 13,000 fans at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome for his first concert in his hometown since releasing Calm Before The Storm. The concert's proceeds--some $250,000--were donated to Alberta's Children's Hospital.
In September of 1997, Brandt took four out of five honors that he was nominated for at the Canadian Country Music Awards. He took three prizes for the cut "I Do": Single of the Year, SOCAN Song of the Year, and Video of the Year. He also won Male Vocalist of the Year.
Brandt's award-winning style is based on a country stance supplemented with a modern edge. His rich baritone voice dives deep into a well of human emotion, singing about love, passion, and regret. While recording his first two albums at Emerald Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, Brandt worked wth producer Josh Leo. His second album, Outside The Frame, was released to critical acclaim and included vocals by Kathy Mattea on "We Are The One." Brandt dedicated this album to his new wife. On February 22, 1997, he married Elizabeth Peterson--now known as Liz Brandt--who also sings backup on Outside The Frame. Many of the songs on the album speak of his marital bliss and his feelings towards his wife. While some of Outside The Frame's cuts are rocking, like "Chain Reaction," Brandt slows the pace down on the introspective, "A Little In Love." A reviewer from Entertainment Weekly stated, "Brandt comes to his second album with driving, testosterone-fueled rhythm songs ... his generally upbeat lyrics bring new dazzle to country's rhinestone heart."
Young, intelligent, and known as "Mr. Nice Guy," Brandt has shown the ability to bring audiences to tears. This phenomenon is explained by his approach to music, which he described to Great American Country: "The whole process of growing as a musician is a constant struggle to get to that place where there's nothing between what's in your heart and what's in your music." Brandt's combination of songwriting skills, gifted voice, and ability to project heartfelt emotion all point to a very bright future. On this subject, critic Jane Stevenson of the Toronto Sun noted, "My prediction is that Brandt is destined to become the next big thing in country music."
by Debra Reilly
Paul Brandt's Career
Worked as a pediatric nurse in Alberta, Canada, c. 1991- 93; gained attention of Reprise Records executives after winning Best Original Canadian Country Song in the 1993 National Talent Contest sponsored by the Canadian organization, SOCAN; signed with Reprise Records/Warner Bros. in 1994; recording debut Calm Before The Storm came in 1996; headlined first tour in 1997.
Paul Brandt's Awards
Calgary Stampede Talent Showcase, first place for songwriting, 1992; SOCAN National Talent Contest, Best Original Canadian Country Song, 1993 for "Calm Before The Storm"; Canadian Country Music Awards, Song of the Year 1996, for "My Heart Has A History"; Juno Award for Country Male Vocalist of the Year, 1997; Big Country Awards, Song of the Year and Video of the Year, for "My Heart Has A History," Album of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, and Canadian Country Artist of the Year, all 1997; Canadian Country Music Awards, SOCAN Song of the Year and Video of the Year, for "I Do," and Male Vocalist of the Year, all 1997.
- Selective Works
- Calm Before The Storm, Reprise/Warner, 1996.
- Outside The Frame, Warner Bros., 1997.
- (With others) The Way in a Manger: Country Christmas, Warner Bros., 1997.
- Calgary Sun, September 4, 1996; July 28, 1997.
- Country Magazine, March 1996.
- Entertainment Weekly, November 14, 1997, p. 93.
- Heart of the Country, March 1996.
- Record, July 1996.
- Toronto Sun, September 14, 1997.