The Canadian country music star and his team of helpers are trekking across Canada with the Christmas Convoy, giving fans an early Christmas gift and children in need some much needed hope.
The mission is Operation Christmas Child and Brandt is sweeping the country from British Columbia to Nova Scotia to collect shoeboxes filled with gifts for children overseas. At every stop, Brandt is sharing some music from his new Christmas album A Gift with his family of fans.
It all began when Brandt went with Operation Christmas Child to hand out gifts to children in Cambodia.
"I remember the first little girl that I gave a gift to," Brandt recalls from the Convoy's stop at Salem Storehouse in Ottawa. "She was about six years old and she takes this gift, all wide-eyed and she opens it up, then she closed it so she could open it again because it felt so good the first time. I saw that and I saw just the incredible response that all the kids gave, being able to receive an unconditional gift in that way and I knew that I wanted to get more involved."
Around that time Brandt was working on a Christmas album. He took his experience and turned to his music.
"I think inside of all of us there's a feeling that we would love to get an unconditional gift, we would love to get something with no strings attached," says Brandt. "So I wrote the song called "A Gift" and got the idea to take this trip across the country to try and collect as many shoe boxes as we can."
The response, says Brandt, has been incredible. On the journey, one little boy asked the singer-songwriter to make sure to be sneaky when putting his gift underneath the Christmas tree.
"I'd become Santa Claus I guess, in some way," laughs Brandt. "But he was looking past his Christmas wish list and getting really excited about giving and that was neat to see and it's been neat to be a part of this process."
So this modern, black cowboy hat wearing Santa Claus and his team of Operation Christmas Child elves have packed their sleigh, in the form of a gift-wrapped 18-wheeler, and collected 5000 shoeboxes with two more stops left on the 13-city trek.
One of these elves joining the convoy is Benjamin Bowler of Operation Christmas Child. Bowler says Brandt's support means more opportunities for giving.
"We have so many people leaving events like this that we've done all over the country, that have never heard of Operation Christmas Child but they love Paul Brandt's music. They're walking out with shoe boxes with instructions on how to fill them," says Bowler.
"That's amazing for us."
Helping those in need seems to come naturally to Brandt, who worked as a nurse at the Alberta Children's Hospital for two years with plans to become a doctor before wandering down the path of a country musician.
"I still get to kind of take care of people through my music, hopefully entertain them, hopefully help them to escape sometimes and hopefully challenge them and provide them with a vehicle to be able to think a bit."
Fans showing up to support Operation Christmas child were treated to a free concert from Brandt featuring a few classics as well as a glimpse into the new Christmas album. Set to be released November 7, A Gift includes five songs that were recorded in Vancouver with an orchestra, giving a big band vibe.
"I get to croon a little bit," says Brandt.
The rest of the album, recorded in Nashville, is a return to traditional country.
"The Nashville sessions were more in tune with Christianity and how it relates to Christmas and how Christmas relates to it. There's a good mixture there."
As Canada's most awarded male country artist, this king of country has captured a wide fan base with his singing and songwriting skills and now he is ready to celebrate. 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of Brandt's musical career and his marriage to his wife, Liz.
To commemorate the occasion, the Calgary native is planning to release a new studio album called Risk, as well as a DVD.
"It's kind of the making of and all the stuff that's happened behind the scenes to this point. It's kind of like looking at an old photo album and you see the awkward moments and you see the stuff when you say, I wish I could go back there," he muses.
Looking back on his successful career, however, Brandt doesn't really have many regrets.
"There's a song, I think it will be the first single on this album, it's called "Didn't Even See the Dust" and it's kind of about that. The chorus goes "Shot gun everybody get into the long run, don't know where we're going but the outcome comes with a little bit of trust" and that's kind of been the story of this whole thing. We just go flying down the road and we're not really taking a look behind at what's going on. We didn't even see the dust."
Brandt and the Christmas Convoy will continue to fly down the road to collect more gifts. Those who can't make it but want to share a gift with children affected by war, poverty, disease and disaster have until November 18 to pack a shoebox. Check out www.samaritanspurse.ca. For more information about Paul Brandt visit www.paulbrandt.com.
Writer: Meghan Wubs