The CMA nominations are out, so we are going back to the beginning of summer to the CMA Fest for a few interviews. I meet up with Canadian artist, Brett Kissel at the Wildhorse Saloon and former The Voice contestant, Jay Allen!

Sue Bonzell  00:03

It’s the open country show where the heart of Nashville matches thrilling adventures with rising country artists. I’m your host Sue Bonzell. Join us as we explore the vibrant Nashville area alongside talented musicians combining exhilarating escapades with exclusive interviews and energetic live performances. Each week we dive into the captivating world of country music, showcasing the next generation of artists who are poised to make their mark on the industry. Let’s get it started. With a CMA Award nominations freshly announced I thought we’d go back to the beginning of the summer to the CMA Fest in downtown Nashville.



When we were in the backseat, I had


Sue Bonzell  00:51

a chance to meet up with Canadian country artists Brett Kissel at the world famous wild horse saloon.



We were the slow and the dance and the girls


Sue Bonzell  00:59

and I chatted with the voice contestant Jay Allen about learn in the fall have even more episodes highlighting the CMA Fest and all the performances coming very soon.



In the balm of rain.


Sue Bonzell  01:52

Is CMA fest we are at the wild horse saloon Brett kissel fresh off the stage. I’m so glad you’re here. It’s so nice to see you in person.


Brett Kissel  02:00

Well, it’s great. I mean, our zoom interviews, you


Sue Bonzell  02:02

got three three things to talk about. It’s very important stuff


Brett Kissel  02:05

right to know each other, but this is way better. And this is as authentic as it gets that literally, you know, my band is packing up right now. I just came right off stage and I’m a sweaty mess. But it’s it’s like that after hockey interview or after a football game.


Sue Bonzell  02:18

Exactly. So so we’re gonna ask you, you know, how was the crowd tonight? How was the show?


Brett Kissel  02:37

I thought the crowd was amazing. And you know, I understand playing on the Sunday of CMA. Everybody’s been hung over for three days. And everybody’s maybe country out. But they did not seem that way at all. They were just it felt like that as much energy as as I could have ever, ever hoped.


Sue Bonzell  02:56

Well, it sounded like you had a lot of people in from Canada. You are Canadian. After all, we’ve had lots of conversations about the Canadian things. So pretty big fan base that followed you down here. That’s pretty cool.


Brett Kissel  03:08

 Yeah, it was awesome. You know, I was checking my social media on my Instagram over the last couple days and so many people saying, Hey, we’re from Newfoundland, and we’re coming down to see or we’re from Alberta or from Toronto, or from the Northwest Territories are people that literally are from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast to the Arctic coast. It came down to CMA fest to see this performance on. I’m honored. It was awesome.


Sue Bonzell  03:30

It was it was great. I was there I was right front and center. I got some footage.


Brett Kissel  03:34

Did you get a chance to see Wanda Evans? Right front and center?


Sue Bonzell  03:36

I was gonna ask you about that. Yeah. How amazing is that? shitness. It’s gonna be 94.


Brett Kissel  03:41

Yeah, turning 94 and a couple of months.


Sue Bonzell  03:43

Now tell the story about Wanda. You know, the story.


Brett Kissel  03:45

Wanda Evans is is the biggest country music fan. And I think that she’s earned that title. We’re celebrating the 50th year of CMA fest, and Wanda has been going to fanfare CMA for 50 straight years. For 50 straight years. She’s about to turn 94 and I met her probably seven, eight years ago. She has been on a country cruise that I’ve been performing on, she’s had to have seen 20 shows of mine from the Grand Ole Opry to this country cruise to She surprises me and she’s goes front row with her wheelchair. So you’re on row in the middle of this club, and there’s all these other 21 year olds that are losing their mind and wonders like you want to see what a real fan is. And she just I don’t know if anybody had a good time. She did.


Sue Bonzell  04:25

Oh, she was great. She had a spike was her sparkles on Oh, she was decked out. Now, I mean, I don’t know if people know this or not, you know, you’re kind of a big deal in Canada. I mean, was it 24 Canadian CMA,


Brett Kissel  04:37

I’m, I’m really not you know, as a Canadian, I’m actually not allowed to brag. It’s just when you get your Canadian passport. Oh, that’s you have to you know how you have to recite things when you become an American citizen. Yes. I believe that what you need to do when you become a Canadian citizen is say, I will not brag. I will be humble. I will say my pleases my thank yous and my stories. So no one can tell him how many awards I won.


Sue Bonzell  05:03

Well, I think it’s fun. I think it’s pretty impressive, obviously a testament to your skill and your talent and all of those things. Now, when we talked last, it’s been a minute, you had make a life, not a lip, not a living. And that’s I mean, that song just blew up. What’s been happening since the new music, what’s happening right now


Brett Kissel  05:28

will be winning. Not only will that song really changed my life, and it put me on a course, in this mental headspace, that is really, really important that I’ve really started caring a whole lot more about caring less. And there were so many things that are outside of my control. And I realized what the lyrics really meant of that song in particular, you know, trying to make a life in our living and understand that, you know, just enjoy the moment just enjoy, obviously being with my kids and my beautiful wife. So with that being said, I made a record that I’ve always wanted to make, and understanding that this really could be something that people would love, or they wouldn’t love. But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter, because I knew that you know, deep down inside, it was really important to me. So that record is actually called the compass project. And what’s unique about it is it’s four albums, wrapped up in one package, North East, South West 11 songs, each 44 songs in total, all different sub genres of country music. It’s, it’s, it’s an extraordinary project.


Sue Bonzell  06:27

I cannot wait for that. When will that be available?


Brett Kissel  06:31

While the full compass project will be for sure out by September, we did release the soft album in January. We released the East album just two months ago. And now the West album is going to be coming out here in a couple of days. Yeah. Oh my


Sue Bonzell  06:44

gosh, this is so exciting. So Brett kissel so glad that I got to spend some time with you. But before you go, we have to play my world famous game. Yeah, truth or truth, truth or truth? Are you ever heard of percent like I knew you would be down for studies down?


Brett Kissel  07:00

I love games, so I got them all on a QR? Oh, no, you got like


Sue Bonzell  07:05

literally Carl’s I really do. That’s my game. I made this game. I’m ready. Okay, ready?


Brett Kissel  07:09

What is the one thing you would stand in line an hour for? For me, it would be merch, a for a specific like a couple of key artists. Okay, like Elton John George Strait. You can’t go to a Georgia trade show and get a t shirt. Go watch one of the greatest of all time and Elton John. So I have no problem waiting in line for merch if it’s for one of those great artists, cowboy


Sue Bonzell  07:31

wisdom, depending on what you got going on in your life. Like it’s kind of like a like,


Brett Kissel  07:35

it’ll really help you. So do I need to think of a question that I want answered or


Sue Bonzell  07:42

be something going on in your life? Maybe it’ll apply? I don’t know. I’ve had pretty good luck. So far. We’ll see


Brett Kissel  07:46

cowboy wisdom cards for inspiration of all the paths you take in life. Make sure a few of them are dirt. And I really really liked that. Well. There you go. And we just bought the family from her good way up from my grandparents. Yeah, that is so how many dirt paths Am I gonna be? Oh, hold on. This, this absolutely applies.


Sue Bonzell  08:06

That’s accurate. And you get to keep that that is your souvenir for the day.


Brett Kissel  08:09

Thank you very much. Well, I’m gonna keep it in my cowboy hat.


Sue Bonzell  08:11




luck in some shoes, you rather than



a scrawny day. If it goes down that way, I’m going



to go,


Sue Bonzell  08:36

well, Jay Allen is joining me today contestant on The Voice, but I want to talk about your audition on the voice. So it was Cody Johnson. Yeah. Tell me tell me about like what the meaning behind that was? Yeah, you kind of have you have something behind that? Well, I can tell


Jay Allen  08:51

you the all the nitty gritty now because I’m off the show and out of contract. You ready for late? Okay, let’s go. Yeah. So they actually the voice actually reached out to me the last five years in row and asked me to be on the show, and their storyline focus show. So I lost my mother Alzheimer’s, wrote a song about it raised a bunch of money to fight against Alzheimer’s. And so they wanted me on the show. I politely declined a couple years in a row. And then this last year, they called me and I said, You know what better way to take this fight against Alzheimer’s even further. Yeah, sure. Put more eyes and ears on it. So I said yes. And we were talking about songs. And one of them was till you can’t buy Cody Johnson. And two reasons why I was like, Yeah, that’s a no brainer. If I’m going to do this, I’ll do that song because I relate to it in the message of it. And then number two, I know the songwriters. So I called Ben Stannis is one of them. I call them on the way out there. And he literally immediately started tearing up. He said, Jay, I don’t think we’ve ever told you this, but we’re talking about you and your mother and your story while we’re writing songs. Wow. So oh man brought even more brought even more meaning to me when I sang on stage, and so that was an emotional moment. But then they let me sing the song that I wrote for my mom right after that John Legend. asked me to sing it and just played it acoustic and had Kylie my wife and my past my dad’s side stage and really emotional beautiful. I’m still shrouded in



love standing, sitting next to you hold your hand and you lead away this time.






please stay



lit. In fact, the cracks you’re slipping through was shouting fierce who here bless when it comes to heaven, you hold down.


Jay Allen  10:37

My mom would have done anything for me. You know, she was the best mom ever and so selfless. So I feel like, you know, been given a voice you know, God gave me a voice. So I’ve heard a song for that a heartache and, you know, tragedy. But also it was for me it was a positive concept people that have Alzheimer’s or dementia of a glossy look in their eyes and not really present. But I took her to a well known venue here in town called the subtler open up the door and I saw the power of music, where she saw the band on stage and she heard the music and that went away. So that’s where the inspiration were blank stares came from as I danced, I danced with her in front of the stage from the band. And my mom took a deep breath and she leaned since she was with me. She said, Jeff, missed you. I love you. So so good to be here.


Sue Bonzell  11:19

Okay, not gonna make me cry. You can’t do this. Hey.


Jay Allen  11:23

That’s you know, that’s that’s the real power of music. And so I wrote a song about it, you know, and it was I still see you and be blank stares. You’re still there? I’m gonna fight for you.



Oh aimez crying on me. He’s saying grace and dinnertime and selling God her dreams. She’s an angel. She



has a saying. I’m telling y’all know.


Jay Allen  11:50

I wrote that after I came out the voice is kind of one last thank you to mom and two moms and released it on Mother’s Day. And so I do believe she went on to her forever home and she’s cheering me on now. And so I feel like I have the green light after years of grinding and going to war against Alzheimer’s to do some fun things now, so we’re gonna start releasing some really fun songs. Jello Shot. Yes,


Sue Bonzell  12:11

I heard that. I thought okay, we’re changing it up a little bit.


Jay Allen  12:15

We’re ripping the band aid off. Yeah, we’re going all the way. Yeah. Well, yeah. So


Sue Bonzell  12:19

it’s gonna become a little bit a little bit of the party song. Right?


Jay Allen  12:21

Absolutely. You know, like, because I’ve, you know, been that guy and you know, played all these shows, you know, I’ve had to create a band and create a really fun live show and I have become an artist the last five years on the road. And one of the songs has been jello shot people may not even know me or ever heard this song. But when I come on stage, and we play that people can’t help but dance and cover artwork. And my manager. She literally filled the kiddie pool full of 500 jello shots and I laid in it for


Sue Bonzell  13:01

now your wife, Kylie Morgan, very well known in country music as well. Like, what’s it like at home? We both artists are you guys aren’t creating together like like


Jay Allen  13:11

when we’re home together? Yeah, yeah. Everything about Kylie is I’ve got to be her champion on the sidelines. The last, you know, while I’ve been doing some really hard, charitable work, being a philanthropist, she told you know, she told her mom, she was 12 I’m going to skip College. I’m gonna move to Nashville be a country artist. So she said one prerogative her entire life and she is accomplishing it. And I’ve been with her through the very low lows and very high highs. And now we’re celebrating a lot of high highs together, which is awesome. So we just got married last Thanksgiving. And it was beautiful. Almost got screwed up because a hurricane Ian. Yeah, we made it happen. God blessed us. So it’s truth


Sue Bonzell  13:50

or truth. All right. Oh, I


Jay Allen  13:53

was getting nervous. What was your first car? So we didn’t have a lot of money going up. So I bought my first car for $600 Oh, that’s a deal. It was a it was a terrible car. 91 Mitsubishi Golan. Oh, wow. So Mitsubishi. It took me a long time. Yeah, yeah. The whole motor like completely froze like broke down on the interstate. Oh, like 70 miles an hour. Yeah, so I only have nice cars now. Yeah, I will go broke as long as I have a car. So we paid your dues. Your department drive nice cars now.


Sue Bonzell  14:29

Good. I’m glad to hear that. Well, I’m very excited for the new music all your success. I will definitely keep an eye on you. Jay Allen. You guys go follow him. Okay. Thank you again. Join me Sue Bonzell every week for interviews and adventures with rising country artists on up in country. Ready? Okay. You ready? I was ready. Ready? Okay. Okay. Let’s see. All right. Just wanted to flap a flapper we got to play my famous song. famous song. I think this game I don’t have a song. You know, I have a famous game. I wish I had a famous song. Steve Carell in


Brett Kissel  15:17

the office. God no, God, no.


Sue Bonzell  15:21

Ever the first time I saw him without a hat, and I was like,


Brett Kissel  15:24

Oh, no movie crank or something like that. And Jason, Steven was


Sue Bonzell  15:28

one of those movies and I’m like, Whoa, that was a shocker for me. Makes perfect



sense why?


Sue Bonzell  15:35

He’s the head guy. Yeah. Okay. How about they’re sure they’re good. Okay, man handle this jacket. I got it on video. Okay, good. Good. Good. Very good. Okay.