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Paul Brandt doesn't look like an alien. But in the early 1990s, that's exactly what he was.
The Calgary, Alberta, native had attracted the attention of a Nashville record company - but he needed a special visa to work in the States.
"They initially termed me 'an exceptionally gifted alien on parole,'" laughs Paul, now 32, relaxing at the Nashville home he shares with wife Liz, dogs Sampson and Bai-Leigh and cat Hank. "I had to have somebody say, 'I believe that Paul would be a welcome addition to the United States.'"
That someone turned out to be Randy Travis.
"Randy wrote a letter on my behalf," remembers Paul. "If it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't get to do the things I can do today."
Once he crossed the border, Paul was an instant success. His first two hits, "My Heart Has a History" and "I Do," both landed in the Top 5, and his 1996 debut album, Calm Before the Storm, went gold. But Paul found it stressful adjusting to the whirlwind pace of stardom.
"The first year we had 190 shows," says Paul. "I wasn't able to enjoy the things that were happening."
Then Paul discovered fame can be fleeting when his follow-up album, Outside the Frame, sold poorly.
"I remember a radio station called me to ask when the new album was coming out - and it was already out!" he laughs. "It was like I became the poster child for all the things going wrong with the record industry."
He turned to songwriting and production work, and continued releasing albums in Canada. He has now returned to his U.S. solo career with the new This Time Around - with his version of the C.W. McCall classic "Convoy."
When he's not busy helping raise funds for the Alberta Children's Hospital, Paul spends his free time fishing, jogging and flying remote control planes. The Brandts have also bought property back in Calgary.
"I think we're going to probably divide our time between the two places," says Paul, who hints that his future may involve more than music.
"We really want to set our sights on being around our families," he says, "and maybe starting a family of our own."
- Nick Krewen