DREAMIN' LARGE

Paul Brandt embraces his small-town roots in an energized new album

Before Paul Brandt moved from his native Canada to Nashville in the mid-'90s and cranked out a string of hits - "My Heart Has A History," "I Meant To Do That," "I Do" - he was a lot like other small- town kids with big dreams.

"I'd come home from work on payday," recalls Paul, a former registered nurse at a children's hospital. "And I'd get my check cashed, run to the studio and record songs.

"Then I'd go home and run cassette tapes off and bring 'em to people in packages with 8 x 10 photos. It was all just brand-new."

Those were exciting days for Paul. And now he's recaptured that early feeling with a bit of entrepreneurial déjà vu. He's written a fresh batch of tunes for his new Small Towns & Big Dreams album, available in Canadian outlets and over the Internet - at www.HMV.com and www.paulbrandt.com - on his own record label, Brand-T.

"It's kind of a rebirth," he explains, "after going to music business school for the last six or seven years." Paul refers to time spent on Nashville's Reprise Records, a relationship that taught him a lot, but ended in 2000 due to business and creative differences.

"It's nice to have a voice and say the things that you want to say and not have to do it by committee," confides Paul. "With me running everything at my own label, it's been a challenge. But I haven't been this energized and this excited about my career since I got into it."

Paul got a lot of that energy during the album's live recording process - a cross-country tour of Canadian small towns where he tried out new tunes with his small acoustic band, featuring wife Liz singing background harmonies. The songs capture a feel that reminds Paul of his early days, playing in the living room for family and friends.

"Because we were playing in these small towns, " says Paul, "I wanted each song to talk a little bit about small-town life in some way."

And they do, whether it's the "hardworking ... yes, sir ... thank you, ma'am" values expressed in the title cut or the different choices made by two friends in "Virgil And The Holy Ghost." Those thought-provoking tunes are balanced by the good-natured campiness of "Canadian Man."

"When I got into the business, I was about 22 years old," reminisces Paul. "And the fame and fortune and the fast pace - and all the things that happen in this business - kind of left me wide-eyed.

"I really feel like now, more than anything, I want to make music because it's what I love to do."

-- David Scarlett

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