Paul Brandt’s My Stampede Story

In 1990, when Paul Brandt was 16, his uncle told him about the Calgary Stampede Talent Search.

"An uncle of mine who'd found out about the contest challenged me to sing," he said in a 2011 interview.

"He said 'Hey, you ought to give this a shot. You're a good singer, and you can win a thousand bucks.' And I figured, at 16 years old, if I won a thousand bucks, I'd be set for life."

The first year, Brandt placed in the top 10. The second year, he didn't place at all. That set the stage for 1992, when Brandt analyzed past winners and noticed something: a lot of them got a lot of mileage out of impersonating famous country singers.

"I did my best Garth Brooks impersonation," he says. "I did Friends in Low Places and The Dance," he says. "And I won."

Brandt says the Stampede Talent Search launched his singing career.

"It showed me for the very first time as a very young performer, and singer-songwriter," he says, "that there was a bigger world out there."