Randall Prescott has been recognized as one of the most multi-talented forces in building Canadian country music. From being a musician and performer to his work as a songwriter and producer, it’s safe to say he has made a lasting impact on the music industry, and his 2022 induction into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame as a Stan Klees Builder is more than well-deserved.
Prescott is part of a country music legacy that spans generations. His father, Irwin Prescott, was a country artist, and Randall carried on that family tradition with his brother Ronald as the Prescott Brothers. He went on to work as a producer with one of the most influential bands in Canadian country music, Family Brown, and later married singer Tracey Brown and joined the band himself in the 1980s. Their two children, Kelly Prescott and Kaylen Prescott, have both been active in the music industry, marking three generations of music in the Prescott-Brown story.
Prescott has worked as a producer for major acts including Family Brown, Patricia Conroy, Charlie Major, Tom Jackson, Susan Aglukark, and more. He was named CCMA Producer of the Year for 10 consecutive years, his Lakeside Studio was awarded CCMA Studio of the Year four times, he’s a member of the CCMA Musician Hall of Honour, and he even has a Grammy nomination on his resume. Family Brown has earned numerous awards and Top Ten hits, and in 1997, the band was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Beyond those achievements, Prescott and his family have used their talents to spearhead many charitable initiatives. For more than 20 years, Prescott has been involved with the CP Holiday Train, producing a one-of-a-kind show to raise money and food donations for food banks in communities across the country.
Prescott was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame on September 10, 2022, and we had the honour of talking with him as he celebrates this milestone.
Your connection with music started before you were born, with your father being a performer. When did you first start playing music and performing?
Dad was a touring musician, so he only got home every few weeks, but it was funny, when there would be a big Nashville star coming to North Bay, Ontario, he would be the opening act typically. So he would come home after the show and bring Johnny Cash or the Everly Brothers or George Jones, people like that, to our house and they would party all through the night. And he’d wake us up and say, ‘Ok, sing a song,’ so I’d have to get up all bleary-eyed and sing a song for them. It was fun. And he ended up leaving a guitar at home, and I started playing the guitar, just ’cause it was sitting there, so I kind of taught myself and stuff. It was a great beginning.
How did you first go from being a musician to producing records yourself?
I had a band with my brother, the Prescott Brothers, and we actually went on to open for Roy Orbison, and that was really cool. And then you know, I eventually left the band, ’cause I got married. Tracey Brown and I were married, and I wanted to get away from playing in bars and stuff, I just wanted to work the studio. I ended up working for free for the longest time just to be able to get in and record in studio, and I learned my craft there, and was very lucky to be able to work with some greats in the studio like Jerry Douglas and Vince Gill, people like that, it was very cool.
What did you love about being in the studio that inspired you to work on that side of things and even open your own recording studio?
This was the days before Pro Tools, so when you laid down a track, you really had to make sure it was as good as you can get, so I would surround myself with excellent musicians, and started to realize that ‘Hey, you gotta keep working at this, get better and better.’ So eventually it worked out to be a very rewarding career. That’s why I can’t wait to get to the National Music Centre someday and work with some of that magical recording equipment they have there.
Is there a musical project you’ve worked on that you’re especially proud of?
Yeah, the one I got a Grammy nomination for was probably the biggest project I was involved in. It’s with Robbie Robertson from The Band, and he had an album called Contact from the Underworld of Redboy, so one of those tracks featured some of the stuff I recorded. You know, I’ve worked all through the Arctic with Inuit throat singers and stuff, so they used a whole bunch of the stuff that I recorded and ended up getting a recording engineer nomination. It did not win, Sheryl Crow won, but that’s ok.
Between you and Family Brown, there’s multiple generations of musical talent. How does it feel to see your son Kaylen and daughter Kelly finding success in the music business too?
For Kelly, it’s an uphill battle or upstream battle, you know, for a female in the business, ’cause to this day they’re still playing probably ten-to-one for male vocalists, and then finally she’ll get a slot in there. But she’s so talented and beautiful, and just only now is she getting the major labels on board and stuff, so it really makes me so proud to see how well she’s doing.
And my son, he’s given us two beautiful grandchildren, so that alone is such a gift, but he’s also an amazing videographer and video editor and stuff, great songwriter too. He decided to devote his life to these two boys he’s raising, so he’s an excellent dad, and it just makes me so proud.
They flew out for the induction, and I had Kelly on one side and Kaylen on the other, and having them there really calmed me down.
You were already inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of Family Brown, but how does it feel now to be recognized for your work on the production and music industry side of things?
It feels wonderful. It was a thrill getting the first induction, but I was just a bass player with the Browns. I went on for the next 25 years working my buns off, especially working with First Nations and Inuit artists; for me it was a great chance to see the world and all through the Arctic. And then there was a ton of charities that we’ve worked on and stuff. That was all kind of forgotten about, and then when I got the call from the CCMA to say that we’re inducting you in the Hall of Fame as a builder, which is what they call people who are, you know, more the ‘wind beneath the wings,’ it was an exceptional experience.
Just seeing all my old friends, it was just wonderful. And the evening of the induction was just the classiest collection of Canadian talent I’ve ever seen. The National Music Centre has this really nice display of the work that I’ve done and stuff, so this is truly the home of Canadian music, and I’m so glad to be a part of it.
Looking back, is there one thing you hope stands out in your legacy and in the impact you’ve made on Canadian country music?
That’s a good question. I would say it would be more the body of all the work that I’ve done, and just making sure that my daughter Kelly really gets a fair shot at getting there. She’s finally, like I said, the major labels are totally looking at her and trying to make something happen. So looking back, that will be my greatest accomplishment, seeing her get to the top someday.