A graduate of North County High School who has enjoyed a multinational career that’s spanned from Ireland to Las Vegas has joined up with two accomplished Canadian tenors and an award-winning composer/multi-instrumentalist, to bring to listeners what they describe as “a unique blend of elite male vocals and modern pop flair under the name, Citizen West.”
Brett Pruneau was born in the Festus-Crystal City area, but graduated from North County High School in 2008. His parents, Rachel and Tony, still live at the family home in Bonne Terre, along with Brett’s brother, Sean, and sister, Emily, who are a senior and freshman, respectively, at North County.
Recalling his years at the school, Pruneau said, “I was in the band for all except my senior year and then towards the end of my high school career, I started getting really involved in choir. I never had really thought about it, so it’s weird that 10 years later it’s my career. Just on a whim, a friend convinced me to take choir one semester and that’s when I caught the singing bug, I guess.”
After graduating from North County, Pruneau was accepted at the Conservatory of Music at Belmont University in Nashville — but an offer ended up being made that the young man couldn't refuse.
“Attending Belmont was the plan until I suddenly got contacted by these producers that were in Ireland,” he said. “They were the creators of the show, ‘Celtic Women.’ David Downs reached out to me and ultimately became my mentor and offered me a development contract.
“I signed that and chose to do that instead of going off to Belmont because I couldn’t justify being $135,000 in debt with a degree waiting for an opportunity like the one I already had right in front of me. I thought I could always go back to school, but in music it’s all about real world experience — it’s the best training you can get.”
Pruneau moved to Ireland where he began touring throughout Europe and recording.
“I considered that my college,” he said. “That’s where I learned everything about the business — how studio technique works, how the business side of things work, how touring works — so, I was just thrust into that world. It was a great experience for me.”
After four years, Pruneau decided to move back to the states and lived in New York for two years.
“I kind of did the whole starving artist, waiter-singer at night thing,” he said. “Then I got an offer to go headline a show in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood called ‘Piano Man’ and so, I did that for a while. I did the one show at Planet Hollywood and when that closed I was lead singer in a show called ‘Jubilee’ at Bally’s, which was the longest running show in Vegas. It ran for 34 years and just recently closed.”
Through a variety of recording and performance gigs, Pruneau became acquainted with tenors Cody Karey and Marc Devigne, as well as composer and multi-instrumentalist, Trevor Hoffmann.
“We got together one night in Vancouver, Canada, to film a little YouTube video just for fun,” Pruneau said. “Then, when we were recording it, we were like, ‘This is actually really good!’”
All four had impressive resumes in the world of music. Collectively, they had appeared on renowned world stages such as Madison Square Garden in NYC; The Gibson Amphitheater in LA; and The Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. They had also appeared on three musical PBS specials, as well as performed live with the likes of Michael Buble, Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman.
Along with headlining and performing in major shows on the Las Vegas Strip, members of the group have appeared with numerous international theatre and symphony productions, and, as solo artists, managed to capture the attention of music industry giants David Foster, Walter Afanasieff, David Downes, Diane Warren and Stephan Moccio.
“So, after the video, we made the decision to start making that a project as opposed to just a one-off, fun video between some friends,” Pruneau said. “For the last two years that’s what we’ve really been putting all of our efforts and attention. We’ve come up with this thing that has become Citizen West and that’s where we’re at. I’m really excited about it and consider it to be the highlight of my career so far.
“It’s also exciting because we built it from the ground up. It wasn’t somebody who came to us and said, ‘We’ve got this concept.’ We did it and we’ve done it exactly how we wanted to do it. It’s really rewarding to build that through your own efforts.”
According to Pruneau, Citizen West is all about the harmonics.
“But the main goal of the group is to appeal to a wide demographic,” he said. “We kind of consider ourselves electronic, orchestral, vocal pop. We appeal to that older demographic that appreciates the classical side of things, but also we like to put our own spin on Top 40 hits that are going to appeal to a younger audience.
“You’ve got to know exactly what you are, who you are and what you want to achieve. We’ve spent a lot of time doing that. Making sure our material is quality — good videos, good audio. We take time to make sure our material is of good quality.
"Right now, we’re doing a lot of performing up in Canada and in the new year are going to start working on our first album, which is exciting. We’ve applied for some funding for that and are just waiting for it to all be worked out.”
While Pruneau still makes his home in Las Vegas, his work with Citizen West requires frequent trips to Vancouver, Canada.
“Trevor is based there and has his own studio,” he said. “We go up there and spend weeks at a time recording, working and making sure that we can take pride in what we do. We take writing retreats up there. We’ll go outside of Vancouver and get a little cabin and just write for a week. It’s nice to be able take the time to do that.
“The studio is all in-house. We don’t have to go out and rent studio space. Trevor’s girlfriend is our director of visuals so she does all our videos, our photos and things like that. It’s all in a little family — and she’s very good.”
Asked what, besides family support, Pruneau credits for his musical success, he said, “I think the choir program at North County is what inspired me. Jeff Kindle was the choir teacher at the time. He was very encouraging. I find that down here in Missouri there’s just such an intense amount of support.
“I’ve been gone for 10 years, but I still have people that follow me and my career that are so supportive. As a little boy from Bonne Terre, I feel like I’ve made some strides and I attribute it to the intense amount of support that this community gives to, not only music, but everything. It’s just a very supportive community.”
For more information and to view Citizen West's videos, go to: https://www.facebook.com/citizenwestmusic/