Paisley's Roots Run Deep
If life is a song then it's a sure bet most average Americans are humming a country tune. Country music has long been known as an art form that reflects the hopes, dreams, struggles and everyday life of the common man and it's that legacy that Brad Paisley celebrates with his new album This Is Country Music.
"We wrote the mission statement right off the bat," Paisley says of the title track, which he wrote with longtime friend and collaborator Chris DuBois. "The first song written for this album was 'This Is Country Music.' I said 'this is exactly what we needed. We know the theme of this album now.'
It's a broad theme, but at the same time certain things have to happen... You deal with normal life and heartbreak and a little bit of patriotism. You deal with illness and you deal with what you love. It's about happiness and sadness, mistakes, triumphs and faith."
In country music circles, Paisley is known as the nicest guy in the business and one of the most talented. A triple threat, Paisley is a well-respected guitar player, a gifted songwriter and an award-winning singer with three male vocalist honors from the Country Music Association and five consecutive male vocalist trophies from the West Coast-based Academy of Country Music. He's CMA's reigning entertainer of the year and has hosted the November telecast with Carrie Underwood the past three years. He's won a total of 14 CMA Awards and 14 from the ACM as well. His 2010 "H20 Tour" earned more than any other tour last year and he's scored 18 No. 1 hits.
When he's not on the road, Paisley lives in a spacious log home nestled on 85 beautiful acres outside Nashville. His property also has a cozy yellow farmhouse that includes his studio and serves as a songwriters' retreat for Brad and frequent collaborators such as Kelley Lovelace, Ashley Gorley, Tim Owens and Lee Thomas Miller (who also co-writes with Brandon Heath, including the title track of Heath's latest album Leaving Eden.)
Paisley is married to actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley and they have two sons, Huck, four, and Jasper, two. Though Paisley graciously gives a tour of the property, including the gorgeous view from the deck, the boys are napping so the interview moves to the farmhouse/studio, which is filled with family photos, guitars and books, including a copy of dcTalk's Jesus Freak.
On his ninth album, which released May 23, Paisley pays homage to the music that has shaped him as an artist. In doing so he covers a wide range of emotional territory. Lyrically and musically he serves up some surprises.
"This is an album where I'm trying to do something brand-new, using the influences who made me who I am as a country artist. Some of them surprisingly are not right within country music, but they are more important to the modern incarnation than you might think," says Paisley, a West Virginia native who began performing regularly on "The World's Original Wheeling Radio Jamboree" when he was only 13. He moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University and landed a deal with Arista Records.
In recording This is Country Music, Paisley recruited some of his musical heroes as special guests, including The Eagles' Don Henley, who adds his distinctive vocals to "Love Her Like She's Leavin.'"
"It's a real romantic song and it feels like something that I think he would have written or The Eagles would have done," Paisley says.
The album also includes a powerful duet with his friend Carrie Underwood on the ballad "Remind Me" and Paisley teams with Blake Shelton on the upbeat ode to a Mexican vacation "Don't Drink the Water."
Even legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood also appears on the record, whistling on the instrumental tune, aptly titled "Eastwood."
"It's an old-fashioned Western instrumental," Paisley explains with a smile. "I thought 'if we are going to do country music, we have to do a little Western.' It feels like an old Western theme, just like the old gunfighter ballads. There's the old twangy electric guitar and Eastwood's whistle is the lead part. If you're going to have a guy do the whistling in a Western, it's just the coolest thing in the entire world to have that man actually doing it."
One of the most poignant songs on the album is "One of Those Lives," which Paisley co-wrote with Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller. "We venture into some really touchy territory for me, which is dealing with childhood illness," Paisley says of the song that chronicles a little boy's battle with cancer. "'One Of Those Lives' talks about one of my favorite places in the world: St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital as well as Target House, which is the long-term stay facility that I'm actively involved in. Being able to say the words 'Target House' in a song, for me, is a victory because I've been there many times and I've seen what they are doing. It is saints at work."
The current single, "Old Alabama," features some of Paisley's country music heroes – Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook of the legendary band Alabama. "They've been a major inspiration to me stylistically in country music. I was a fanatic growing up," he says of the band that dominated country radio in the '80s. "They are a really important band in the history of country music. I don't think a band before them had never done what they did and with their hits 'Dixieland Delight,' 'Mountain Music' and 'Tennessee River,' it was a lifestyle that I try to duplicate with some of my songs like 'Ticks' or 'Mud On the Tires' and even 'Water.' There's a huge influence from them."
"Old Alabama" is nearing the top of the country charts and Paisley recently premiered the video, which includes Owen, Gentry and Cook as well as NASCAR legends Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip. "If you like NASCAR at all, vintage cars [or if] you like Alabama as a band, you're gonna love it," Paisley shares. "That's what it's all about. Jeff Gordon is in it with me. He and I have become good friends."
Paisley, who wrote or co-wrote 12 of the album's 15 tracks, also enlists friends Sheryl Crow, Marty Stuart and Carl Jackson to sing on the album's closing track, "Life's Railway to Heaven." Paisley has put a gospel song on every one of his albums, beginning with his 1991 Arista Records debut Who Needs Pictures?. Raised in a Christian home, Paisley made his very first public appearance singing in church.
"The guitar that inspired a lot of this album is played on that song," Paisley says of a vintage Martin guitar given to him by a friend in West Virginia who has since passed away. "The man who owned it originally was buried to 'Life's Railway to Heaven.' It was the first song I ever sang and the last song they ever played for him. It's a full circle thing with that guitar. That's the guitar I used when we rededicated the Opry. That's a little bit of serendipity for me. I like it when things have a little deeper meaning."
On June 3, Paisley hits the road for his summer tour, which will feature opening acts Blake Shelton and Jerrod Niemann. Each tour stop is a fun family extravaganza with special activities like a dunking booth, a Chevy simulator for Corvette racing, a slip 'n slide and a fishing simulator.
Brent Anderson, Edens Edge and Sunny Sweeney will open prior to Niemann, Shelton and Paisley hitting the main stage.
"The thing I've always liked about concerts is whatever has happened in your life you get there and eventually throughout the night you are taken away from that," he says. "I want [the audience], from that the minute they walk in, to see all this stuff to do and [everything] that reminds them of their best summer memories."
Though Paisley loves talking about country music, his eyes really light up when talking about his sons. "They are starting to get into vehicles, which little boys will do," he says with a smile. "They like cars and they like the idea of driving something."
To satisfy Huck's penchant for driving, Paisley put a car seat in the family's Polaris Ranger, small ATV they use to get around the farm. Brad lets Huck steer while he controls the gas and brake pedals sitting next to him. "It's thrilling cause he's actually driving a vehicle. I'm able to stop it, of course, with my foot, but he gets to drive," Paisley says. "He sits there in that seat and its hilarious. We've gotten to where we do that every day."
Jasper seems to have more discriminating taste in vehicles and prefers to ride around in dad's Corvette. "It's not the kind of car that's set up for a kid to ride in," Paisley says. "Luckily we have enough road on our farm. I'll belt him in drive around the farm with him in it and not go out on the highway. He loves it. I don't know why, but there's something about sitting in the front seat of a car with a kid that makes him feel older."
The Paisley boys will no doubt be proud of their dad when the Pixar film "Cars 2" hits theaters, as Brad contributed two songs. (Paisley also contributed a song to the first film.) For the new film, he wrote and performs "Nobody's Fool" and teamed with British singer/songwriter Robbie Williams on "Collision of Worlds." The soundtrack hits stores June 14 and the film is in theaters June 24.
Whether writing for a children's movie, performing at the White House or playing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, Paisley has become one of country music's most beloved ambassadors and it's a role he cherishes. "In country music, we choose to glorify people who face their problems, people who go to church on Sunday, people who aren't afraid to be patriotic. We glorify people who overcome obstacles in real life.
"We will discuss and sing about something as horrifying as suicide in a song like 'Whiskey Lullaby' or death in something like 'He Stopped Loving Her Today.' You've got songs like Joe Diffie's 'Ships That Don't Come In' and little vignettes that are sort of parables. I'm proud of it for dealing with patriotism and spirituality and disease and heartache and divorce – all these things that are very much a part of everyone's normal life. Things happen to all of us and impact all of us. The best songs are the ones that make people say 'hey, that's me’ or 'I know that person.'"
Copyright 2011, www.watchgmctv.com. For permission to repost or reprint, click here.
About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications.
A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.
Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.
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