Brad Paisley’s Country Music Empire

Brad Paisley’s Country Music Empire

Originally published in the Feb. 9, 2015 issue of Country Weekly magazine.

Brad Paisley has no complaints about 2015. He started the year by landing his 19th No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart with “Perfect Storm,” the second single from his current album, Moonshine in the Trunk. The tally puts him in seventh place among country artists who have released singles in the past 25 years, a statistic he admits he can’t get his head around—not that he has much time to contemplate such things anyway. Brad is in the midst of the last leg of the Country Nation World Tour and he’s already hard at work planning his 2015 summer tour. Taking a hint from his upcoming single, he has plans to be “Crushin’ It” all year long.

It’s been a few weeks since your good friend Little Jimmy Dickens died. How are you feeling? 

I feel fine. I’ll miss him incredibly, but his passing is a triumph in every way. He mastered the art of life in a way that I hadn’t hardly seen anybody ever do. He played the Opry on December 20. He was surrounded by his family when he passed. They had a party for him a week or so before that for this birthday and he was rip-roaring. At the party were a lot of Opry members and we got up and told what he meant to us. He talked about how wonderful his life has been. He seemed fine, we didn’t think we were needing to do that because of anything.

By putting him in your videos, you helped introduce him to a younger generation. That must mean a lot to you.

It does. Jimmy and [Jimmy’s wife] Mona had repeatedly said to me over the years, “You’re really responsible for a lot of people knowing who he is who wouldn’t know.” It helped him stay relevant and do some really fun things, but I’m the one who got to have the blessing there because I got to know him better than almost anybody from my generation and he became a member of my family, really.

What can today’s artists learn from him? 

I really believe to not take yourself so seriously and be willing to have fun. He was the guy some goofball hosting the CMA Awards would say, “We’re going to dress you up as Justin Bieber.” You can either say, “I deserve more dignity,” or “That sounds like a blast.” This man thought it sounded like a blast and he loved it. Anytime he made someone laugh he was happy. That’s such a lesson in life.

Switching tracks, “Perfect Storm” is your first No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in three years. That’s a great way to start the new year.

It feels great. It’s fun to come back from the break and see it sitting there. I really am realizing how important that is to the people around me, more so than even me. It’s so great for the people who produce and play on these songs. Lee Miller wrote that with me. For me, an artist, there’s always this thinking of, “Well, we’ll get them next time,” if you don’t get it. But for a songwriter, they have a single and [don’t] have one for a while, so every time one of these misses, it’s a much harder thing to swallow for the people who work on them.

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How did your wife, Kim, respond the first time she heard the song?

She had some notes [laughs]. She said, “Am I really angry that much?” I’m like, “You didn’t hear that part where I said you’re pretty.” She’s like, “Yeah, I heard that.” She’s like, “You are right. You do know how to make me mad at you.” [Laughs] I think I might have done it with this song. No, she really did like it. It’s funny the discussions you have when you make your living singing songs and there’s somebody who’s driving around thinking everybody thinks that’s them. But, truthfully, that isn’t the way people do this. They think of themselves when they hear a song. I can call the song “Specifically Just for My Wife,” and people will go, “I love this,” and take it home to their husband and say, “This is your song for me.”

Why do you think it resonated at radio so much?

We were really careful to make sure the things we were talking about were universal truths about women in general. “Single-barreled bourbon on ice,” to me, is a really good analogy for most women, which is smooth with a kick, a chill and a burn, all at the same time. I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t have all those things. I think it’s a really unique-sounding song melodically that fits what we were going for with the power of it. It’s also not sappy feeling, which I like.

It’s been 16 years since your debut single. Where you do feel you are in your career?

I feel like I’ve got a lot left to do, but I see it as a songwriter more than I see it as an artist. For me, it’s not about how many more No. 1s I can get or anything. For me, it’s more about what do I have to say? Where do I go from here? What’s the next fun thing? What’s the next serious thing? Thankfully, right now we’re in the middle of an album. We just finished the second single off of it and we’ll get to the third. I’d like to do six off of here. I haven’t even begun cutting another record yet because there’s plenty on here.

The third single is “Crushin’ It,” which humorously proves that everybody is good at something.

Yep. On a weekend when I’m standing on that stage, it’s painfully obvious there’s one thing that these people are really good at to me, and it is partying [laughs]. You’re singing the songs at an amphitheater or an arena and some of them are just having the time of their lives. I’ll make my way to the back to the B stage—to the lawn seats or the arena for this other part of the show—and do acoustic songs near the drunk section and they’re facing the wrong direction and some of them are possibly working on having kids, you know what I’m saying? [Laughs

How did the song come about? 

I had come back from a trip and [co-writers Kelley Lovelace and Lee Miller came] over. I said, “‘Crushin’ It’—it’s a metaphor for ‘I’m doing great at this; I’ll be crushin’ it,’ but basically the song is about how you don’t feel like you’re good at anything or, at least, you haven’t had the best week, but by Friday I’ll be finishing my third beer and I’ll be crushing it then.” They said, “Holy cow. Why hasn’t that been done?”

Is the song already getting a good response live? 

I played it in Montreal, the last date of 2014. It’s really rare when you play something new that they’re not just staring at their watch and going, “Play ‘Ticks,’ please.” It just worked really well already. There was one line, too, where I sing, Like the great George freakin’ Strait, and they went crazy when I said that. That might be my favorite line on the album.

It should be really big around spring break.

There’s a lot of potential here. It would be fun to show up and do some interesting things here and there around colleges. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but you think about going to a fraternity and say the fraternity that brings the most empty beer cans to the concert gets a meet-and-greet or something. Next thing you know, you have a really major aluminum can recycling drive going [laughs].

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You’re on the last leg of the Country Nation Tour. How has it felt different from past tours?

I think we did a better-looking production than we’ve ever done up there. It will be hard to top in that sense. Around this time is when we start looking at the summer. That’s being sort of tooled up and built already. We already know who at least part of the [opening acts are]. I can’t say yet, but it will be awesome. The way we’re doing this summer is going to be in conjunction with “Crushin’ It.” You’ll have a really good time if you come out. By [this] summer, we’ll have three hits off this album, hopefully. There’s almost nothing you can’t play off the album that your hard-core fans haven’t heard, which is good.

How do indoor winter crowds compare to outdoor summer crowds? Less rowdy?

They’re not less rowdy at all, but they’re not naked [laughs].

A friend who is a filmmaker came to one of my shows and walked about on the lawn with a video camera and it’s insane. I had no idea. He said there were people fornicating [laughs], and there was another one where they lit a lot of trash like a campfire and the police put it out, and as security was walking away, they were lighting it again. Indoors they’re still rowdy, it’s just a little more controlled environment.

The Swon Brothers and Parmalee are on the road with you. What do you want a newer act to have learned after they’ve opened for you?

I want them to say, “If I ever get the chance to headline a large tour, I’m going to treat them the way we were treated,” which is the way that we try to do it, and we learned that from great people as well. You can ask a lot of different acts, like The Band Perry, Sugarland, guys like that, they had the best time out with us. I’ve had both experiences. Someone like Alan Jackson couldn’t have been better to us, and then there were others, maybe it’s not the artist’s fault, but we were not treated well and there’s just no reason not to be great to these people.

Speaking of crushing it, you and Carrie Underwood crushed it hosting the CMAs this fall for the seventh time. What other awards show would you like to host with her? 

The Oscars. I would devour that. I would love that. I would be like, “Let’s do that.” I wouldn’t be the least bit scared. We would need, however, more of a movie background than just songs in Pixar movies from me and Soul Surfer [laughs]. Right now, we don’t quite qualify. If we could ever do it, I’m telling you, we would blow the roof off the place. I think the Oscars wouldn’t know what hit them if we got the chance. It would be the coolest thing ever.

You spent part of last summer on ABC’s talent competition Rising Star. Is it coming back?

I haven’t heard.

If it comes back, would you like to continue on it? 

Oh, absolutely. It was a blast. [Contestant] Josh Peavy came to Nashville in December and I took him to meet some people. He’s thinking about a career in Christian country, so I made him a promise during the show that I’d let him cut a song at my studio, so we’re going to do that. CW

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