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Not long after the release of his debut album, Who Needs Pictures, in May of 1999, singer / songwriter / guitarist Brad Paisley became the most nominated and most-awarded new artist in country music.
Now, over three years have past and this Grammy® “Best New Artist” nominee and 2-time CMA award winner has achieved both a respectable place in the country genre and an extremely loyal fan base.
Not only has Paisley been honored with seven major award show trophies and NSAI’s “Songwriter of the Year” award, he is headlining inaugural CMT Most Wanted Live Tour, with tour stops in 44 markets from September 19 through December 14.
The hilarious smash, “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song),” is Brad Paisley’s most recent hit - making a total of three #1 singles, five Top 5 hits and seven Top 10’s to his credit. The video version of “I’m Gonna Miss Her” - featuring celebrity co-stars Kimberly Williams (Father of the Bride I and II and ABC’s According To Jim), Jerry Springer (talk show host), Dan Patrick (ESPN Sports Center), Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Parker (professional bass fisherman) and Forrest L. Wood (bass boat inventor and entrepreneur) - was selected CMT Flameworthy Concept Video of the Year.
This song and 12 others make up Paisley’s most recent Arista Nashville disc, the Platinum-certified Part II.
The idea for “Part Two,” the title cut off Brad Paisley’s second album, was born in a darkened movie theater back in 1995. Sounds romantic. And it would have been. But Brad was there alone. Watching a movie by himself.
The movie, Father of the Bride Part II, was the follow-up to the movie Paisley and a “certain girl” went to see on their first date. They had long since broken up but when the sequel to “their” movie came out, Paisley couldn’t help thinking about her. And wondering if she was thinking about him.
“I ended up going to see (the sequel) on the exact day, at the exact same showing that we saw the first one,” he says. “I did it on purpose thinking she might be there, too. Well, of course, she wasn’t. No one is that psychotic except me.”
Disappointed about his not-meant-to-be romance, Paisley consoled himself by writing a song with his best friend and frequent songwriting partner, Kelley Lovelace.
“We started talking,” Paisley says, “and the line came out: ‘Hollywood never fails to make a sequel’ and ‘Why can’t love be more like that?’ Then, I remember thinking that (Part II) would be a really great title for a second album. And a great concept.”
So, even though Paisley was still almost two years away from signing his record deal, he already had a strong concept for his second album. This motivated him to get busy writing and recording songs for both his first and second albums, which he worked on simultaneously.
Brad Paisley’s critically-acclaimed Platinum-certified debut, Who Needs Pictures, produced two #1 hits, both of which Paisley co-wrote. Many music writers, country radio announcers and fellow-musicians call his first #1, “He Didn’t Have To Be,” a career song. This tribute to stepfathers was, again, written with his best friend, Kelley Lovelace. In fact, the song was inspired by Lovelace’s relationship with his 9-year-old stepson, McCain Merren, who attended last year’s ACM Awards as Paisley’s guest.
“He Didn’t Have To Be” triggered countless testimonials from fans touched by the song’s heart-wrenching truth and strong sentiments. Fans continue to share their own stepfather stories with Paisley at every tour stop.
To illustrate the impact of this song, TBS Superstation, cable’s most-watched network for 24 consecutive years, is developing a film for television with Orly Adelson Productions inspired by “He Didn’t Have To Be.” Brad Paisley, Orly Adelson and J.J. Jamieson will serve as executive producers. All the music featured in the movie will be composed by Paisley, who will also have a supporting actor role.
During the months following the release of “He Didn’t Have To Be,” Paisley won his first industry awards, starting with the Academy of Country Music’s “Top New Male” in May of 2000. In June, Paisley stole the spotlight at Fan Fair when he won the TNN Music Awards’ “Discovery Award,” as well as “Song of the Year” and “Video of the Year” for “He Didn’t Have To Be.” In October, he tied Faith Hill for most nominations (six) at the Country Music Association Awards, and took home the coveted “Horizon Award.” He also collected several international new artist trophies in the UK and Holland.
The final single from Who Needs Pictures was “We Danced,” which became Paisley’s next #1. Topping Billboard’s airplay chart for two consecutive weeks, this composition became the entertainer’s second ACM “Song of the Year” nomination. In the song, a woman leaves her purse in a bar and finds love when she returns to the closed tavern to retrieve it. Much like “He Didn’t Have To Be,” this song also has touched hearts and inspired fans.
One of Brad Paisley’s all-time fondest experiences took place in the couple of months prior to the launch of his sophomore disc: On February 17, 2001, the singer-songwriter-guitarist was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry®. Being asked to be a member was one of his life’s goals. And he achieved it at age 28, after some 40 or so appearances since his Opry debut on May 28, 1999. He even borrowed something to wear that night from his idol, Buck Owens. (The same yellow Nudie jacket Owens wore on the cover of Paisley’s favorite album, Live at Carnegie Hall.)
“That (induction) night was magical,” he says. “Perfect. In that place, you just feel so loved.”
The next day, Paisley flew to Los Angeles to participate in a whirlwind of activities surrounding the Grammy Awards®. He was nominated for “Best New Artist” (nominees included all musical genres) and performed and presented on the awards show with legend Dolly Parton.
Shortly thereafter, in April of 2001, he began touring as one of the featured acts on the hugely popular “George Strait Country Music Festival,” which traveled through 16 major markets that summer.
Paisley was born and raised in Glen Dale, West Virginia, a Mayberry-esque (pop. 25%0) town. When he was only eight years old, his grandfather, a nightshift railroad worker who spent his afternoons playing guitar, gave him a gift: a Sears Danelectro Silvertone guitar with an amp in the case. Young Paisley mastered it quickly and soon he and his guitar were inseparable.
At age 12, he wrote his first song, “Born on Christmas Day,” which he performed in church. Soon after, he sang at a Rotary Club meeting where the program director for the local country station heard him and invited him to play on WWVA’s “Jamboree USA,” the Wheeling-based station’s Grand Ole Opry-style Saturday night radio show. The young prodigy wowed the live crowd and became a regular for eight years, opening shows featuring big name country artists such as Roy Clark, George Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens and Steve Wariner. Paisley says he learned invaluable lessons hanging out with the headliners, especially Wariner, who many years later would serve as host the night he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry®.
“I could see his talent and passion even then,” says Wariner. “Back when he was a little boy sitting around backstage picking with us, he was so totally focused.”
For six years, beginning at age 14, Paisley also played the “Jamboree in the Hills” music festival in the outskirts of Wheeling, West Virginia, which attracts 60,000 plus country music lovers every year. He opened shows for dozens of top acts at the festival, from Reba McEntire on down.
By age 20, Paisley was a local celebrity as well as a second-year student at West Liberty State College. But he yearned for Music City. So he transferred to Nashville’s Belmont University and enrolled in the Music Business Program.
While at Belmont, Paisley met Frank Rogers, a fellow-student who became his producer. Working together for more than two years, the two compiled a catalog of songs, some of which they wrote together, some with other writers.
Paisley served his college internship at ASCAP, the performing rights organization, which led to a meeting with talent scouts from EMI Music Publishing. One week after graduating from Belmont, Paisley signed a songwriting deal with EMI. He then began recording demos around town.
Due in part to the fact that Alan Jackson had put a “hold” on one of his compositions, “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” executives at Jackson’s label, Arista Nashville, requested a copy of Paisley’s demos. So impressed, they immediately offered him a deal. He happily accepted.
Paisley already had enough material for almost three full albums. It was really a matter of choosing which songs were right for his debut record. And having the discipline to save some favorites for the second and (yet-to-be produced) third album.
For instance, when Paisley’s personal manager, Jimmy Gilmer, heard his four-song, pre-record deal demo tape for the very first time, one song in particular stood out.
“‘I Wish You’d Stay,’” Gilmer says, “to this day it’s my favorite Brad Paisley song. It knocked me down. I had to be patient though; we waited to put it on Part II.” This song is Paisley’s current single (official impact date August 5, 2002).
When it came time to record the final tracks for Who Needs Pictures, the “traditional” Paisley took a bold, almost rebellious approach. He convinced his record company that his college friend and collaborator, Frank Rogers, should produce. (Rogers had never produced a major record.) Paisley convinced Arista Nashville to let him use musicians, several from his touring band, some who had never worked in the recording studio. He played all of the guitar parts on the record himself instead of signing up a seasoned studio ace. And, he tucked an instrumental song into the lineup.
The unorthodox approach worked. So it’s no surprise when it came time to produce Part II, no one tinkered with the proven approach.
“Part II is like a movie and a journey,” Paisley says. “It’s very cinemagraphic. It’s very visual, whereas the first album was visual, too, but with more of a pictures theme with still photographs and snapshots of life. This one starts to move a little bit more. It’s almost a motion picture to some degree. I feel like so many of the songs are stories. If there’s a common thread in this, it’s just reality trying to be captured on audiotape.”
If Part II is meant to play like a movie, then what is this movie about?
“Ancestry,” says Paisley. “The perfect example is my first single, ‘Two People Fell In Love,’ which is about the fact that you can trace everything back to two people’s romance. The reason you’re here, the reason I’m here is our parents saw something in one another, fell in love, and we’re the product. It goes back to everybody that’s ever been born. It’s like a snapshot of real life that’s set in motion because you see it happening. You hear these stories throughout the song; there are three different scenarios about people that fell in love and changed their little part of the world by doing so.”
Another song from Part II that virtually drips with history is “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” “In this song, you see it as you go back in time to when great granddad walked down Katahrins Mountain and asked Tillie Helton to be his bride. You hear the story of that family’s migration and attempts to get out of that coal town and how they almost never can.”
Another nod to roots on this album is “Too Country.” Paisley first heard Opry legend Bill Anderson sing this song, which he wrote with Chuck Cannon, while playing a writer’s night acoustic show at the Grand Ole Opry® with Anderson and songwriter Dean Dillon. The song made a powerful impression on Paisley. “It made me think of talks with my grandfather,” he says. “Talking about a simpler time.”
Hearing Anderson sing the song gave Paisley an idea. He would record the song for Part II and ask Anderson and two other country legends, Buck Owens and George Jones, to perform it with him. They agreed.
“Brad’s vision from the very beginning was to have us old timers . . . er, legends . . . sing the song with him,” Anderson laughs. “I love the way it turned out. My only wish is that the four of us can get together and perform it live somewhere. Anywhere, anytime, I’ll be there!”
“Too Country” is filled with sweet lines such as: “Are the biscuits too fluffy? Is the chicken too fried? Is the gravy too thick? Are the peas too black-eyed?” But this song is more than just a nod to nostalgia. It is a strong statement proclaiming that it’s okay to be “country.” This is a conviction Paisley has voiced publicly many times.
“‘Too Country,’ that’s been said about me!” Paisley says. “I think it’s a phrase we need to lose.”
A side note: In November of 2001, the Country Music Association’s “Vocal Event of the Year” trophy was handed to the 29-year-old country star and his three legendary collaborators.
“What’s amazing about it is that we had a plan all along. If things went well on the first album, that would be the way we’d do things on Part II. The new record is similar to the first one but goes a lot farther, I think, in terms of exploring who I am. The songs come from the same place but they’re deeper. They go further. There’s more of a journey. There’s more motion to it. The instrumentation is, to me, a little bit further along. It moves a little more. Like any good sequel . . . I hope.”
Part II picks up where Who Needs Pictures left off. Literally. “The fiddle that fades out at the end of the first record leads you into the first song on Part II,” Paisley says. “I pictured someone putting them in the CD player and playing them back to back.”
Paisley thinks of his body of work as an uninterrupted whole. He says he takes seriously the responsibility of making records, things that people will keep and play for years. The most important part of that responsibility is the songwriting.
“The thing that makes Brad such a good songwriter is he can make people cry, then turn around and have them laughing on the same record,” Bill Anderson says. “He understands emotions. So many young artists today have the talent but don’t understand emotions."
Writing about emotions, what’s real, is what is most important to Paisley. To him, that is the essence of country music.
Part II has every kind of song. Some songs tug hard at your heart. Some songs make you laugh. The tempos are fast, slow and middle of the road.
Every time you play this record, you’ll pick up another nuance (a never-heard steel guitar fill, guitars and fiddles whipping around hairpin curves).
Every time you listen, you’ll identify another influence, (Merle Haggard, Little Feat, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Roger Miller, Chet Atkins, Buck Owens).
Despite all the different roads Paisley took to get to Part II, there is no doubt about where he lands...
SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF COUNTRY.