Monthly Archives: May 2011
The national public education campaign, “1 for All,” announced earlier this week the addition of Brad Paisley to its line-up of celebrity supporters. “1 for All” addresses a lack of understanding among the American public about the freedoms granted by the First Amendment.
“Freedom is what makes America great,” said Paisley. “I count myself blessed to live in a country where I can exercise that right every day, whether I’m writing, recording or performing.”
“1 for All” launched last July in a blitz of print and online advertisements that were featured using the donated space of over 1,000 participating news organizations. The campaign was established in response to recent surveys by the First Amendment Center, which found that only about 1 in 20 Americans can name all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Ellen DeGeneres, John Mellencamp, Ke$ha, Mary Chapin Carpenter and David Gregory were among the first wave of performers, artists and journalists to show their support for the First Amendment by appearing in the ads.
For more information on the “1 for All” campaign, visit www.1forall.us.
Anchored by the title track, the music on his just-released album isn’t a stern lecture about what is — and isn’t — country but rather a reflection of the themes and artists that have established country as a uniquely American art form. After introducing the song on last year’s CMA Awards, it became a hit that Paisley followed with his current No. 1 single, “Old Alabama,” which reintroduces the band Alabama to a new audience while reminding older fans of the magic the group created with songs such as “Mountain Music.”
Paisley wrote or co-wrote 12 of the album’s 15 tracks, including “Remind Me,” a duet with Carrie Underwood. Legendary actor-director Clint Eastwood makes a cameo appearance, whistling on the aptly-titled “Eastwood,” an instrumental that recalls the signature soundtracks of films such as A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Other guests on the album include Blake Shelton, Sheryl Crow, Marty Stuart and Carl Jackson.
During a recent interview at his Nashville-area farm, the CMA’s reigning entertainer of the year talked to CMT.com about his latest music and the future of albums in general.
What are some of your favorite albums — ones that you tend to go back to listen to from start to finish?
I love the album as an art form. I hope it stays around. … I think it will. The first thing somebody says to me when they hear the first single off of an album is, “I like that. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record.” So even though people are buying singles, and they’re selling fewer albums these days than they used to, somehow people want albums, I think. Hopefully, they won’t go away.
My favorite ones would be The End of the Innocence, Don Henley, and Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, George Strait. Any one of the Alabama albums from the ’80s — The Closer You Get, Mountain Music, 40 Hour Week … Buck Owens & the Buckaroos’ Live From Carnegie Hall.
The Buck album captured a moment in time.
It did, and the best albums do that. They capture a bit of a moment, whether that’s real life in their lyrics or who that artist is at that time. And those are the ones I’ve always liked.
With single-song downloads and a trend toward EPs containing five or six songs, are you concerned that albums are in danger of becoming extinct?
I obviously said, “Screw that,” this time [with This Is Country Music]. When you do 15 songs, that’s nowhere near an EP, is it?
But will there be more pressure on new artists to go that route?
Maybe. I guess in the defense of some record companies, wouldn’t you? If you weren’t sure you were going to be able to sell enough of a 10-song album to justify the cost on a brand new guy or girl, you would probably say, “Well, why don’t we just let them cut five and see how that goes.” But I hate to see that because the thing I was most excited about when I got my record deal was making an album. It wasn’t about a single. See, I never did this just to be a star. I never even really did this just to be a songwriter. I can do that without having a record deal. Or to be a guitar player. Same thing. I did this for all of it, which means an album, which means a collection of songs that represents my vision for myself as an artist. It’s hard to be an artist without an album.
Are you concerned that the time may come when you won’t have the luxury of putting an instrumental and a gospel song on your albums?
Not for me. I don’t think they’ll ever tell me to do that. They would really know better, I think.
But that’s the difference between being an established artist and a newcomer.
Yeah, I don’t know what it would be like to be a brand new artist now. I’m thankful that I’m not.
I hear that from a lot of established artists.
How do you do it without winning some contest or impressing everyone on a reality show? That’s the fast track now, you know, to make people aware of who you are. Or being some Internet sensation. As far as that goes, there’s still people doing it — putting out one song after another, finding their way to the top — but it’s a harder road than when I started.
How has your process of making albums evolved through the years?
You start to become more confident in some aspects of it. At the same time, there’s things that are no longer uncharted territory, and that changes how you do it, as well. You make an album like This Is Country Music. That’s a different record than it would’ve been for my third album. I don’t know if I could have done this album then. But if I had, a song about alcohol hadn’t been done yet by me. A song like “Celebrity” hadn’t been done yet.
I did write something that felt … it wasn’t that much like it, but it was down the path of pop culture and celebrity-type things that didn’t make this album because it didn’t feel like This Is Country Music. It felt more like an observation on pop culture. It didn’t feel like a song that fit the criteria for this album, which was the line “this is real, this is your life in a song.” It was more a look at celebrity culture a little more, and that didn’t belong on here. At the same time, I’ve already done that, so it needs to be really unique. And that’s what changes the way you make these — is the coloring book, the pages you’ve already colored.
For all of the country artist and song references in the first two tracks of the new album, “Old Alabama” has to be the first country song to make a reference to the late jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane.
I guess so, maybe. Definitely the first hit that’s ever done that. I’m proud of that, too. I guarantee you, some of my fans do not know who that is. Some of them don’t know who the Righteous Brothers are. They know the songs, but they may not know their name.
Why did you pick Coltrane?
I think of that as kind of romantic. I think of that as great dinner music, great sort of boppy date music.
Maybe you wouldn’t choose something as experimental as Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.
But there are highbrow women, and that would be their choice. (laughs) And that’s the point. We’re saying this is not a highbrow woman. This is a Southern belle, a simple Southern girl.
It seems like the title song encapsulates a lot of the themes you explore on the album. How did things come together?
We wrote the map first, in that sense [with the title track]. That determined where I went lyrically a lot. There are songs that were born purely without thinking about where they would fit … and they yet have to look like we knew what we’re doing. And I don’t know that we did — “One of Those Lives” being a good example. It says the word “cancer” in it. I didn’t set out to do that. I had no intention when I wrote “This is Country Music” of actually saying the word “cancer” again in this album. And then I wrote this song [“One of Those Lives”]. I had the idea for a while, which was, for me, it’s been one of those days, and for them, it’s been one of those lives.
The song mentions a young couple dealing with their child’s serious illness. As bad as it is to be aware that other people are suffering and dealing with life-and-death issues, it also gives us a certain perspective about our own lives.
Absolutely. And that’s what I had to do in the writing of it. It was the same exact feeling. I’ve got no reason to have some of the feelings I have from time to time if you take it in an apples-to-apples comparison with someone else. My problems versus the problems of some people I know very well, I should never stop smiling. But you and I both know that’s impossible in life because it’s all relative.
You don’t hear a lot of albums that include songs with religious themes.
But it is something almost exclusive to country music, other than gospel, obviously. You don’t hear religion songs in pop much or in rock or rap, especially.
“A Man Don’t Have to Die” [written by Rivers Rutherford, George Teren and Josh Thompson] touches on religion without hitting people on the head.
It’s a good look at that. I love the concept of that song, which is not fire and brimstone. It’s the anti fire-and-brimstone song. There’s nothing more timely on this record than that song, really, in the sense that you’re saying to the preacher, “You can talk about hell all you want.” But the guy in the song just lost his job. He lost his family. He’s drinking too much. He’s made every wrong decision a guy can make in that position. And he’s like, “I’d kinda like to hear about heaven this week.”
The album’s instrumental, “Eastwood,” features Clint Eastwood. You met him at the Kennedy Center Honors?
Yeah. I spent the weekend with him and his wife a while back, right before I came up with the idea of the song.
Eastwood has written the musical scores to several films. Is he a very good musician?
Oh, yeah. He’s a great piano player. He can play jazz. He’s a much better player than he ought to be for all the irons he has in the fire, for someone whose life’s work is anything but playing the piano. Wonderful people. He and his wife are more fun than you could possibly have with anyone.
Did you already have a rough idea for the instrumental?
No, I’d gotten to know him. I didn’t know what the instrumental would be on an album called This Is Country Music. What do you do? You could recut [Buck Owens’] “Buckaroo,” but why? That was done right. There’s “Wildwood Flower.” There are some iconic country instrumentals. What would you do? Then I realized one little niche thing that would be considered country is western. They still think I’m country-western in some circles.
Does it bother you when people use the phrase “country-western”?
Not really. It just tells me off the bat. Like when they say, “Big fan. So when you got into country western …” First of all, no you’re not!
But I wanted to write a western song because it was one of the things I felt belonged on here. I love spaghetti western music. Crazy, cool music. I don’t know where [Italian composer] Ennio Morricone got the idea that a Fender guitar through an amp with reverb and a guy whistling was the sound of the Old West, but he did. And it’s amazing to me how much that is the sound of the Old West. So I covered the guitar with the reverb part, and I figured if you want street cred — if there is such a thing as street cred in the western movie word — it’s to have Clint do the whistling.
How has business changed since you started?
Luckily, there’s one that that hasn’t changed. People want to come see you play these songs they love. Almost everything else has changed, the way that you go about providing them that music. … When I did Who Needs Pictures [his 1999 debut album], they pressed a few in vinyl. That was about the last time, I think. And now, I don’t know how many people listen on CD anymore. They might buy the CD, but before they’re done with it, it will end up on some other format in a headphone device as an MP3. But that’s the thing that’s good about it. The business doesn’t change in terms of live music. People still go see you play.
You have the luxury of having lots of hits that people want to hear you play live.
Hopefully. At least for now. And I’m loving that because I think that’s the most fun part of the job. I love recording. That would be a close second.
But all of this goes back to an earlier question. In today’s technological and business climate, how can new artists set themselves apart and build a career?
I don’t know. There are ways to use it. It’s just not the old ways. I have fun with the media part of it. I love Twitter. I like going on there and seeing a DJ who says, “Just got Brad Paisley’s album in the mail. I’ll let you know if it doesn’t suck.” I wrote him back right away. Ten years ago, I never would have heard that guy say anything. I wrote him and said, “Wow! What a glowing expectation you had for my record.” He came back and said, “By the way, it does not suck.” So, you know, that’s fine. I’ll take it. But what a great time to be trying to get the word out about music and songs and concerts and just being a celebrity of some sort, it’s kind of fun to be able to see a fan who says, “Do you ever … whatever?” And I’ll just write back, “Yeah” or “No” or “None of your business.”
How often is the response, “None of your business”?
Quite a bit. (laughs)
The Voice may be TV’s runaway hit of the season, but that doesn’t mean Brad Paisley, 38, is intent on judging vocal talent like his pal Blake Shelton does on The Voice. Why not? Paisley, whose ninth CD, This Is Country Music, just hit stores yesterday, shares his thoughts with Us about the hot show, his sons Huck, 4, and Jasper, 2, with wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley, 39 and his marital advice for another close friend, Carrie Underwood.
US: How does this album compare to the last album?
BP: The last album was a very personal group of songs that were about my life and my take on the world. It was my opinion, my thoughts, my observations and my personal stories. This album is mostly stories. A lot of opening lines on this album start with ‘she,’ and ‘they,’ and ‘I saw,’ as opposed to the last album where the songs began with ‘I remember,’ and ‘when I was.’ One song is about the story of a girl who loves old Alabama music. There are songs about a guy losing his job, and there are songs about having to drink somebody off your mind. For the theme of the album I wanted to explore country music. The first song, ‘This is Country Music,’ states that, ‘this is real; this is your life in a song.’
US: Are there any moments on the CD where you can laugh out loud from the funny stories you sing about?
BP: One of the funnier songs is a song called “Camouflage,” which explores the pattern and all it’s come to represent. It’s the new rebel flag. Camouflage is only effective in rural areas. If someone in New York City is wearing it, they’re making a statement, they’re not trying to blend in, and they’re defeating the purpose of the fabric. One of my favorite lines in the song is about how the only thing as patriotic as the old red, white, and blues are green, and grey, and black, and tan, and brown mixed to make camouflage. I feel the funniest verse of the song is about the rednecks that wear it to prom. There’s a song called ‘Toothbrush,’ which is through the eyes of a guy with a child. In it, he realizes you begin and end your day with that toothbrush.
US: You were really affected by the National Flood, and even named your last tour the Wet Tour. Will we see any of that on the album?
BP: No. Only some people are aware of what this town went through. I was definitely influenced by it. I ended up with new guitars because I had to replace a lot of things. I took the little insurance money for lost instruments and bought an old Martins, which aided in the creative process and were byproducts of the flood. The experience tailored my perspective. The writing process really comes from that larger scope of things as opposed to things that just happened probably here in Nashville.
US: What happened to the CW network show you were going to do with Zach Quinto and Neil Dodson?
BP: That has morphed into something else. We’re working on a project for another network. You know how networks are…they’ll say, well what if you did this with it, or that with it. I think something is going to wind up on the air eventually.
US: How are your two boys doing?
BP: They are two and four, which is the perfect age gap. They get along well. They are now to the place where they like similar things. Since I was an only child, I’m envious of both of them for having each other. There are little fights. My money is always on the littlest one, Jasper. He is the one that hits the door with his head and keeps walking, as opposed to his brother who hits the door with his head and then you have to console him for the next fifteen minutes.
US: Are they budding musicians or budding actors, like your wife?
BP: I can’t tell yet. We’re not pushing them towards anything. At this age, if they are pursuing something, they’re either a true child prodigy or they’re getting pushed there. They can find what they want to do in life. They go off to swim lessons and karate and so we’ll see what sticks. They really like music but that doesn’t mean anything.
US: How do you like hosting numerous Country Music Shows with Carrie Underwood?
BP: Carrie and I have a duet on this new album. We are really good friends and get along fantastic. There is not a finer singer or person in our industry. She’s got such class. Award shows can be long, they’re high pressure and they’re tedious and boring if they’re not done correctly. I like the creative aspect of it.
US: So have you been able to give Carrie any marital advice?
BP: We’ve had small conversations. I think the biggest advice I can give somebody is to pick the right person; but that’s not going to help somebody who is already married. In the end you’re either compatible or you’re not. Her and Mike seem great and 100% compatible. I think they’re going to be absolutely fine.
US: Do you ever go on double dates around Nashville?
BP: I’ve taken Mike out to lunch a few times when he was playing hockey in Ottawa. He stays home a lot while she’s on the road. She’s invited us to a few playoff games.
US: Do you think they’re going to have kids soon and if so, any parenting advice?
BP: I don’t have any idea, its personal. I only know bad parenting when I see it. You can’t judge, you know, you could do everything right and the kid still ends up being Charlie Sheen.
US: Your buddy Blake Shelton has been on The Voice and he’s hilarious. Have you thought of doing a show like The Voice?
BP: I haven’t actually seen The Voice but I would never do it. I would probably hate it. I’m not cut out for that since I don’t enjoy making commentary and I don’t enjoy the process of evaluating other singers. I cringe when I hear a bad singer. I was one of those people at one point and sometimes still am. I’m just not comfortable doing it. Compared to Blake, I am more afraid to say what I think.
US: Are you looking forward to going back on tour?
BP: Right now we’re just getting ready to get back out there. It’s always when we begin to set the whole thing up and I see it assembled in rehearsal that I think to myself, how on earth are we going to get this done in time? It’s going to be a disaster the first night. I make a fool out of myself for a living and film all this goofy background footage. I did a song on the new album that’s a surf type tune and we just go up to my round pen, which has a big floor of sand and we wear button down striped shirts and khaki pants with our hair slicked back. We look absolutely stupid.
US: Your videos are hilarious, especially the one with Taylor Swift.
BP: I didn’t realize, until I got a tweet from somebody, that when it ends, it says ‘winner’ over Jimmy Dickens and it’s flashing ‘loser’ over Taylor. Somebody took a picture of just me singing with Taylor’s picture with ‘loser’ above it. If you catch it at the right time, I look like I’m Kanye.
US: How do you always stay in great shape?
BP: Were religious about our eating habits on the road. We carry a gym in the semi and set it up everyday. The venues I play, all have large concourses where you can easily run two miles. Almost everyday I run a couple of miles and do weights. The biggest workout is the show because I’ve got an eight-pound guitar and I am running around. I don’t know how many calories I burn but I bet more than my workouts. As for dieting, I’ll give up sweets. I’m not hardcore. I’m getting to the point where I have to give up certain things or I find my jeans get tighter. I think that’s where people get into trouble; they will just buy new jeans.