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The Paisley Patterns

Brad Paisley Is at the Top of the Country Music World, writing songs and smoking cigars
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Brad Paisley, March/April 2012

The 100-year-old farmhouse is set back in a hollow near Franklin, Tennessee, about 15 miles south of Nashville—up a long driveway from the nearest road. No gates—just a sign as you enter notifying you that this is private property.

It’s actually the guesthouse, just down the hill from the big house where country-music star Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, live with their two young sons (Huck, 5, and Jasper, 2). There are horses grazing in the pasture beyond a fence; on another part of the property, deer wander.

In fact, the Paisleys lived in this four-bedroom guesthouse (the original structure has been expanded significantly) while they were building their main residence a few years ago. Now, for Paisley, this house is Creativity Central—the place where it all happens.

“We wrote every song on my last two records in this room,” he says, sitting in a living room that features a drum kit and piano (and a scuffed solid-body red Fender guitar) to go with the nicely appointed yet thoroughly homey furnishings. Tall, lean and broad-shouldered, Paisley is dressed casually: long-sleeved T-shirt, navy-blue pants from a tracksuit, sneakers and a baseball cap with a logo for Hendrick Motorsports.

“We’d have six people writing at one time. There were times when I had them writing in here while I was upstairs in the studio recording. This house has the greatest vibe for me. I don’t think I know how to write at the other house.”

As he gets ready to launch his 2012 tour—dubbed “The Virtual Reality World Tour 2012” by Paisley—on this afternoon a week before Christmas, his witty song, “Camouflage,” is still on Billboard’s Country Top 20; so is his most recent album, “This Is Country Music,” eight months after its release (including a stint in the No. 1 slot). Paisley’s music publishing company, Sea Gayle Music, was ASCAP Country Publisher of the Year for 2010.

Paisley has had 19 No. 1 songs since he released his first album, “Who Needs Pictures,” in 1999. Ten albums later (including a double-album compilation called “Hits Alive!”), his mantle (or, more accurately, his parents’ mantle) is clogged with award statuettes: from the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Artist award in 1999, to Grammy Awards for both his instrumentals and as a vocalist, to several awards as Top Male Vocalist from both the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association. In 2010, he was named both CMA’s Entertainer of the Year and Artist of the Year at the American Country Awards.

As it happened, Paisley was the cohost (with Carrie Underwood) of the televised CMA award show the night he won Entertainer of the Year. He’s handled the hosting chores for four straight years—including writing comedy material for himself and Underwood.

“The day after the last CMA show, those women on ‘The View’ were saying, ‘Why don’t they get whoever wrote that show to write the Oscars?’ ” recalls Kendal Marcy, who, as leader of Paisley’s band, the Drama Kings, has played with him for 13 years. “In other words, professional writers don’t do as good a job as Brad did.”

And that’s not to mention the computer-animated cartoons that Paisley does himself, which play on the mammoth video screens that are part of his concert presentation. Paisley loves to draw and is also a self-taught painter; he schooled himself in the computer software that creates comic animated adventures starring cartoon versions of himself and his band as superheroes, which show behind them while they unwind an instrumental like “Time Warp” in concert.

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