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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

(continued from page 2)

After high school, Paisley followed his parents’ wishes and went to college: first at local West Liberty University, then at Belmont University in Nashville—mecca to the aspiring country-music artist—where he made connections that became the roots of his career. He met fellow songwriters Frank Rogers, Kelley Lovelace and Chris DuBois, who have remained creative partners, with Rogers producing his albums. They would meet after work everyday, spend all night writing songs and, surreptitiously, work in the college’s recording studio.

“We wrote like it was a free buffet,” Paisley recalls. “Some of us had day jobs—so they’d come to the apartment at six when they got off and we would write songs from six at night until three or four in the morning. None of us had anything better to do—we were all hopelessly single.

“It would be, ‘What idea do you have today?’ and we’d have three ideas for songs. So we’d start one, get about halfway through, then start on another, get halfway through that before we went back to the first one—and there was still a third one we hadn’t started yet. Sometimes we spent all night in the studio because it was easier not to stop. I can’t believe I got by on that little sleep.”

Guitars continue to define his life. He lost a chunk of his collection in a 2010 flood that submerged Nashville, destroying all of his touring instruments and gear three weeks before the start of a tour. He still got the tour off the ground on time, replacing the nine or ten guitars he regularly used in concert.

His collection includes about 75 guitars; one room of the guesthouse has a dozen instruments hanging on the walls, including one with the neck attached to a body carved in the shape of a jumping fish (reflecting both Paisley’s passion for fishing and the success of his hit “I’m Gonna Miss Her [The Fishing Song]”). Two treasured gifts hang near each other: One is inscribed by the late Buck Owens, who gave it to him; the other is a guitar given to him after the flood by Roy Clark. Nearby hangs a commemorative guitar, given to new inductees to the Grand Ole Opry (Paisley was inducted in 2001).

“I think I’ve got an acoustic guitar in every room in my house,” Paisley allows. “If I walk into a room and there’s nothing to be done, I’ll pick one up and just play. It’s like a crazy appendage. They’re all a little bit different and each one brings something different out of you.”

Many of his guitars are made by Bill Crook of Crook Custom Guitars, but Paisley also owns Fender Stratocasters, and Gibson acoustics: “I’m not monogamous,” he says with a smile.

Paisley—who has songs in several editions of the “Guitar Hero” video game—has developed a reputation as one of country music’s most inventive and nimble-fingered guitarists, someone who fills each nook and cranny of every tune with tasty guitar fills and frills: “One of the things you can bet  on with any new song we do is that Brad will want a lot of guitar solos,” says Marcy, who plays keyboards, banjo and mandolin in the band.

Paisley has a distinctively twangy guitar tone, country filtered through Duane Eddy and Dick Dale: “But when he plays with other players, he’ll gravitate to their zone,” Marcy says. “He starts to cop what they’re doing. He has the ability to clone their sound.”

Adds Paisley’s drummer Ben Sesar, “He’s kind of a chameleon. And he’s the kind of player who will never have a peak as to how good he can be—it’s just steadily up. The older he gets, the more rich and complex his playing gets.”

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