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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 3)

Paisley has his own guitar heroes, many of whom he’s played with. He won a pair of Grammy Awards for best country instrumental, including for “Cluster Pluck,” for which he gathered such noted pickers as James Burton (who backed both Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson), Vince Gill, John Jorgenson, Steve Wariner and Albert Lee to trade licks. He’s played onstage with Buck Owens and Roy Clark, but also with Brian Setzer, and recorded a duet of “Let the Good Times Roll” with blues legend B.B. King for his album, “Play.”

Paisley is modest about his own abilities. While he loves to cut loose with an instrumental in concert, “I think if I said, ‘I won’t be singing tonight,’ we would have a problem. They want to hear the songs when I play a concert.”

There are still players with whom Paisley would love to sit in, a list that starts with guitar god Eric Clapton.

“I’ve even said that on ‘The Tonight Show,’ ” Paisley says with a smile. “In fact, I say it in every interview I give. I guess he’s avoiding me.”

Eddie Van Halen is also at the top of his wish-list: “And I’d really love to play with the Eagles—just to get up and play at the end of the night, those double-guitar parts on ‘Hotel California.’ I know all those guys, but I’ve never been to an Eagles concert.”

Paisley gets into shape for a tour with an exercise regimen of running and weights (and stretching, to fend off back problems that have occasionally bothered him). He doesn’t drink alcohol—never has, though, as he says, “I’ve tasted beer a couple of times”—or indulge in drugs (“Except antibiotics,” he notes).

His sole vice? A love of fine tobacco. Cigars, he says, have become not just a favored way to celebrate a good concert—they’re a passion and a source of relaxation, thanks to the teachings of Sesar, his long-time drummer, and Marcy, his bandleader.

Sesar had quit smoking cigarettes but had taken up cigars, which struck Paisley as odd: “But he told me that smoking cigars is nothing like smoking cigarettes,” Paisley recalls. “Cigarettes are a habit—but cigars are an event. Cigars are something that require focus; they’re not something you lean on. They’re something you consciously decide to do.”

His first cigar? A Cuban Montecristo he bought while on tour in Canada: “My drummer told me to sip the smoke, like water through a straw. He said to take little puffs, so it didn’t get in my lungs. He told me, ‘You’ve got to taste the smoke on your tongue, let it roll around and then blow it out completely.’ He also told me the taste would change throughout. I had a good teacher.”

Now it’s become something of a ritual: After a particularly satisfying concert, after the crowd has left, Paisley, Sesar and Marcy will wander up into seats in the upper reaches of the arena they’ve just played, light a cigar and watch the road crew tear down the stage: “It really puts a cap on the day,” Paisley says.

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