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THE CHANGING WORLD OF BRAD PAISLEY
By Michael McCall   © 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Until recently, Brad Paisley resisted repeated suggestions that he jazz up his concerts with high-tech flash. He worried, as an emerging artist, that glitz might overwhelm the connection between him and his audience. He wanted listeners to get to know his growing catalog of songs, and by extension, get to know him. He didn’t want his show to grow faster than he did.

The strategy worked, too. Fans seeing the young West Virginian perform for the first time realized they were seeing an exceptionally multi-talented artist. He sang well and looked good, sure. But he also played like a guitar hero and wrote distinctive songs in a wide range of styles. The songs revealed a witty, whip-smart personality with an everyman quality. Paisley’s shows connected with fans through sly jokes and an easy-going, confident manner that brought everyone into the party with him. 

But with five No. 1 hits, four multi-Platinum albums and more than 6 million in sales, it was time to up the ante. For the “Time Well Wasted” tour featuring Sara Evans and special guest Josh Turner, Paisley brought on the glitz and the gadgets and the high-tech flash. The crowds were already there and already with him. The next step was delivering more bang for their buck.

“We really started seeing crowds big enough to justify investing in what we do,” said Paisley while relaxing at his Franklin, Tenn., farm on a rare day off. “So we took the plunge, and it was a good move, because it became a more enjoyable experience for the audience as well as for us.”

For such a laid-back guy, Paisley is a constant innovator. He didn’t want to just add fireworks, more screens, bigger stages and fancier lighting to his show. He wanted to do something distinctly his own.

He personally created a cartoon that animates each band member during the performance of the instrumental “Time Warp.” Alison Krauss magically appears on screen during “Whiskey Lullaby,” and Little Jimmy Dickens visits the show via satellite. Also, Paisley’s Web site comes up each night on the widescreen to show the results of an online contest to pick a song from his back catalog for the band to perform.

“The song contest makes it a different show each night,” Paisley said, “and that makes it fun for the fans and fun for us.”

For the cartoon, Paisley writes his own script and uses Toon Boom software to create animation. “It was something I was dared into doing,” he noted. “It gave me something to do on long airplane flights.”

He’ll act as if learning animation is no big deal, which tells you something about Paisley. Many young artists like to beat their chests and demand attention for every accomplishment. Paisley tends to politely smile and let the work speak for itself. Those who figure out he is a busy artist involved in all levels of artistry in his career, do so on their own.

It’s also instructive to observe where in the show he uses the cartoon. “‘Time Warp’ is a long, fast instrumental that without the cartoon might not be as entertaining for the crowd,” Paisley said. “It’s the kind of song musicians and music geeks appreciate, and hopefully the cartoon makes it enjoyable for those who might otherwise get restless during an instrumental.”

On the other hand, Paisley knows the added stage flash might rub some fans wrong. Including an instrumental is one of many ways he reaches out to them. 

“There are musical purists out there who might not enjoy the pyrotechnics and other distractions, but we lace those within songs with a lot of playing and a lot of musicality,” he said. “So that’s the trick we try to pull off. Hopefully the yin and yang of the show leaves everyone entertained at some level. It seems like it’s working, that we’re pleasing the very critical and the easy-to-please fans at the same time.”

For Paisley, it’s been a steady six-year climb into the hearts and minds of Country fans, who accepted him as a humble yet multi-dimensional artist who loved and respected the music’s traditions yet had a vision for its future. 

His progress from promising upstart to emerging star to headliner and genre leader can be verified in every measurement, from radio play to album sales to concert audience to awards shows. His four GRAMMY nominations were the most among Country artists this year, just as his six nominations at the 2005 CMA Awards, including his first in the elite CMA Entertainer of the Year category, ranked him as the most nominated performer that night. 

This year shows even more growth. Besides his hit tour, Platinum album Time Well Wasted and gracing the cover of the April issue of Vintage Guitar magazine, he’s scored another big hit with “When I Get Where I’m Going,” a touching, spiritual tune with harmonies by Dolly Parton, re-affirming the singer’s ties to Country’s past while bringing depth to today’s sound. While it’s his fifth No. 1, it’s telling that many of Paisley’s career songs — “Alcohol,” “Celebrity,” “Whiskey Lullaby,” “Little Moments” and “Me Neither” — didn’t reach No. 1, even though they’ll remain Country mainstays for decades to come. 

“There does seem to be a heightened awareness,” said Paisley with typical understatement. “All these nominations kind of put you on the offensive. It makes you want to live up to it every night. That’s a welcome kind of pressure.”

He also acknowledges that positive encouragement only pushes him to work harder to keep things fresh. “I feel like we’ve got a really great show right now,” he said. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on stage, times 10. But there isn’t a night I don’t worry if people will come. I can be told it’s sold out, and I’ll still worry until I’m out there and see for myself. I’ll think, ‘They’re wrong, they’re not coming, they made a mistake.’ I don’t know what that’s about, but it makes me work hard every night.”

He also recognizes that he’s part of a new Country vanguard that’s taking the music into the 21st century with endless promise and possibilities for expansion. Paisley sees himself as a team player in a crusade led by the CMA to show the nation and the world the universal appeal inherent in Country Music. Paisley praises the forward-looking advances made in the CMA Music Festival and the CMA Awards in recent years, pointing out that both have brought greater attention to the music and its stars. He’s proud to be performing at the Festival this June.

“It seems like everything has a little lift to it these days,” he said. “The music feels alive, and so does the business around it. We’re looking at new ideas and finding new ways to get the music to people, and the CMA is definitely at the forefront of that. Country Music is in a great place, and the CMA should be credited. There are a lot of moves being made that are really well-planned and really well thought out.” 

On the Web: www.bradpaisley.com 

Brad Paisley will perform at the 2006 CMA Music Festival which takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 8-11, in Downtown Nashville, Tenn. Tickets are available now and can be ordered several ways: call 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visit www.CMAfest.com to download an order form to fax or mail; visit www.Ticketmaster.com to buy online or charge-by-phone at (615) 255-9600. 

Four-day ticket package categories correspond to a different level of reserved seating at The Coliseum. Children 3 years and younger are admitted free. Four-day ticket packages include the Nightly Concerts at The Coliseum; Daily Concerts the Greased Lightning® Daytime Stages; daily admittance to the Wrangler® Fan Fair® (Exhibit Hall) featuring the Acoustic Corner; Family Zone; Crisco® Country Favorites Corner; Fun Zone; Sports Zone; CMA Music Festival After Hour™; free in-town shuttles; the CMA Music Festival Program Book; CMA Music Festival lapel pin; and more. Prices do not include applicable handling fees. Ticket prices are subject to change without notice. All sales are final and non-refundable.

2006 CMA MUSIC FESTIVAL FOUR-DAY TICKET PACKAGE PRICES

LEVEL Full Price 14 and younger

Gold Circle (Floor) SOLD OUT N/A

Floor Level SOLD OUT SOLD OUT

Lower Level $135 $95

Club Level $125 $86

ON SALE NOW are a limited number of tickets to the individual Nightly Concerts at The Coliseum for only $30 each (plus applicable handling fees). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com; (615) 255-9600; or 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378). 

The lineups for the four Nightly Concerts at The Coliseum include the following artists plus surprise guests! 

Thursday (June 8) features a rare, triple-headliner bill of Hank Williams, Jr., Brooks & Dunn, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, plus Gary Allan, Sara Evans, Pat Green, Little Big Town and Blake Shelton.

Friday (June 9) Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Terri Clark, Billy Currington, Montgomery Gentry, Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood. 

Saturday (June 10) Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Craig Morgan, Brad Paisley, Josh Turner and Carrie Underwood. 

Sunday (June 11) Keith Anderson, Clint Black, Los Lonely Boys and Ronnie Milsap, Joe Nichols, LeAnn Rimes, SHeDAISY and Sugarland.

 

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