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Brad Paisley Biography

Last updated: 06/02/2014 05:02:12 PM

Age: 29
Born: October 28, 1972
Birth Place: Glen Dale, West Virginia
First Song: Born On Christmas Day
First Album: "Who Needs Pictures"

Brad Paisley will be the first to tell you he's led a charmed life-that everything just seems to fall into place for him. What he doesn't say-although it gradually becomes evident-is that his run of good fortune has been enhanced enormously by hard work, astounding musical talent and a clear, unwavering vision of where he wants to go.

If ever circumstances conspired to create an all-around country entertainer, the result is surely Brad Paisley. Who Needs Pictures, Paisley's debut album for Arista Records/Nashville, is marked by a prodigy's freshness of sound and a veteran's instinct for emotional truths. Paisley wrote or co-wrote every song. He plays all the guitar parts as well. "If I had to pick a phrase that embodies the whole album," he ventures; it would be 'laughter through tears.' That's the feeling you get when you hear these songs; there's a little wink of humor along with the seriousness." Some of them may make you laugh out loud-like "Me Neither" or "It Never Woulda Worked Out Anyway." But there are others-like "Who Needs Pictures" and "He Didn't Have To Be"-that might bring you to tears.

Born October 28, 1972, in the tiny Ohio River town of Glen Dale, West Virginia, Paisley seemed predestined for a life of music. "My earliest memory," he says, "is of running down the road to my grandfather's house. He was a railroad worker who worked the night shift. So he'd be at home all afternoon playing guitar. I'd go down there and spend the day watching him play.

He loved Chet Atkins and Merle Travis and Les Paul. And he'd play everything from 'Under The Double Eagle' to 'Wildwood Flower' to 'Shortenin' Bread.'" When Paisley was eight, his grandfather gave him his first guitar-a Sears Danelectro Silvertone with an amp in the case. Although fascinated by his new instrument, Paisley admits it wasn't exactly love at first sight. "As a little kid, you're out playing baseball and running in the woods. There are other things that are a little more fun than holding a guitar. But a year or so into it, I found myself waking up and thinking, 'Man, I love to do this.' Then I really got serious about it.

By the age of 10, I was playing well enough to accompany myself." At that point, a family friend suggested that Paisley perform in church. "I got up and did a song," he recalls. "And, I realized then that people seemed to take more to my singing than my guitar playing. Once you sing in church, it's just a matter of time until someone invites you to do the Lion's Club meeting! Or you go and sing for the Fraternal Order of Elks. Pretty soon, I was performing at every Christmas party and Mother's Day event they'd come up with. The neat thing about a small town is that when you want to be an artist, by golly, they'll make you one."

The next step, of course, was to form a band. To help him do it, young Paisley called on his guitar teacher and chief inspiration, Clarence "Hank" Goddard. "Hank was great," says Paisley, "and not just by local standards. He could play everything that Chet Atkins or Les Paul ever did." Goddard, who was in his late-50s at the time, enlisted two other equally seasoned pickers to help him play backup for the rising young star. "We called ourselves Brad Paisley & The C-Notes," Paisley says, "but some of my friends jokingly referred to them as the C-Niles. The greatest thing about Hank was that he would sit on stage and let me as a little kid butcher solos and play out of tune and out of time. I'd be doing a solo, and I'd be horrible. But Hank would be yelling, 'Good job, Brad.' I owe him and those other guys for a lot."

When he was 12, Paisley wrote his first song, "Born On Christmas Day." Looking back, he still thinks it was a pretty good effort. "I've written worse songs lately," he laughs. Paisley's junior high school principal heard the song and asked him to do it at the next Rotary Club meeting.

In the audience that day was Tom Miller, Program Director for WWVA, Wheeling's country radio powerhouse. Miller was so impressed by the performance that he invited Paisley to make a guest appearance on "Jamboree USA," the station's legendary Saturday night show. Paisley was ecstatic: "I ran through the house screaming, 'I'm going to play the Jamboree!' My grandfather was just super-proud. All of a sudden, he was seeing this guitar he'd given to me become my life." Paisley's performance went over so well that he was asked to become a Jamboree regular. During his eight years on the show, he opened for such country luminaries-and personal favorites-as Roy Clark, Jack Greene and Little Jimmy Dickens.

A year after Paisley joined the Jamboree, his grandfather was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. "He basically had three or so months left," Paisley says. "At about that time, I secured my first major headlining gig, opening for The Judds. He was in bad shape, but he got to come see me play. And I think he left this world knowing that he had started something good for me." Paisley's Jamboree membership also earned him the opportunity to perform each year at the mammoth outdoor summer festival, Jamboree in the Hills. The event routinely boasted dozens of top country acts and drew crowds of 60,000 or more. But the weekly Jamboree turned out to be Paisley's most valuable training ground. On the weekends he didn't perform there, he would hang out backstage. "I'd watch these artists-George Jones, Steve Wariner or whoever-and try to absorb everything from them that I could. It was an incredible learning experience."

Just as important as this front-line exposure, Paisley asserts, was the unconditional support he got from his community: "Growing up in the Ohio Valley, the neat thing for me was that I didn't have to ask to play a single gig. They were always offered to me. I've always felt very lucky-as if there's a hand of fate guiding me toward this profession. I never had to wonder if people would like what I do, because there were always people there who did." After high school, Paisley began his studies at nearby West Liberty College. But his college adviser, Jim Watson-noting what he'd done and what he still wanted to do-kept urging him to move to Nashville and enroll in the Belmont University music business program. Initially, Paisley resisted, preferring instead to remain close to home with his 'serious girl friend' and his college and musical buddies.

But when he came to Nashville to attend a friend's wedding, he stayed on long enough to check out Belmont. Excited by what he saw there, he decided to transfer. To give Paisley a leg up in his new surroundings, the president of his local chapter of the musicians' union wrote a letter of introduction to Nashville counterpart Harold Bradley, the famed session guitarist. Within a day of his arrival, Paisley was in Bradley's office. "We sat and talked guitars, and he spent an hour or so with me," Paisley marvels. Later that day, he went to Opryland to look up a friend who was working there. By pure chance, he ran into Grand Ole Opry star Porter Wagoner, who graciously took time out from schmoozing with tourists to point Paisley toward his friend's office. "So I'm thinking to myself," Paisley says, "It's my first day in Nashville, and I've just chatted with Harold Bradley and gotten directions from Porter Wagoner. I'm doing OK."

At Belmont, Paisley met Frank Rogers, a fellow student who now serves as his producer; Kelley Lovelace, a frequent songwriting partner; and many of the musicians who would later work in his band and play on his first album. Paisley served his college internship at ASCAP, the performing rights association. There he met Chris DuBois, another of his co-writers. His friends at ASCAP were sufficiently impressed by the songs Paisley was writing and set up an appointment with the talent scouts at EMI Music Publishing. A week after graduation, Paisley signed a songwriting deal with the company.

Like many up-and-coming artists in Nashville, Paisley earned extra money by singing and playing on demos. One of these attracted the attention of Arista Records/Nashville's A&R Department; "they liked both the voice and lyrics and asked to hear more." This budding interest from Arista dovetailed neatly with Paisley's own ambitions. "My goal when I moved to Nashville," he reveals, "was to be an Arista artist. I can remember buying [Arista] albums from 1989 on-Alan Jackson, Diamond Rio, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis, BlackHawk-and the music would always be great. Everything from the songs to the artwork on the albums was a notch above the rest." After a series of meetings and phone calls-during which each party proclaimed its affection and esteem for the other-Paisley added his name to the Arista roster.

The handsome singer/songwriter is overjoyed that most of the talents involved in creating Who Needs Pictures are as new to the record business as he is. The album is the first that producer Frank Rogers has presided over totally. And it was also new territory for most of the songwriters and musicians, Paisley included. "In fact," he remarks, "there isn't much on this record that was recorded or played by anyone who has done a major project before. But somehow we figured it out."

"When Randy Travis came along he brought back enthusiasm for traditional country music. Then more recently, Alan Jackson has reminded fans of how great traditional country music is. And now I am counting on you to carry on the tradition and make folks sit up and listen to what good country music should sound like."

- --The Possum, George Jones (from a letter written to Paisley and read at his Grand Ole Opry induction on February 19, 2001)

The idea for "Part Two," the title cut off Brad Paisley's second album was born in a darkened movie theater back in 1995. Sounds romantic. And it would have been. But Brad was there alone. Watching a movie by himself.

The movie, "Father of the Bride Part II," was the follow-up to the movie Paisley and a "certain girl" went to see on their first date. They had long since broken up but when the sequel to "their" movie came out, Paisley couldn't help thinking about her. And wondering if she was thinking about him.

"I ended up going to see (the sequel) on the exact day, at the exact same showing that we saw the first one," he says. "I did it on purpose thinking she might be there, too. Well, of course, she wasn't. No one is that psychotic except me."

Disappointed about his not-meant-to-be romance, Paisley consoled himself by writing a song with his best friend and frequent songwriting partner, Kelley Lovelace.

"We started talking," Paisley says, "and the line came out: 'Hollywood never fails to make a sequel' and 'Why can't love be more like that?' Then, I remember thinking that (Part II) would be a really great title for a second album. And a great concept."

So, even though Paisley was still almost two years away from signing his record deal, he already had a strong concept for his second album. This motivated him to get busy writing and recording songs for both his first and second albums, which he worked on simultaneously. It also cheered him up.

Fast forward to 2001. These days, Brad Paisley doesn't need a whole lot of cheering up.

The 28-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist is up for three awards at the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards including "Top Male Vocalist," "Album of the Year" for Who Needs Pictures and "Song of the Year" for "We Danced." Paisley is scheduled to perform his new single, "Two People Fell in Love," at the awards show, which will be broadcast live on CBS Television Network from Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 9th, 8-11 p.m. ET/PT.

This past February, Paisley was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Being asked to be a member was one of his life's goals. And he achieved it at age 28, after 40 some appearances since his Opry debut on May 28, 1999. He even borrowed something to wear that night from his idol, Buck Owens. (The same yellow Nudie jacket Owens wore on the cover of Paisley's favorite album, Live at Carnegie Hall.)

"That (induction) night was magical," he says. "Perfect. In that place, you just feel so loved."

The next day, Paisley flew to Los Angeles to participate in a whirlwind of activities surrounding the Grammy Awards. He was nominated for "Best New Artist" (nominees included all musical genres) and performed and presented on the awards show with legend Dolly Parton.

In April, he began touring as one of the featured acts on the hugely popular "George Strait Country Music Festival," which will hit 16 major markets by its end this summer.

So far, a very good year.

Then there was last year. Paisley was 2000's most-nominated and most-awarded new country artist of the year. At last year's ACMs, he won "Top New Male." In June, Paisley stole the spotlight at Fan Fair when he won the TNN Music Awards' "Discovery Award," as well as "Song of the Year" and "Video of the Year" for "He Didn't Have To Be." In October, he tied Faith Hill for most nominations (six) at the Country Music Association Awards, and took home the coveted "Horizon Award." He also collected several international new artist trophies in the UK and Holland.

Paisley's critically-acclaimed debut album, Who Needs Pictures, was recently certified Platinum (sales in excess of 1,000,000 units) by the RIAA. The album produced two #1 hits, both of which Paisley co-wrote. Many music writers, country radio announcers and fellow-musicians are already calling his first #1, "He Didn't Have To Be," a career song. This tribute to stepfathers, was again, written with his best friend, Kelley Lovelace. In fact, the song was inspired by Lovelace's relationship with his 9-year-old stepson, McCain Merren, who attended last year's ACM Awards as Paisley's guest.

"He Didn't Have To Be" triggered countless testimonials from fans touched by the song's heart-wrenching truth and strong sentiments. Fans continue to share their own stepfather stories with Paisley at every tour stop.

Paisley's next #1, "We Danced," topped Billboard's chart for two consecutive weeks. In the song, a woman leaves her purse in a bar and finds love when she returns to the closed tavern to retrieve it. Much like "He Didn't Have To Be," this song also has touched hearts and inspired fans.

"I even heard a story about a woman who purposely left her purse," Paisley says. "She came back later to get it from the bartender, like in the song. They ended up going out. So, it worked! It's nice to know that as a songwriter you can affect people's lives. But who knew we were writing scripts!"

Scripts are exactly what Paisley, who co-wrote 10 of the 13 songs on his new disc, had in mind for Part II.

"Part II is like a movie and a journey," Paisley says. "It's very cinemagraphic. It's very visual, whereas the first album was visual, too, but with more of a pictures theme with still photographs and snapshots of life. This one starts to move a little bit more. It's almost a motion picture to some degree. I feel like so many of the songs are stories. If there's a common thread in this, it's just reality trying to be captured on audiotape."

If Part II is meant to play like a movie, then what is this movie about?

"Ancestry," says Paisley. "The perfect example is my first single, "Two People Fell In Love," which is about the fact that you can trace everything back to two people's romance. The reason you're here, the reason I'm here is our parents saw something in one another, fell in love and we're the product. It goes back to everybody that's ever been born. It's like a snapshot of real life that's set in motion because you see it happening. You hear these stories throughout the song there's three different scenarios about people that fell in love and changed their little part of the world by doing so."

Another song from Part II that virtually drips with history is "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive." "In this song, you see it as you go back in time to when great granddad walked down Katahrins mountain and asked Tillie Helton to be his bride. You hear the story of that family's migration and attempts to get out of that coal town and how they almost never can."

Another nod to roots on this album is "Too Country." Paisley first heard Opry legend Bill Anderson sing this song, which he wrote with Chuck Cannon, while playing a writer's night acoustic show at the Grand Ole Opry with Anderson and songwriter Dean Dillon. The song made a powerful impression on Paisley. "It made me think of talks with my grandfather," he says. "Talking about a simpler time."

Hearing Anderson sing the song gave Paisley an idea. He would record the song for Part II and ask Anderson and two other country legends, Buck Owens and George Jones, to perform it with him. They agreed.

"Brad's vision from the very beginning was to have us old timers . . . er, legends . . . sing the song with him," Anderson laughs. "I love the way it turned out. My only wish is that the four of us can get together and perform it live somewhere. Anywhere, anytime, I'll be there!"

"Too Country" is filled with sweet lines such as: "Are the biscuits too fluffy? Is the chicken too fried? Is the gravy too thick? Are the peas too black-eyed?" But this song is more than just a nod to nostalgia. It is a strong statement proclaiming that it's okay to be "country." This is a conviction Paisley has voiced publicly many times.

"'Too Country,' that's been said about me!" Paisley says. "I think it's a phrase we need to lose."

Brad Paisley is country. In life and in music. Especially music. Many people in the country music community, including none other than George Jones, refer to Paisley as the torchbearer for traditional country music. Paisley responds to this enormous compliment in his usual mild-mannered way. "I'm proud that's the category they're putting me in," he says. "I don't know if I'm worthy of torchbearer but I feel proud to be one of the artists that they consider to be on that side of the fence. Because that was my goal setting out. I wanted people to recognize what I did as reminiscent. These (legends) mean everything to me."

Paisley's love of country music and his penchant for talking about it has unintentionally landed him in a few media controversies this year. It began when during his acceptance speech for the ACM's "Top New Male" award he stated that the only place he wanted his music to be played was on country radio. What was meant as an exuberant "thank you nod" has been misinterpreted by some as a criticism of those whose songs fit the pop format.

"I want my songs to be played on country radio because that's what I listen to," Paisley says. "It's as simple as that. If someone else wants to make a pop record, great! Let them! I hope their album sells great and I hope they're somewhere near the P's in the album bin!"

Paisley would rather focus on the positive. And the music he's loved all his life.

Paisley was born and raised in Glen Dale, West Virginia, a Mayberry-esque (pop. 1800) town. When he was only eight years old, his grandfather, a nightshift railroad worker who spent his afternoons playing guitar, gave him a gift: a Sears Danelectro Silvertone guitar with an amp in the case. Young Paisley mastered it quickly and soon he and his guitar were inseparable.

At age 12, he wrote his first song, "Born on Christmas Day," which he performed in church. Soon after, he sang at a Rotary Club meeting where the program director for the local country station heard him and invited him to play on WWVA's "Jamboree USA," the Wheeling-based station's Grand Ole Opry-style Saturday night radio show. The young prodigy wowed the live crowd and became a regular for eight years, opening shows featuring big name country artists such as Roy Clark, George Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens and Steve Wariner. Paisley says he learned invaluable lessons hanging out with the headliners, especially Wariner, who many years later would serve as host the night he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

"I could see his talent and passion even then," says Wariner. "Back when he was a little boy sitting around backstage picking with us, he was so totally focused."

For six years, beginning at age 14, Paisley also played the "Jamboree in the Hills" music festival in the outskirts of Wheeling, West Virginia, which attracts 60,000 plus country music lovers every year. He opened shows for dozens of top acts at the festival, from Reba McEntire on down.

By age 20, Paisley was a local celebrity as well as a second-year student at West Liberty State College. But he yearned for Music City. So he transferred to Nashville's Belmont University and enrolled in the Music Business Program.

While at Belmont, Paisley met Frank Rogers, a fellow-student who became his producer. Working together for more than two years, the two compiled a catalog of songs, some of which they wrote together, some with other writers.

Paisley served his college internship at ASCAP, the performing rights organization, which led to a meeting with talent scouts from EMI Music Publishing. One week after graduating from Belmont, Paisley signed a songwriting deal with EMI. He then began recording demos around town. Due in part to the fact that Alan Jackson had put a "hold" on one of his compositions, "I'm Gonna Miss Her," executives at Jackson's label, Arista Nashville, requested a copy of Paisley's demos. So impressed, they immediately offered him a deal. He happily accepted.

Paisley already had enough material for almost three full albums. It was really a matter of choosing which songs were right for his debut record. And having the discipline to save some favorites for the second and (yet-to-be produced) third album.

For instance, when Paisley's personal manager, Jimmy Gilmer, heard his four-song, pre-record deal demo tape for the very first time, one song in particular stood out.

"'I Wish You'd Stay,'" Gilmer says, "to this day it's my favorite Brad Paisley song. It knocked me down. I had to be patient though; we waited to put it on Part II."

When it came time to record the final tracks for Who Needs Pictures, the "traditional" Paisley took a bold, almost rebellious approach. He convinced his record company that his college friend and collaborator, Frank Rogers, should produce. (Rogers had never produced a major record.) Paisley convinced Arista Nashville to let him use musicians, several from his touring band, some who had never worked in the recording studio. He played all of the guitar parts on the record himself instead of signing up a seasoned studio ace. And, he tucked an instrumental song into the lineup.

The unorthodox approach worked. Who Needs Pictures was a smash and Paisley piled on the awards. So it's no surprise when it came time to produce Part II, no one tinkered with the proven approach.

"What's amazing about it is that we had a plan all along. If things went well on the first album, that would be the way we'd do things on Part II. The new record is similar to the first one but goes a lot farther, I think, in terms of exploring who I am. The songs come from the same place but they're deeper. They go further. There's more of a journey. There's more motion to it. The instrumentation is, to me, a little bit further a long. It moves a little more. Like any good sequel . . . I hope."

Part II picks up where Who Needs Pictures left off. Literally. "The fiddle that fades out at the end of the first record leads you into the first song on Part II," Paisley says. "I pictured someone putting them in the CD player and playing them back to back."

Paisley thinks of his body of work as an uninterrupted whole. He says he takes seriously the responsibility of making records, things that people will keep and play for years. The most important part of that responsibility is the songwriting.

"The thing that makes Brad such a good songwriter is he can make people cry then turn around and have them laughing on the same record," Bill Anderson says. "He understands emotions. So many young artists today have the talent but don't understand emotions."

Writing about emotions, what's real, is what is most important to Paisley. To him, that is the essence of country music.

Part II has every kind of song. Some songs tug hard at your heart. Some songs make you laugh. The tempos are fast, slow and middle of the road. Every time you play this record, you'll pick up another nuance (a never-heard steel guitar fill, guitars and fiddles whipping around hairpin curves).

Every time you listen you'll identify another influence (Merle Haggard, Little Feat, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Roger Miller, Chet Atkins, Buck Owens).

But despite all the different roads Paisley took to get to Part II, there is no doubt about where he lands: smack dab in the middle of country

Thanks to cody elliott for submitting the biography.