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Brad Paisley: the savior of country music?

By Jeffrey B. Remz, May 2001

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The three talked about songs and "putting your heart into it and the whole point of why you sit down to write and life and why we're here. Next thing you know, we're answering it."

They actually considered some negative verses, including divorce, but "it was blowing the whole Hallmark mentality of the song - the feel good (aspect). Let's not talk about it. In the greater scheme, that's what happens when two people fall in love."

Not everything is so sweet. "I'm Gonna Miss Her," perhaps a summer single, finds the guy choosing fishing over a girl.

Paisley wrote "Come On Over Tonight" with fellow singer Chely Wright.

Wright and Paisley had played the Opry on a Saturday and were booked to write together that Monday. "We were talking about the fact that I still needed an uptempo song," says Paisley. "We were still trying to finish one of the things that I wrote with her. She said, "Aren't you worried?' I said, "No, I'm not worried. She said, 'you know you cut Tuesday.'"

"I gave her this big speech - 'It'll happen. Just see.' That Sunday, we sat down to write, and we finish this thing for her in 20, 30 minutes. We started talking. We didn't even go to lunch. We had an idea, and she went 'there it is.' Talking about guys and saying how I love you. She made the comment it's like this or that happening. It's something strange. That's all good and everything, but I can't wait to see those flying pigs."

Next thing they knew is they incorporated some strange imagery ("oak trees sprouting dollar bills") and had themselves the start of another song.

"So, we started howling, laughing at the concepts, possibilities for those things. We had a verse and a chorus at 3 p.m., and I had a meeting at 4 p.m with (RCA label head) Joe Galante for songs we were going to cut."

Usually demos, or rough versions of songs are played, but all Paisley had was "a sheet of paper. He heard it, and he laughed, and he said, 'cut it, but finish it.' We got it done by about 11 that night."

"Too Country" could easily be interpreted as a swipe at those who have turned the genre on its face. But Paisley doesn't necessarily see it that way.

When Chuck Cannon and Bill Anderson wrote it, "they probably have music in mind to some degree, but it's also not totally about that. The country way of life to some is a joke and to others is a country way of life. It's the way they live. Maybe somebody makes fun of somebody for living in a city. Here's a misconception - sometimes that something that is too country is bad. That doesn't necessarily mean musically. It could be lifestyle."

"You look at the simplicity of life, going to church on Sundays, trusting your neighbors, no real outside influence...As that all evolved, we lost a little bit of that innocence. It's more a lament maybe towards that. That's what I hear."

"I am thinking about music to some degree. I don't like someone's excuse for why they do or don't like something or why it would or wouldn't fit on a program is because it's too country. Don't tell me that. You don't get to say that. You should tell me, you don't sing that on key or those lyrics don't make sense or sonically that doesn't have merit."

"When I first heard it, it was certainly about music. One of the reasons I loved this song so much was I've been told I'm that (too country)."

"I've never heard anybody on one of these early morning programs say, 'It's just so popular. Can you make it a little less pop? Can you make it a little less country?'"

So far, the West Virginia native has little cause for concern. His 1999 debut, "Who Needs Pictures?," did well right off the mark with the title track, "We Danced Anyway," the playful "Me Neither" and the touching "He Didn't Have to Be" about a stepfather who is close to his stepson.

What perhaps made it even more remarkable was that the album was produced by the unknown Frank Rogers and included members of Paisley's band.

The usual routine is to have a veteran producer direct the show and grab a bunch of hired hands playing a song they just learned.

But Paisley would have none of that.

"That was something I went in there with sort of a prerequisite for - I'm going to bring in some people with me on this that aren't necessarily experienced. The good thing about Arista (later taken over by BMG) was they always gave people their shot. I don't think Don Cook had ever produced anybody before Brooks & Dunn. All of these people sort of got their start. (Label head) Tim (Dubois) saw something in the demos we did. Looking back, I don't know what it was."

Paisley said one of the interesting aspects of the process was that of the first four songs cut, three "We Danced," "Who Needs Pictures" and "Me Neither" - were singles.

Paisley says he was not concerned about commercial success or failure. "I didn't care about that. I wanted to do it the way we wanted to do it. I wanted to do it in a way we'd be proud. If it failed, it failed."

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