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Brad Paisley: the savior of country music?

By Jeffrey B. Remz, May 2001

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"I always thought it would succeed," says Paisley.

"Any artist that ventures into this kind of thing in his or her mind, you got to believe 'I've got something people need to hear.' I didn't know if it would be hugely successful or just get some airplay. I thought somehow I'd eke out a living a living before it was over."

He had a country bent at a young age. His maternal grandfather, Warren Jarvis, handed Paisley his first guitar at age eight. "We fiddled around with him anyway before that. He had a few guitars and was a guitar player himself. I'd sit down and watch him in awe as he played. He always said I needed to do it. 'This boy needs to play the guitar some day.' I had to."

Paisley grew up in Glen Dale, West Va., a stone's throw south of Wheeling near the Ohio border. "Mayberry," says Paisley describing his hometown of just under 2,000 folks. "If you ever watched Andy Griffith, it was that. You'd walk down to the drug store. You'd sit on the swing. Go fishing. The river's right down there. I'd head down there and see if anything was biting. You'd ride your bike to the creek. It was a perfect place to grow up. I could always go out the back door and say I'd be back. There were no worries. There were no abductions. No fear of anything."

Paisley took guitar lessons, but learned more from his grandfather and a teacher, Clarence "Hank" (he sounds like Hank Garland when he plays, according to Paisley) Goddard.

The youngster advanced to the point where he was able to play the Wheeling Jamboree from the time he was 12.

"Anybody needed (someone) to sit and pick, that was me, whether it be a mother-daughter dinner at the church for Mother's Day or who knows? I played everything you could think of."

Paisley attended West Liberty State, but was itching to go to Nashville and transferred to Belmont, well known for its music business program. That's where he meet Rogers, his producer, and band members.

While there, he started writing songs. In fact, "I Wish You'd Stay" on "Part II" was pitched to EMI Publishing for other artists.

He got a job writing one week after graduating. "I walked the streets of Nashville a good 72 hours," Paisley jokes.

Paisley set his sites on Arista because he liked the artists on the label, including Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn.

"More than anything, my songs were being pitched to them. (Several label execs) heard them and were all loving the songs I was writing and approached me almost about the artistry before I could even tell them that's what I wanted to do. It just felt like home when I signed there."

Since then, Paisley has enjoyed a lot of hits from his debut, tours on the Strait Fest and Alan Jackson and membership in the Grand Ole Opry, a place he often plays.

"I listened to the Opry growing up, when it started airing on TV. My grandfather was a huge fan. I would listen to it on Saturday nights (coming home) on a date back from high school or college."

"What a great environment. Now I'm a member, and I can't believe it."

Paisley exhibits little concern about how his new album will do.

"Not really. It seems like it's off to a good start. I'm excited about the timing of everything, the success of the first single so far. If anything, we're looking at a lot of the same people who bought the first album would probably like this. It's not like I went out now and from went from 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' to 'Strawberry Fields.' I haven't changed dramatically in any way. I think it is deeper. It's pretty simple. If they liked the first album, I think they'll like this. It's pretty simple. I'm not really nervous about it. Besides, if it doesn't do well, I'll live."

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