With a number of envelope-pushing songs under his belt, Brad Paisley shouldn’t be a stranger to controversy. But when ‘Accidental Racist’ was released in April, things got a little hotter than usual.

“This song was meant to generate discussion among the people who listen to my albums,” Paisley says in an interview with Vulture. “What I was most worried about is that my fan base would think that I was preaching to them. The last thing I ever want to do is be preachy. But I thought that my fans would get something out of hearing a point of view that they don’t hear very often -- a perspective you really don’t hear in country music.”

Things went a little farther than that, as some Southerners didn’t appreciate the underlying message of the song.

“Some Southerners got very mad it me: ‘I’m done with you. How dare you apologize for the Confederate flag,’” Paisley says. “The most surprising and upsetting thing was being thought of by some as a racist. I have no interest in offending anyone -- especially anyone in the African-American community. That song was absolutely, earnestly supposed to be a healing song. One hundred percent.”

Paisley was inspired to write 'Accidental Racist' after wearing an Alabama t-shirt on TV. “It was all blingy. And there was a [Confederate] flag on the shirt, too, about the size of a belt buckle,” he says. “It was half-covered by my guitar. And then I read some stuff on the internet reacting to it. Someone wrote, ‘Racist pig.’”

The event helped Paisley come to terms with the fact that the flag is a complicated symbol, despite its prevalence in Southern culture.

"That’s an interesting question,” Paisley says when asked if he would wear the flag again. “I haven’t since. If I put it on now -- look, the last thing I want to be is racially insensitive. I don’t want to be hurtful to anyone. There’s lots of other stuff I can wear."

Paisley’s songs have given hints about his political leanings -- 2009’s ‘Welcome to the Future’ celebrated Barack Obama’s election -- but he’s always been quiet about his voting record in interviews.

"I don’t talk about the people I vote for,” he says. “You shouldn’t listen to my music for political messages. See, here’s the problem with talking about who I voted for. If I say I voted for Romney, then everybody’s like, ‘Of course.’ If I say I voted for Obama, everybody’s like, ‘Of course.’ And then I’m no longer the guy you can’t figure out."

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