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Brad Paisley Opens Up About His All-American Life

Brad Paisley has a lot to smile about these days. He’s happily married to the girl of his dreams with two adorable sons, and professionally he’s on quite a roll. He won the last two Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year awards and the last three consecutive Male Vocalist honors from the Academy of Country Music. He’s sold more than 10 million albums and has scored 14 No. 1 singles, including his most recent hit, ‘Then,’ which spent three weeks at the summit. Today, he unleashes his eighth album, ‘American Saturday Night.’ Before heading out on tour with openers Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne, Brad previewed the new record for The Boot at Blackbird Studios, shared some photos on his iPhone of his boys and pal Little Jimmy Dickens, and talked about music, married life and why you can never have too much mustard.

What was on your mind as you were making ‘American Saturday Night’?

I was looking for some uncharted territory as an artist, because six albums in — not counting a Christmas and an instrumental album — that’s a lot of ground that’s been covered. So what am I doing? How can I make that even better? Where can I go that I haven’t gone? And what are people feeling? What am I feeling? These times are fairly uncertain, but at the same time I have this really hopeful outlook that comes from having two little boys now — both of them, in some way or another, spitting images of me. Songs are certainly influenced by how I see the world now through a couple of other sets of eyes. On top of that, I’m touring the country at a time when I’m seeing different things on the faces of people, and one thing I’m seeing is how important it is that I’m telling their story. They deserve that kind of honesty out of me.

Do you feel that you are pretty much like the people that you sing to?

I know I am. They are better at their respective jobs than I would be, and this is what I do. I come home and do the same things that they probably do. I have a to-do list and I have a farm I care for, and things I like to do for fun — going to movies and all that stuff. It’s a painfully normal life! I think they would be thoroughly disappointed in the “glamorous” lifestyle that I lead. There are times when it’s pretty dang cool to go to New York and do a TV show, but for the most part, I’m as normal as I can be. That’s how I’m still able to relate to them. I hope I never lose sight of that.

What kind of things did you want to say with this record?

No one can make the album they made 10 years ago with a straight face. There are two reasons: one is you change as a person. To be a true artist, I have to be true to who I am now and write that way. And the second thing is these are different times. I think it was Ben Franklin that said, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ and we do.

What made you choose ‘Then’ as the first single?

The one thing that you can find complete respite from in these times is true love. If you fall in love with somebody, then you’re not even worried about your bills. Love can take your mind off of anything. That’s the kind of song that I wanted to hear in these times.

You co-wrote all 14 tracks on the album and you’ve said this is a more personal album than any other. Why is that?

If the last album was looking back to high school, this one I look back a lot on who I became from a little boy on. You’ll see it in ‘If He’s Anything Like Me,’ which is about my son Huck and also this newest one [baby Jasper]. It has a lot of funny lines in it: ‘I can see him right now, knees all skinned up with a magnifying glass trying to melt a Tonka truck.’

You’ve said your new single, ‘Welcome to the Future,’ is your favorite song you’ve ever written. Why?

We knew we wanted to talk about technology and how the world is changing. It’s the hardest thing in the world to take the emotions I’ve had in the last six months and put them in a song, [including] having two boys now and thinking about them. That whole first verse just so resonates with the world I grew up in and the world they’re going to grow up in. They’re two different places. I was thinking back to the world my grandfather grew up in. In spite of some of the worst times economically that we’ve ever had, there’s a feeling of hope and a feeling of pride.

There’s also a ‘Welcome to the Future’ reprise about your family that is so touching. You’ve told the story before about how your hometown girlfriend broke up with you. The two of you had seen ‘Father of the Bride’ and when the sequel came out, you went to the theater hoping to see your ex. Of course, now you’re married to the movie’s star. Have you ever run into that ex-girlfriend?

I ran into her at a class reunion. She has kids and a great life, probably much better than she would of with me! That [relationship] was in ’93 or ’95 …There’s a long time between that and here, so she would have had a really rough road, and it was for the best for her for sure. She must have known what she was doing when she dumped me.

What’s your favorite way to spend an ‘American Saturday Night’?

I love to play. When I’m off, I feel a little lost — like shouldn’t I be on stage somewhere? It’s the best night of the week to be playing music, and that’s one reason why I named the album that.

Where are you and the family going for summer vacation?

We’re calling it a “staycation.” John Lasseter, who runs Pixar and Disney Animation, and I became good buddies a while back, and he’s a huge country music fan. They are having a “staycation” this year at their house, and we’re going out and spend a week. They have a vineyard in Sonoma. They have a fishing pond and a great swimming pool. It’s in northern California, which is just about the prettiest area in our country. We’re going to take the boys. They’ve got four boys that are still at home, five total. Friends of theirs from Houston are coming in too, and they have three boys. There’s not a girl among this group! There’s a total of 10 boys, different ages, running around that week. It will be just wild.

Do you have a nanny for the boys?

No. We have a couple of trusted friends and babysitters and two sets of grandparents. We don’t have anybody on payroll. That was a big deal for me. Luckily, we’ve made it work so far. I’m lucky that my parents are in such good shape, and they are only 60. The other night we wanted to go see ‘Up,’ which by the way, is unbelievable — a work of art! I called my mom and said, ‘We’re thinking about going to see a movie. What are you guys doing later?’ And they said, ‘We were just going to get something to eat, and we’ll come by when we’re done.’ They
came and put Huck down and fed Jasper, and then we went to that movie. It’s nice to do that and then come home and know that they are with their grandparents and they are having a better time than when we’re here … and learning more probably!

We know Jasper’s middle name, Warren, came from your grandfather. But where did his first name come from?

My wife had a dream that we had a little boy and named him Jasper. This was before she was pregnant. We kept thinking about that, and when we found out it was a boy, we toyed with that idea all the way until we were in the hospital. Then after he was born, we started running it up the flagpole and in spite of what the flagpoles thought, we did it! [laughs]

I gather other family members didn’t quite warm to it like you thought they would?

When we picked William as the first name of Huck — which by the way no one calls him — that was such a strong and classic name, of course they said, ‘We love it!’ But we didn’t tell them the middle name and then we said, ‘By the way, Huckleberry is the middle name.’ They wanted to kill us! This time we tried it out and it was like, ‘Oh, Jasper? OK, let me think about that.’ Each set of parents had the same kind of reaction: We said it and they said, ‘Well, what about … ? Have you thought about the name … ‘ and they [suggested] another name, like it was up for discussion! But anyway, I love it because I don’t know any Jaspers.

Huck turned two years old in February. Is he talking a lot?

His verbal skills are ridiculous! The other day, I was sitting there reading him a book and patting him on the back. He said, ‘Hey, why are you burping me daddy?’ I guess he thought I was burping him! He doesn’t miss anything at all. It’s unbelievable.

What is Huck’s favorite thing to do on your days off?

The bulldozer is the best! We’ll fire it up, and he sits in my lap. We just push some rocks or dirt around, and he loves every bit of it. A two-year-old loves little toy bulldozers and trucks, but to be that age and sitting in your dad’s lap on an actual bulldozer, he loves it. And by the way, he knows how to run it now because it’s hand joy stick controlled. The left one does forward, reverse and all that, and then the right one raises and lowers the bucket. It’s just hilarious. I’ll have someone here and I’ll say, ‘Watch this — Go forward!’ and he pushes it forward and raises the bucket. He’s so intense in his face when he’s doing it. It’s so funny.

How do you deal with being away from your family while on tour?

I think what I’m going to really love about touring is me waking up at 11:00 in the morning and calling and see how it’s going. [laughs] I’m not going to enjoy actually physically being away from them, but when you say “touring,” people get the vision of ‘Spinal Tap’ in their mind, a world-wide tour where it’s crazy and pandemonium and all that, but I hop on an airplane or a bus. There’s maybe three days away from my family, and then I’m home. And while I am here, I’m completely home. I’m not working eight hour days.

In your relationship, who is the more organized, responsible one?

Kim. I can hold my own on things like making sure the cars are in good shape or landscaping, but other than that, she pretty much makes sure that the kids have what they need and I have what I need to eat and live. [When I was single] I literally don’t know how many weeks in a row that I would look in the fridge and there would be nothing in it, and I’d open it the next day and expect a different result. If she didn’t go to the store, there’s not going to be anything in it. There would be mustard, and that’s it.

What is it about guys and mustard? We have five bottles in our refrigerator — thanks to my husband.

I know the thought process. We go to the store, see things we think we need and just buy them. We want to look like we know what we’re doing, so you have to buy something. And you can never have too much mustard! You just buy the mustard, because you figure while you’re checking out you’re going to look like, ‘Oh this guy has it together! He’s buying mustard. He knows what he’s doing.’ Mustard also says, ‘Hey this is going on something pretty exciting.’ You’re not buying mustard to put it on some boring salmon dish. It’s going to go on a hot dog or a hamburger. Nothing says we’re having a party like mustard.

Your first album came out in 1999. How does it feel to be celebrating your 10th anniversary as a recording artist?

It’s sort of a shame that everyone can’t love their job like I do, because I can’t wait to get back on the road and play these songs. We’re going to be doing six new things in the show. That’s the most I’ve ever done in a show as far as new songs. I just love that. Ten years later to be looking forward is the biggest thing for me — being able to feel like the road is stretching out in front of me. If somebody would walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, 10 years ago your first album came out’ and I’d already been dropped from the label, I’d still feel an accomplishment for what we’ve done, but it wouldn’t be as fun knowing that this is just the beginning or at worst, I’m in the middle.

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