Confirmed country superstar Brad Paisley is back this summer with his seventh album, American Saturday Night (due June 30th), and with lead single “Then” already No. 1 on the charts, we rang him up for a chat. Fun fact: Did you know the guy who wrote “Online” doesn’t understand Facebook? “I don’t actually know anything about much of that,” he admits. “I need to learn more about it, especially if I’m gonna sing about it. Here I am, making all these claims in a song, and I guess I’m a fraud.” Say it ain’t so, Brad!
Brad Paisley: There’s this alleged Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” Which I always thought was a wish for someone, until I found out it’s actually a curse. And I can see why, to some degree. I guess uninteresting times are preferable. It’s uneventful, and everyone’s just peaceful and happy. It’s something, living right now. I find a lot of hope in it. I think everybody’s got one eye with angst on the problems in our country and society, but their other eye is on all this hope of things getting better. And it felt wrong to be singing “Online” or “Ticks.” It felt meaningless. I couldn’t do that with all my heart right now, in these times. I just had so much I wanted to say. There’s a couple light things, you always need a couple. But even a light song like [title track] “American Saturday Night” — it’s a different take on patriotism, really. In the times I’ve visited Italy, it’s great, I love it, two weeks of Italian food. But by the end of it, I’m ready for enchiladas — and good luck. You’re not gonna find ’em. Only in America do you have this melting pot, this amazing melting pot that somehow we make work, for the most part. I’m just trying to keep one eye on our times, and the other eye on the weekend.
I thought for a second this might be an entire album about weekends.
[laughs] “Brad Paisley Sings The Many Weekend Moods of Brad Paisley!”
More from Paisley after the jump, including tour news, the perils of childproofing a log cabin, being in Times Square on Election Night, and what he thinks is the most important song he’s ever put to tape…
There’s a lot of stuff on here about childhood, or ideas formed in childhood.
Yeah! Even a song like “Water” explores the origins of this lust that I have to be near a body of water. I think all of us have it. I don’t know what that instinct is in a human being. Maybe it’s the survival instinct that we need water. But somehow in the summertime, I guarantee ya that everybody’s got something, whether that’s an inflatable pool or a swimming pool they go to, or they drive to an ocean or something. Most of the summertime activities for me were spent soaking wet. We howled when we wrote some of those lines [in “Water”]. My favorite one is “an inflatable pool full of dad’s hot air,” which is so the case. And I happen to have put my own hot air into one now, which is kinda cool. And maybe that’s also what’s gone on in my life that’s made me look at this whole thing a little differently. I have two sets of eyes that are similar to mine now, these two little boys. One of them’s an infant, and one is every bit a full grown adult at 2. So I’m seeing the world differently.
Did you have a favorite pool or watering hole as a kid?
Yeah, the Glendale Pool, the community pool in my small town. If you saw The Sandlot, it was 100% that.
Did it have high dives and slides that have since been taken down?
They had ’em. I’ll have to go back sometime and see if they’ve still got the high dive. If you did a belly smack on that you were red all day. You looked like you got sunburned. It was way up there.
They took them all down at my neighborhood pool. Cause it’s dangerous.
Sure it’s dangerous. Life is dangerous.
And we’re all fine.
Yeah! We didn’t wear helmets!
Everything’s made of rubber now.
They oughta just cover the earth in it.
But I’m sure you’ve noticed that your kids will still fall down and hurt themselves somehow.
Oh yeah. They already have. We hired the big expert to childproof our house, and then my wife had this epiphany. It’s a log home, and we’ve got this upstairs loft with a railing. So the guy does all this padding and everything, I mean, we have antlers and stuff around the house, like feet off the ground. Child’s not gonna run into that. But now we have an antler coatrack that’s got foam on the ends of it, looks like the deer ran into a foam factory. My wife realizes after the guy leaves, Wait a minute! Look at the couch! And the couch is backed up against the railing, the back of the couch is essentially higher than the railing of the entire loft. He could just jump right off, 30 feet down.
He hasn’t done that yet, right?
No, we figured out we needed to move the couch. But that was after paying thousands of dollars to childproof the house.
I heard there’s a song on this album you feel like you nailed, that there’s nothing about it you’d go back and change.
I’m always striving for that moment where I feel like I did something the best I could do it, and I feel like with “Welcome to the Future,” I did that. I feel like the production is perfect for the song. There’s three things I wanted to do. I wanted to show this world through my eyes, my kids’ eyes, and my granddad’s eyes, with this look of hope. First of all, if you wanna blow the mind of a 10 year old in 1982, which was me, you go back and you take your iPhone and show him Pac-Man on it. You would have seen me spontaneously combust. I would have lost my mind. And then you want to do the same thing to my grandfather, go back to 1941 in the Phillippines and tell him, “Hang in there when the air raid sirens and kamikaze pilots are going off, it’ll be fine. Your grandson’s gonna play Japan twice on tour.” He would have thought you were out of your mind. And then there’s my kids, who are gonna be like, “Dad, what’s the big deal? Yeah, the President’s black.” It’s a song that’s meant to celebrate these advances. I think that country music shies away from certain political things, and I’m not taking a side politically at all. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat. On November 4th, if you weren’t moved… I was in Times Square. And that was probably the second place to be next to Grant Park [in Chicago], as far as history. I’m in the ABC green room watching it on a feed, and in Times Square right out the window, people are going crazy. Running out of pubs, millions of people in the street. Blacks, whites, hugging, just this amazing thing. It was just like, “What in the world has happened?” And you just had to be moved. I think it’s something to be really proud of as a country. It’s really rare that you feel musically that something you do is more important than just entertainment. And I feel like this song is maybe more important than just entertainment.
I have an important question. “Waitin’ on a Woman” has been on three straight Brad Paisley albums, starting with 2005’s Time Well Wasted. Why didn’t you go ahead and put it on this album as well?
[laughs] That’s a greaaaaaaat question. Well, the label wanted to. I was finally able to talk them out of it.
“We’re gonna do it in Spanish this time!”
[giggles] That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever been asked. Man, I mean, what happened — it should have been a single. It wasn’t, so then we put it on [2007’s] 5th Gear, and then the label, when I did the instrumental record [2008’s Play], had this idea that they wanted to give people more bang for the buck, so they wanted to give them the version with Andy [Griffith, who appeared in the video] saying the lines. So I had three albums in a row with it on there. We almost went for four. I’m sure I could do some acoustic version if it was disappointing to you.
What’s new for the tour?
For “American Saturday Night” we’ve created this really cool cut-out 3-D animation behind me that is flying over American cities, and at one point it goes over Abbey Road and the Beatles are crossing. It’s really neat.
I like that you’re always creative with your onstage videos, and you’re not just playing the CMT video behind you.
We did that for a while, but then I realized, I don’t look like that anymore. I’m standing on stage singing “Celebrity” at the top of my lungs, with all my heart, and I look back, and there’s me. 2003. With a bad hat, and a bad shirt. I look like I’m 8. And it’s like, “Can we come up with something else for this, maybe?”