Reconciling between being an entertainer, songwriter, and guitarist is no easy feat for any musician, yet Brad Paisley managed to achieve being all three effortlessly. Since making a splash in 1999 with his debut album Who Needs Pictures, he produced several Top 10 country music hits, including "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishing Song)," "Celebrity" and "Ticks," all bearing his trademark vivid storytelling, tongue-in-cheek humor, and melodic hooks. But far from being remembered only for his funny novelty songs, Paisley also released songs like "When I Get Where I'm Going" and "Remind Me" that were heartfelt not just in their meaning, but also in his delivery. A charming Southern gentleman on- and off-stage, who wooed and won actress Kimberly Williams' hand in marriage, Paisley never let his fame go to his head, in spite of the countless top honors that he accumulated over the years, including multiple Country Music Awards and Grammys. Throughout the years, Paisley continued writing and performing songs that not only sold millions of copies, but he also continued giving his loyal fan base the kind of music they had come to expect from a world-class entertainer.
Brad Douglas Paisley was born on Oct. 28, 1972 in Glen Dale, WV. His passion for music started when he was eight years old, after receiving a guitar from his grandfather. By age 12, Paisley had written his first song. Two years later, the once-shy teenager was performing regularly on "Jamboree USA," a famed weekly night radio show in Wheeling, WV, an experience that helped boost his self-esteem and solidify his dreams of becoming a musician. For the next couple of years, Paisley opened for more seasoned country singers such as The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, and George Jones. He spent two years at West Liberty State College near Wheeling before transferring to Belmont University in Nashville, TN. During this time, he also interned at ASCAP and Atlantic Records. After graduating in 1995 with a degree in music business, Paisley signed a songwriting contract with EMI Publishing and quickly scored a hit with the song "Another You" (1997), sung by country music artist David Kersch.
It was not too long before Paisley gained national recognition not only as a songwriter, but also as a singer. In 1999, his career-launching debut album Who Needs Pictures was a commercial success and yielded two chart-toppers, "He Didn't Have to Be," an ode to stepfathers, and the tender ballad "We Danced," about a woman who accepts a wedding proposal from a bartender whom she just met, on the condition that they continue dancing. Paisley's mainstream appeal received a significant boost after he appeared in the documentary "Route 66: Main Street America" (TLC, 2000), which also featured performances by legendary blues artist Buddy Guy. He capped off the year 2000 with the Horizon Award from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music's Best New Male Vocalist trophy. The following year, then 28-year-old Paisley made country music history by becoming the youngest member to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. For the occasion, he wore his idol Buck Owen's canary-yellow, rhinestone-encrusted Nudie jacket, the same one that the legendary country music performer had worn in the 1960s.
Paisley's sequel to his debut album, Part II (2001) continued his string of success with several Top 10 country hits, including the novelty song "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishing Song)," about a man who chooses a fishing hole over his family. The song's music video featured actress Kimberly Williams, whom Paisley became attracted to after seeing her in the comedy "Father of the Bride" (1991) and its sequel "Father of the Bride Part II" (1995). Like Paisley's first album, Part II did not stray too much from his country roots and was laced with humor and pop culture references that became the singer's trademark. In 2003, he poked fun at fame and reality TV in the song "Celebrity" off his landmark album Mud on the Tires, which also spawned the hit "Whiskey Lullaby," a duet with Alison Krauss. That same year, Paisley's personal life also marked a turning point when he married Williams in a surprise ceremony in Los Angeles. Their denim-clad guests believed that they were attending the couple's wedding rehearsal until Williams removed her denim coat to reveal a white wedding dress underneath.
By the mid-2000s, Paisley kept up his momentum with a series of critically acclaimed albums as well as top honors from the Academy of Country Music Awards, including the Male Vocalist of the Year and Music Video of the Year awards from the 2008 CMAs. On Time Well Wasted (2005), Paisley delivered a good dose of quirky tracks, booze songs, and his award-winning duet, "When I Get Where I'm Going," with country music icon Dolly Parton. He also dabbled in acting, guest starring on the musical drama series "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05) as singer Ricky Nelson, and later, lending his voice as Daddy Armadillo on the children's animated program "The Wonder Pets" (Nickelodeon, 2006- ). He also wrote two original songs for the soundtrack of the Disney animated film "Cars" (2006).
Paisley's success in his genre was undeniable and his songs always managed to take his career to new heights. That fact became even more evident when he won his first Grammy for Best Country Instrumental for the ripping "Throttleneck" from the album 5th Gear (2007). Considered one of his strongest works, 5th Gear featured several No. 1 singles, including the ubiquitous ditty "Ticks" and the social networking satire "Online," as well as more serious fare like "Oh Love," a duet with Carrie Underwood. On the road, Paisley consistently attracted sold-out crowds whether he performed on his own or shared the stage with other artists like Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire. On his 2009 release American Saturday Night, Paisley stepped out of the country orthodoxy, delivering arena rock-style anthems like "Welcome to the Future" that praised New York's diversity and paid homage to then-newly elected President Barack Obama. In 2011, Paisley clearly had his fans in mind when he made the album This is Country Music, a collection of guitar instrumentals, his signature novelty lyrics and booze-centric songs, and touching ballads.
By Candy Cuenco