Brad Paisley was at his wisecracking best Wednesday (Nov. 28) as ASCAP saluted him and three pals for writing two of his own chart-topping songs — “Ticks” and “Online.”
Inspired by the theme of the latter tune, the performance rights organization held the celebration at Mac Authority, a Nashville computer store. ASCAP was evidently less inspired by an earlier Paisley hit — “Alcohol” — since Wednesday’s party uncharacteristically floated only on water and soft drinks.
Sharing the spotlight with Paisley were Tim Owens and Kelley Lovelace, his co-conspirators on “Ticks,” and Chris DuBois, who aided Paisley and Lovelace in crafting “Online.” All four men are close friends as well as frequent co-writers.
Paisley and the others arrived 22 minutes late for the pre-party press briefing. A publicist used the downtime to remind the assembled reporters that Paisley had recently won the Country Music Association’s male vocalist of the year award and that he will guest star Dec. 23 in Sesame Street’s Elmo’s Christmas Special on ABC-TV. The publicist also pointed out this will be the singer’s first Christmas as a father. His son, William Huckleberry, was born Feb. 22.
Although all four songwriters faced the reporters, Paisley got virtually all the questions and answered them with his usual wit and charm. He admitted that “Ticks” — which has to rank as one of mankind’s most bizarre pickup pitches — elicited “polar opposite” reactions from his friends and fans. “I had more people than I’ve ever had willing to tell me that they hated it,” he said.
He described “Ticks” and “Online” as “little punctuation marks” in his stage shows. In attempting to visualize the nerd at the center of “Online,” Paisley explained, “We were trying to paint the bleakest picture of this guy without making fun of him.” To do that, he said, he and his co-writers imagined “the most disadvantaged kid in high school we could think of — the guy who had to carry a tuba around every day.”
It was that vision of the hapless tuba player that prompted Paisley to include a high school band in recording the song and, later, to accompany him when he sang it on the CMA awards show.
Paisley said he got his sense of humor from his family, particularly from his grandfather, whose laughter, he said, was marked by a “deep emphysema cough.” He hastened to apologize if his remark had offended any “emphysematics” in the group.
Asked about his plans for Christmas, Paisley emphasized he will be celebrating it at his farm near Nashville and that if his family or his wife’s want to see the baby during the holidays, they will have to come there. He said his son will be “old enough to tear the paper off things” and will probably be given certain gifts that Paisley himself covets.
Appearing with the Sesame Street characters was a career high point, Paisley asserted. “There’s the [Grand Ole] Opry — and then there’s Sesame Street,” he said, explaining his hierarchy of values.
On the TV special, he will perform “Jingle Bells’ with the character Grover. “I grew up with Grover,” he said, a sense of wonder still in his voice. He added that the actor who plays Elmo taped a special segment with him just to be shown to Huckleberry when he’s old enough to appreciate it.
A reporter asked Paisley how people had responded to his winning the CMA male vocalist trophy. “My wife was very happy,” he deadpanned. “Things like that mean a new Lexus for her.” (His wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, may have a few pennies socked away on her own.)
“There weren’t any of those Faith Hill reactions” to his winning, Paisley continued. “Nobody was like, ’This is B.S.!'” He quickly noted he wasn’t dissing Hill, who was roundly condemned last year for the incredulous gesture she made on camera after Carrie Underwood won the CMA’s female vocalist of the year prize. Paisley said he ’s convinced Hill was just joking.
Spurred on by another question, Paisley acknowledged that his career seems to be “snowballing.” Then he riffed, “Like a snowball heading for hell,” quoting a line from Merle Haggard’s gloomy “Are the Good Times Really Over.”
Maybe the CMA should draft Paisley to host its awards show.