You don’t generally associate high-spirited Brad Paisley with weeping, but he shed more than a few tears of joy at a party his record label threw Thursday (April 10) in Nashville to celebrate his musical achievements.
Specifically, he was honored for having had 10 No. 1 singles and selling 10 million albums during his 10 years with Arista Records.
Although it was Paisley’s party, the first thing you noticed as you entered the trendy Radius 10 club near Music Row and made your way past the clipboard-carrying nose-counters were the stacks of giant chocolate candy bars that occupied virtually every flat surface.
Hershey is again sponsoring Paisley’s tour, and the company had packaged a special eight-ounce bar for the occasion, emblazoned with Paisley’s picture and album covers.
Circulating through the crowd of well-wishers were the Grand Ole Opry’s Little Jimmy Dickens; Tim DuBois, who first signed Paisley to Arista; Doug Paisley, the singer’s father; Paisley’s college buddy and frequent co-writer, Kelley Lovelace; his producers and publishing partners Frank Rogers and Chris DuBois; and ASCAP chief Connie Bradley, who hired Paisley as an intern when he was still a student at Nashville’s Belmont University.
Doug Paisley kicked off the ceremonies by lugging in a giant, red guitar amplifier, a reminder of the chores he used to perform when his talented son was too young to drive to his own shows and too small to handle his equipment.
“Ten million records and 10 years with Arista,” the elder Paisley moaned, “and I still have to carry amps around.” On a more serious note, he marveled at “how much of a family Arista has been to the Paisley family.” He said he couldn’t be “prouder” of his son but confessed that in those early days he never imagined Brad would achieve all that he has.
He presented Brad with what he said was a $500 parking ticket from the police department in Glendale, W.Va., for having parked his bus in a fire zone when he returned for a performance at his hometown high school. The senior Paisley speculated that the ticket may have been prompted by the taunting “Mr. Policeman (Catch Me If You Can)” cut that graces his son’s current album, 5th Gear.
Lovelace recounted meeting Paisley at a Belmont University showcase he hadn’t really wanted to attend. He said he was blown away by the quality of Paisley’s songs and his prowess on his Fender Telecaster guitar. “He was singing songs at Belmont that went on to be hits,” Lovelace remarked.
Rogers said Paisley’s attitude toward recording songs could be summarized in three terms: “almost,” “close” and “do it one more time.”
Bradley admitted that she didn’t realize at the time just what a talented intern Paisley was. “If I’d had a crystal ball,” she noted, “I’d be his co-writer.”
Following the remarks from Paisley’s friends, the label showed a short film that was part humor and part historical record. It was built around Sesame Street-like counting exercises (each of which amounted to 10) and flashes of the famous scene from the movie 10 in which the curvaceous Bo Derek runs dreamily along a beach. In the closing scene, a pudgy, sweat-suited figure with Paisley’s head runs amorously toward the Derek figure — only to discover that the alluring phantom is actually Little Jimmy Dickens.
Joe Galante, chairman of Sony BMG Nashville, of which Arista is a division, told the partygoers it was refreshing to work with someone of Paisley’s enthusiasm and amiability. “We always look forward to doing something with Brad,” he said, “because he always brings so much humor to it.”
Noting the label had already presented Paisley a plaque for the 10 million albums sold, Galante unveiled a print created by Hatch Show Print consisting of colorful representations of his singles, album titles and significant career dates.
“It’s not often they give you something at these things that’s really art,” Paisley said as he accepted the poster, which he promised he would hang in his house. He said he had no platinum albums on his walls because such displays seem too desperate and self-serving. But, he added, “I can hang this up and not look like I’m bragging.”
Adopting a philosophical tone, Paisley observed, “Success is more difficult than failure. It’s more fun, too.”
He said he felt at home the first time he came to Nashville. “This is the greatest place to live,” he asserted. “We just have the best people here.” At this point, his voice began to crack and he began taking longer pauses to compose himself. “Nobody gets here on their own,” he continued. “A night like this is everybody’s night.”
Before the party began, Paisley made the round of television crews and then moved on to speak to radio and Web site reporters. Asked to comment on how he’s “grown” during the past 10 years, Paisley joked, “I’m not sure I’ve grown. I’ve aged. That’s more realistic.” He did acknowledge that he now has a greater “comfort factor” in his career and is “having more fun” with it.
As a songwriter, he said, he has a “more surgical” approach. “I wrote a whole lot more before I knew what I was doing than I do now,” he explained. He said he found success more gratifying when it came slowly and likened it to a pond he had dug on his farm during a drought that is only now filling up.
Paisley released a few more details about his long-awaited instrumental album. He said one cut features six guest pickers and is called “Cluster Pluck.” However, the “most special song on the record,” he added, is a Buck Owens composition, “Come On In.” Paisley said he will add his own tracks to tracks for the song that Owens cut shortly before he died.