Shortly after posing for photographers with his three CMT Music Awards , a victorious Brad Paisley pulled up a chair backstage to reminisce with CMT.com about Andy Griffith’s wisdom, praise Alan Jackson’s videos and explain why he’s doing an acoustic version of “Start a Band” on his latest tour.
CMT.com: Congratulations on winning male video for “Waitin’ on a Woman.” What was going through your mind when you met Andy Griffith on the set that day — when you walked in and he was there?
Paisley: I went over and saw him a couple weeks prior and had lunch with him and talked about the concept of this video, to break the ice. I didn’t want the first time I met him to be sitting on a bench with a camera on us. … I am in awe of him. … I seriously lived on his show and still do. I mean, on the bus, we still watch it. The wisdom he’s passed through the years he’s been on television — and just knowing the way that show was done — it’s mind-boggling. Anyway, it was an out-of-body experience for me to sit down when the cameras started rolling and to have him sit and deliver the first time. He said, “I’m ready when you’re ready.” He settled in a little on the bench and said, “You waiting on a woman?” And hearing his voice, I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me! What am I doing here?” I don’t think I will ever top that in a video, as far as a moment like that, for me.
What is the value of striking up a conversation with an older gentleman who might just come and sit with you? What can you learn from that?
Well, my grandfather used to tell me only with age comes wisdom. Maybe that was because he was older. But I think at 36, I am much smarter than when I began in 1999. I’ve learned a lot in 10 years. I don’t know if I am smart enough yet, but I’m smarter. And I see that life lessons are how you become wise. If you have that opportunity and you sit next to somebody who is probably wanting to talk … I think when you get a little older, too, you crave that. My grandfather took me and used me as this sponge for all the stuff that he wanted somebody to absorb. I was the first boy for him. He had two girls as daughters, so when he had a grandson, he was ready to talk — from fishing to how to treat people. It was all about making a man out of me. It was really cool, you know, and I think about him when I meet somebody his age, in their 60s or so, even older, 70s, 80s. I think I am drawn to guys like that — Jimmy Dickens and Bill Anderson — and getting to know guys like Johnny Russell and Porter Wagoner and those guys that have passed.
I think that lesson could apply to country artists, too, and listening to those who came before you. They might just strike up a conversation and tell you how it was back then.
That’s why I love the Opry. You go out there and that’s what it is all about. Bill Anderson is in the dressing room telling stories to you, and sitting next to you are Jimmy Dickens and Jack Greene or Connie Smith and Marty Stuart. You’re absorbing it. There is this history in music that is trapped in the minds of those people, and they are dying to tell people about it. I think that is unique to our format. You know, I don’t think pop artists have a place like the Opry where they get together and Michael Jackson is tutoring Justin Timberlake. It’s just not happening. Or even further back, you know. We have that. I love it when artists utilize that.
Congratulations on winning for “Start a Band,” too. You don’t get a chance to play live very much with Keith Urban, so what is the energy like when you do perform it?
We use the video now and then. When we have performed it a few times, it’s insane. I have been doing it acoustic on the new tour, with just me and a guitar, you know, because it’s like sort of the point a little bit. You’ll see how we do it when you come out. If you come out, if you can actually sit through it. … I really love playing that and I want to do that with him again. We’ve talked about that. We don’t often get that chance. One of these days, I think when the stars line up, we’ll tour. He and I need to do it, and it will be really cool.
You were up there with Alan Jackson to accept the award that you won tonight for the CMT Giants video of “Country Boy.” What is it about him that makes him a giant?
He is everything that I wanted to be as a performer. I mean, you’re talking about a guy that writes his songs, knows what he is about to say and entertains. You know, he taught me how to do music videos by watching his. Over the years, he always reinvented the wheel, everything from “Chattahoochee” to “Midnight in Montgomery,” which actually Jim Shea directed [who also directed “Waitin’ on a Woman”]. And just thinking about the career he has had and the class that he has shown, I really admire him.