OFFSTAGE: Brad Paisley’s New Album and “Accidental Racist”

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

On Friday (April 5) in Las Vegas, Brad Paisley invited some of his friends to listen to his new album Wheelhouse in Las Vegas. He admitted he’d almost had two nervous breakdowns in the process of making it. “But in the end,” Paisley said, “I wouldn’t change a note.” He told the roomful of people about the three major rules he laid down when he started making the record:

1. “We are not going to fix this. This is my band in all their imperfect glory.”
2. “Every song should do something you don’t expect. It should spin your head ’round just a little bit.”
3. “I wanted to steal from other genres. I’m envious of the way rap can sample things and pay for it later.”

One thing he “stole” from another genre was LL Cool J. After playing 10 songs from the album, Paisley got to the one that everyone’s talking about — “Accidental Racist,” the duet with the rapper.

Setting up the back story for the song, Paisley said, “I live in Tennessee. I’m very proud to live there. I don’t know how many of you have noticed, but we’ve had some racial tensions in the last few 150 years. I’m not content to let the media or the talkers or Hollywood deal with this anymore. It’s music’s turn to state our cases and maybe ask the questions. I don’t know if we answer anything in this song. But we might ask the question for the first time, and maybe that’s the first step.”

Paisley sings that a lot of us are kind of caught somewhere between Southern pride and Southern blame. I agree that maybe it’s music’s turn to tackle major social issues — even if we don’t have all the answers.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.