When I sat down with Paisley recently, he told me how much he loves bringing new acts on tour, mostly because he remembers exactly what it was like being in their shoes.
It’s hard to picture a time when Paisley was an opening act.
Paisley’s first major tour was as Alan Jackson’s opening act on his Kings of the Country tour about 13 years ago.
“I went out with Alan, and it was the best. I still have the Hatch Show Print from that tour,” Paisley told me when he was in Chicago. “I miss that feeling of being the opener a little bit. Because you walk out there, and it’s not your crowd totally. They probably know one or two of your songs. And they’re glad you’re here, but you’ve really got to win them.”
His early set lists from that tour — when Jackson would tell him, “You’ve got 45 minutes” — were hard to put together.
“I remember when we were playing those Alan shows and trying to figure out where to put the one hit in the show,” Paisley laughed. But he’d do “Wrapped Around,” “We Danced,” “Me Neither,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)” and his debut single, “Who Needs Pictures?”
“Alan was unlike anything I’d ever seen. And he was so accommodating. He was shy back then, and he’s shy even when you get to know him,” Paisley said. “But there’s nothing like the learning experience of opening for somebody like that. I tell my openers that all the time.”
Paisley reminisced about how he’d always listen to Jackson’s soundcheck. And now that he’s the headliner, his openers listen to his although he said his soundchecks have become more like an all-request hour.
“They want to do ‘Me Neither’ and ‘Long Sermon,” he said. “It’s like a guessing game trying to remember those. They really baffle me with the knowledge they have of the music I’ve made. But I can’t play every single old song in the show because I need to make sure I get to the list of songs people came to hear.