Brad Paisley on Playing for the Empty Seats

"My Heart Was Heavy This Year"

Every country artist seems to remember those first brutal shows when they’d look out into the crowd and see empty seats.

That hasn’t happened to Brad Paisley in a very long time, if ever. Maybe right after he graduated from Belmont University in 1995 and was playing shows around Nashville.

But on Saturday night (March 16), at Paisley’s 13th Rodeo Houston show, there were two of those empty seats, right in the front row. And he couldn’t be happier. They were reserved for the late George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.

“Every year at @rodeohouston I would have lunch with 2 of my very, very dear friends before they would go to the big event,” Paisley wrote on Instagram. “My heart was heavy this year thinking they wouldn’t be there. Turns out, I guess they were. Susan Terry said it best. Well done @rodeohouston, well done. #georgeandbarbarabush #missyou photocredit:rodeohouston

According to the ABC news team in Houston, Mr. and Mrs. Bush were long-time Rodeo Houston supporters. Barbara’s chair was mostly empty, with the exception of a bouquet of flowers wrapped in her trademark pearls.

“They had a very special relationship with some of the entertainers, Reba McEntire and Brad Paisley in particular. And when Reba or Brad would play they’d usually come in advance of the show and sit down and visit with them. And then they would enjoy seats right beside the bucking chute,” Rodeo Houston President Joel Cowley said.

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