WHEELING, W.Va. -- Folks in your hometown are like elephants. They never forget. And Brad Paisley is glad.
Photo Credit: Russ Harrington
"They know the kid who couldn't sing as well as maybe I sing ... now," Paisley tells CMT News. "They know every story you can imagine, and there's not pulling any wool over these folks' eyes."
Paisley returned to Wheeling, W.Va., a 10-minute drive from his hometown of Glen Dale, W.Va., for a Saturday night (Jan. 15) concert to raise money for the Northern Panhandle Long Term Flood Recovery Committee to help flood victims in the Upper Ohio Valley.
"For him to do this for the flooded people, I mean, that's just Brad," said Mickey Massey, Paisley's fifth grade teacher. "We're just so happy that he's taken his efforts and time and talents to really help the area that so dearly needs it at this time."
Referring to his upbringing in Glen Dale, Paisley says, "It was totally Mayberry. It was absolutely what you think of when you think of a small town. It was a good life. It was a wonderful place to live ... such a really supportive little town. I'm just really lucky to have been from there. I think that it's shaped everything about me. I am the person I am due to the people that I was lucky enough to know growing up."
Paisley is well aware of the problems the area has faced because of severe weather and flooding.
"There's problems in every community," he says. "But in ours ... it was flooding. So that's why I wanted to do the concert that we did. That's why I wanted to help out. ... I felt like it was definitely up to me to go and do my part that way."
Still, Paisley admits, "It's strange to play for your hometown. I'm not normally nervous to play a show, but I get a little bit nervous because you get out there and they know everything about you."
Asked what he thinks the locals would say about him and his success, Paisley responded, "I haven't forgotten where I'm from," Paisley said. "I hope that's something that they realize, and that I'm totally appreciative of what they've done for me. They had a big part in me being successful in this music business."
The home state visit was the second stop on his Mud & Suds tour with Sara Evans and Andy Griggs.
"Sara and I, as friends and co-writers, had written a song together and planned to write more and had performed a show together last year that was really successful," Paisley said in explaining how the tour evolved. "It just seemed like it made a lot of sense. And Andy and I go way back. Our debut singles came out within a couple of months of one another. It was really a no-brainer as we were talking and asking around, 'Who would be good?' And our record label [RCA Label Group] happens to have all three of us. It's the same team working on everyone's behalf, and I felt like it would be, hopefully, a success. And so far, it's just been unbelievable how much fun we're having."
Ticket sales for the tour are hot even in the frigid city of Rochester, Minn., where fans lined up in temperatures reaching 22 degrees below zero just to buy a ticket.
"A gentleman took his fishing hut for ice fishing ... and set it up outside the ticket office and got there at like 3 in the morning and camped out so he could be the first in line," Paisley said. "Which is the coolest story I've ever heard of on my end as far as somebody trying to get tickets. That's my kind of guy right there."