Brad Paisley Wins Entertainer of the Year at CMA Awards
CMA Entertainer of the Year Brad Paisley speaks at the 44th Annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 10, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Brad Paisley

"This Is Country Music"

April 19

One of the chart-topping hits from his last album was titled "Welcome to the Future." But the Country Music Assn.'s reigning entertainer of the year Brad Paisley decided to take a look back while crafting his new album, "This Is Country Music."

"I'm trying to do something brand-new, utilizing the influences who made me who I am as a country artist," Paisley says. "Some of them, surprisingly, are not necessarily right within country music, but they're more important to the modern incarnation than you might think. We're supposed to have Don Henley on a track." Henley is slated to contribute background vocals on "Love Her Like She's Leaving."

"It feels like something that either he would have written or the Eagles would have done," says Paisley, who has also recruited Sheryl Crow, Marty Stuart, Carl Jackson, Clint Eastwood and Alabama's Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook for guest appearances. Eastwood whistles on an instrumental track appropriately titled "Eastwood." Crow, Stuart and Jackson add harmonies to the gospel classic "Life's Railway to Heaven." It's the first song Paisley ever sang (at age 9) in church. Alabama, suitably, appears on the song "Old Alabama."

"This Is Country Music" is the album's lead single, currently No. 10 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. As a Christmas gift to fans, Paisley offered a free download of the song for one week in December. Consumers who preorder the album on Paisley's website will get access to exclusive content, including video messages from Paisley and previews of new music before the April 19 street date, which is also the publishing date for Paisley's book about the guitar players who have shaped his life, "The Diary of a Player" (Howard Books).

Paisley says "This Is Country Music" was the first song written for the album and set the tone for the entire project. "The last album [2009's "American Saturday Night"] was the opposite of preaching to the choir; it was asking the choir to sing outside their comfort zone," he says. "This album is preaching to the choir. This is taking the choir and saying, 'Sing along with this.' That's what it says in the first song: 'Turn it on/Turn it up/Sing along/This is real/This is your life in a song.' "

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