Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

The view from the top can be quite sweet. Just ask Brad Paisley.

Fueled by hit single "Celebrity" and a slot on Brooks & Dunn's successful Neon Circus & Wild West Show tour, Paisley's new album, "Mud on the Tires," debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and at No. 8 on The Billboard 200 last issue.

The set sold more than 85,600 units the first week. Another 41,000 added to that tally held it at No. 1 on the country chart. This is Paisley's first No. 1 album.

"It was nice to see people buy so many of them; that's a thrill for me," says Paisley, who notes that the album was a natural progression. "It wasn't like I changed direction," he stresses. "It feels like it's a steady build as opposed to some strange fluke."

Indeed, Paisley's career has been steadily gaining momentum. His 1999 Arista Nashville debut, "Who Needs Pictures," peaked at No. 13 on the Top Country Albums chart, while his sophomore effort, "Part II," peaked at No. 3 in 2001. His previous releases were propelled by such chart-topping singles as "He Didn't Have to Be," "We Danced" and "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)."

But "Celebrity," a tongue-in-cheek social commentary on reality shows and pop culture, has thrust Paisley's career into a new orbit. "It was completely different than anything I had ever recorded before, and it's timely," Paisley says of the song, which is at No. 3 this issue. "It just all seemed to point to [being] the right first single."

The 30-year-old West Virginia native says the "Celebrity" video -- which features appearances by William Shatner, Jason Alexander, Jim Belushi, Little Jimmy Dickens and TV's "Bachelorette" Trista Rehn -- was a valuable tool in exposing the single.

In addition to the usual country video outlets -- CMT and Great American Country -- the clip aired on "Entertainment Tonight," "Access Hollywood" and CNN.

"Touring with Brooks & Dunn this year has been a really big factor in reaching a lot of new people," says Paisley, who has been performing several songs from "Mud on the Tires" on the tour dates.

Produced by Frank Rogers, "Mud on the Tires" features 17 tracks that run the gamut from the light-hearted "That's Love," which features Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, to a duet with Alison Krauss on "Whiskey Lullaby," a dark ballad penned by Bill Anderson and Jon Randall. Vince Gill joins Paisley on "Hold Me in Your Arms (And Let Me Fall)."

"Spaghetti Western Swing" is an instrumental collaboration with Redd Volkaert, one of Paisley's guitar heroes, that is prefaced with a humorous bit by Dickens, Anderson and George Jones. There's also a cover of the Vern Gosdin hit "Is It Raining at Your House?" Paisley rounds out the album with the gospel standard "Farther Along."

Paisley wrote or co-wrote 10 cuts and displays his impressive guitar prowess on every track.

"Even though I played the guitar on those earlier records, I really felt like a session player," he says. "On this album, I set out to go too far on purpose. I wanted to make the guitar playing more interesting."

Lyrically, he says the album contains a lot of realism, especially when it comes to the topics of love and relationships. "I've realized that [marriage] is better than I thought it would be, and it's also different," says Paisley, who married actress Kimberly Williams in March. "A lot of these songs came from that place."





Excerpted from the Aug. 16, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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