“That’s a funny looking beer,” a typically cowboy hat-clad Brad Paisley said of the sparkling water sitting onstage, during his keynote presentation at the Billboard Touring Conference and Awards yesterday (Nov. 18). Filled with the folksy charm one would expect from someone who’s been on the country circuit for over 25 years (“This is something different for guys like us!” he said — somewhat convincingly — of his visit to New York), Paisley joined Billboard’s own Ray Waddell onstage to talk about some of the high points of his career, both onstage and off.
Paisley started by describing his musical upbringing in West Virginia, from his early appearances on local country radio program “The Wheeling Jamboree” to his first band The C-Notes. “That was our fee,” he said, laughing — the country star’s current “Crushin’ It” tour has already grossed over $12 million, and there are still 20 dates scheduled in 2016.
Speaking proudly of his 2.3 grade point average at Nashville’s Belmont University (“That’s all you need — I’ve yet to be asked for my diploma,” he quipped), Paisley continued by sharing some of the best advice he ever received as an intern at ASCAP from Chris DuBois. “You’ve got to take criticism of your songs very seriously,” was DuBois’s most important lesson, according to Paisley. “When somebody says, ‘I don’t like that,’ they’re correct.” He added that this pragmatic attitude means he doesn’t take criticism all that seriously (at least when it doesn’t come from his wife, he quickly corrected).
“In Nashville, it’s about the song,” he said of the importance of good writing. “Anybody can be a star with the right song.” Paisley also spoke about his goals as a touring artist, telling Waddell that he’s “trying to give people a respite from life, and make [the show] feel like a really big honky tonk.”
Paisley was also fresh off his co-hosting gig at this year’s CMAs — he shared a Donald Trump-centric skit that didn’t make the final cut, but unsurprisingly, Waddell asked about the evening’s undeniable highlight: Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake’s memorable duet.
“We [Paisley’s publishing company, Sea Gayle Music] gave Chris his first publishing deal,” he replied. “This is no surprise to any of us in Nashville.” As for Stapleton’s potential impact as an alternative voice in country, Paisley said that “it depends.” “He’s going to be very successful,” he added, “it’s just [a question of] whether this changes country music as a whole, or whether this just applies to him.”
He doesn’t question Stapleton’s authenticity though, something that does happen with other country artists. Though he wouldn’t name names, Paisley said, “With cowboy hats, I have a feeling that some of those people are accountants dressed up like it’s Halloween.”