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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

On country radio, you're hearing a lot of this song: one of those barroom anthems people love to sing along with. It's by Brad Paisley called "Alcohol."

(Soundbite of "Alcohol")

Mr. BRAD PAISLEY: (Singing) And since the day I left Milwaukee, Lynchburg and Bordeaux, France, been making the bars lots of big money and helping white people dance.

BLOCK: Brad Paisley is 32. Way back, back before the six Country Music Association nominations he got this year, before he became one of the youngest members of the Grand Ole Opry, back before the string of hit songs and long rides on tour buses, he was a kid in Glendale, West Virginia, learning music from his grandfather.

Mr. PAISLEY: He would sit there in his chair every day and play songs like "Under the Double Eagle" and "Wildwood Flower," and then he'd go off to work in the evening for the railroad; he worked the night shift. And so I got to spend most of my days with him.

BLOCK: And when did guitars enter your life?

Mr. PAISLEY: Eight. He gave me a guitar when I was eight years old, and I kind of fought it for a while, 'cause at eight you'd rather play sports or do anything other than something that hurts your hand, you know, and--but the thing that kept me going was knowing how bad he wanted me to do that. I think he enjoyed it so much he wanted me to be able to have that in my life. He changed my life in a way no one ever will again.

BLOCK: So you felt that coming from him, that this would have been what he wanted you to do.

Mr. PAISLEY: Yeah, I wouldn't call it pressure, but I would call it encouragement and hopes for me because--not that I would be a famous singer, but that I would grow up and become a really good guitar player, somebody who could enjoy it. 'Cause his advice to me was anything that's going wrong in your life, you can pick this guitar up and it'll go away.

BLOCK: Has that been true?

Mr. PAISLEY: Yeah, in many ways. You know, it at least puts a Band-Aid on it for a little while.

BLOCK: I bet a lot of people who come to your shows--know you from the radio, love your songs, love that they're funny--may not know that you're a real guitar player--that that's one of the things you love to do.

Mr. PAISLEY: Yeah, they're starting to get it. You know, they--it's for the first six years now and it's like inevitably every night you hear, you know, `I didn't know you could play the guitar,' but it's starting to--that's waning a little bit, so now we're at the point where they kind of get it.

BLOCK: You do an instrumental on this CD, a blisteringly fast instrumental.

Mr. PAISLEY: Yeah.

(Soundbite of "Time Warp")

BLOCK: That's pretty hot stuff.

Mr. PAISLEY: Yeah, we're--the song's called "Time Warp," and we basically tried to infuse a couple of different time signatures into it as well as little subtle references to other things, like that (imitates drumming)--it's a tiny Peanuts reference.

(Soundbite of "Time Warp")

Mr. PAISLEY: Anyway, it's sort of my outlet to kind of throw in all these influences of jazz and anything else.

BLOCK: People call you one of the--this breed of new traditionalists. How important is it to you to make these albums diverse, to try to mix things up a little bit?

Mr. PAISLEY: Oh, it's important. It's--there's--it's twofold. I, first of all, do want to do that. I still like for influences to be prevalent and apparent when you listen to a record. And the other thing I like to do is make sure that the envelope stays sort of intact, and by that I mean country music is certainly an envelope. It's an art form where you have a canvas that is a certain size, and I think once you start painting outside of that canvas, you can be creative that way but there's still gotta be something on the canvas. It's still gotta be within the box a little bit.

(Soundbite of "Flowers")

BLOCK: You do have some fun within these boundaries, within confines of the country...

Mr. PAISLEY: Oh, yeah.

BLOCK: ...music we're talking about. And I'm thinking of the song "Flowers," which starts out like a classic country song. You've got the fiddles and it sounds like a total lament for love lost, and then you realize you're doing a really witty send-up here. You're talking about flowers being slaughtered in pursuit of this love.

Mr. PAISLEY: Yes, please stop the senseless violence.

(Soundbite of "Flowers")

Mr. PAISLEY: (Singing) Long-stemmed hangs a beauty created by the good Lord and cut down in the prime of their lives. Boxed up, wrapped in paper, delivered to your front door just to wind up in your garbage can outside.

It just felt fun to make a hostage-crisis song about flowers. I like that. I like twisting something that shouldn't be something that's that serious and pouring your heart into it and making it sound like you just absolutely mean it with all your heart.

BLOCK: Yeah.

(Soundbite of "Flowers")

Mr. PAISLEY: (Singing) Stop the senseless killing. Can't you hear those roses cry? Baby, how many flowers have to die?

BLOCK: Well, you know, there is an awful lot of earnestness in country music these days. A lot of...

Mr. PAISLEY: Yeah.

BLOCK: ...sort of psychobabble and...

Mr. PAISLEY: Yeah, they're getting into that.

BLOCK: Are you rebelling against that a little bit?

Mr. PAISLEY: A little bit, yeah. I--my favorite expression is--I--first of all, my theory is don't take yourself too serious. My favorite expression ever is, you know, if you're going to laugh about something later, start now. You know. Anyway, but I try to rebel against that. I don't like the poser mentality. I don't like to stand on stage and feel like I'm pretending to be anything I'm not.

(Soundbite of "Easy Money")

Mr. PAISLEY: (Singing) Yeah, we're laughing all the way to the bank 'cause it all just seems so funny: bunch of guys like us in a big tour bus making that easy money.

BLOCK: You have a song on the CD, an unapologetic tribute to how well you've done...

Mr. PAISLEY: Yes.

BLOCK: ...on the road called "Easy Money."

Mr. PAISLEY: I thank the fa--it's actually a song we play live every night and actually people, I think, love seeing that side of you, the side that's like--'cause you know what I'm sick of. I am sick of celebrities who get on TV and everywhere else and talk about how difficult it is to be them. And it's like you don't have the right--I know people that--I know a guy whose job it is to clean up operating rooms when they're finished, you know? Don't complain. You know, you fly around in a private jet and you get paid millions of dollars to do a movie. You don't get to complain about anything. It's sort of my commentary on that as well, in that, yes, this is easy money. We're laughing all the way to the bank. Even though I'm not the wealthiest celebrity in country music or in any format of music, for that matter, and none of the guys that work for me are wealthy in any sense, but they are all driving better cars than they did before we got this, you know, stroke of good luck that we're having. And that's what I'm proudest of is that we've somehow managed to get paid to do this, and it's really a fun tongue-in-cheek look at this so-called really hard career.

BLOCK: Brad Paisley, thanks for coming in.

Mr. PAISLEY: My pleasure.

(Soundbite of "Easy Money")

Mr. PAISLEY: (Singing) Used to have an ex-girlfriend that didn't understand. She said, `Boy, you're going nowhere fast. You oughta get a real job. Why don't you quit that band?' Now she can kiss my backstage pass. Yeah...

BLOCK: The new CD from Brad Paisley is "Time Well Wasted." You can hear our extended interview and more music at our Web site, npr.org.

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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