Born in Glen Dale, West Virginia in 1972, Brad Paisley was interested in music from an early age. According to him, his love of country music in particular comes from his grandfather, Warren, who gave him his first guitar and taught him to play it when Brad was eight years old.
After his first performance at a local church left everyone in awe, young Brad never had to worry about finding another gig at his hometown of Glen Dale. ‘Pretty soon, I was performing at every Christmas party and Mother’s Day event.’, he recalled in one of his later interviews. ‘The neat things about a small town is that when you want to be an artist, by golly, they’ll make you one.’, Brad continued.
At only 13 years old, he wrote his first song entitled “Born on Christmas Day”. His junior high principal ended up hearing the song, and liked it so much that he invited Brad to play it at the local Rotary Club meeting. Luckily for Brad, one of the people present there was the program director of a Wheeling radio station, Tom Miller; he asked Brad to sing a song for one of his radio shows (Jamboree USA), and later included him in the weekly lineup. During his time there, he had the pleasure of opening for legendary country singers such as George Jones and Ricky Skaggs.
After matriculating from high school, Brad moved out of Glen Dale to study Music Business at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. His college years led him to meeting Frank Rodgers, a fellow student who later became his producer, along with Kelley Lovelace and Chris DuBois who wrote many songs for him.
Not even a week had passed after Brad’s graduation, when he found himself with a songwriting deal with EMI Music Publishing. While working for them, he wrote David Kersh’s hit song “Another You”, and co-wrote David Ball’s single “Watching My Baby Not Come Back”.
In 1999, Brad made his own debut as a singer, with his song and first single “Who Need Pictures”, followed by the 2000 release of his debut album of the same name, which launched Brad into stardom, and earned him his first Grammy nomination in the Best New Artist category (he ended up losing to Christina Aguilera).
Success through the 2000s
The following decade brought even more success to Brad, and cemented him as one of the most influential modern country artists. In the year 2000, he received his first award for Best New Male Vocalist by County Music Association (CMA), and in the following year he had the honor of being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
In May 2001, Brad released his second album entitled “Part II”, which had four singles reach the Billboard Top 10 – “I Wish You’d Stay”, “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)”, “Two People Fell in Love”, and “Wrapped Around”. Paisley’s following album, “Mud on the Tires”, released in 2003, was his first to be double platinum certified, surpassing the commercial success of his previous works.
In 2005, Brad’s third studio album “Time Well Wasted” also became double platinum certified, and received significantly positive reaction from the critics. Further, the album earned Brad four Grammy nominations, including in the Best Country Album category. By 2007, Brad was effectively the king of pop country – his album “5th Gear” had four Billboard #1 singles, continuing his country chart domination, and led him to winning his first Grammy Award for the song “Throttleneck”.
In the same year, he released “Play”, an album in which he experimented with a new sound and included more of his instrumental works. Despite its more experimental nature, the album was still largely successful, from a both critical and commercial standpoint. In 2009, Brad released his seventh studio album “American Saturday Night”, and in the same year, he performed at the White House, and hosted the CMA Awards ceremony for the first time.
However, in the next few years, Brad slowly faded away from the spotlight, and saw his career on a gradual decline. His singles, such as “The Mona Lisa” and “I Can’t Change the World” failed to perform well on charts, which led Brad to slow down with releasing new music, but his career is far from over. The country superstar is still selling out stadium concert venues around the world, to the enjoyment of millions of his loyal fans.
In 2009, he started talks with the CW Network to develop his own TV series, called “Nashville”. He collaborated with the “One Tree Hill” creator, Mark Schwahn, who was set to direct the series, while the actor Zachary Quinto served as the executive producer. However, upon reviewing the pilot episode, the show wasn’t picked up by the network. Two years later, ABC started airing a new series, also entitled “Nashville”. Brad’s wife Kimberly, had a recurring role in the show, while Brad himself has made a few cameo appearances.
Paisley’s first ‘public’ relationship was with the fellow country singer Chely Wright, back in 2000, ten years before she publicly came out as gay. While the two were still dating, Chely moved in with her female partner, without his knowledge. She later expressed her regret over the way she treated Brad, saying that he was an amazing partner, even though she felt no physical attraction to him. ‘I loved Brad. I never had the capacity to fall in love with him, but I figured if I’m gonna live a less than satisfied life, this is the guy I could live my life with. If I’m gonna be with a boy, this is the boy’, she later wrote in her autobiography. ‘At that time, I caused incredible hurt and pain to Brad. I regret it very much. It’s one of the great regrets of my life, and I needed to write that down.’, she continued.
Chely harshly broke Brad’s heart, but luckily everything soon fell into place for him, as not long afterwards, Brad began his relationship with his future wife, actress Kimberly Williams. He had admired her for a long time before that – the country singer still fondly remembers the first time he saw her as Annie Banks in “Father of the Bride” (1991), saying that ‘she seemed like a great girl – smart and funny and all those things that are so hard to find’.
The story of how they met is quite interesting. Brad’s second album, “Part II” featured a song he wrote about seeing “Father of the Bride” with his old girlfriend. Since he wanted to shoot a music video for it, he felt it was natural to invite Kimberly to star in it. The two met each other on set for the first time, and quickly hit it off. They married in 2003, and now live in Franklin, Tennessee with their two sons, William and Jasper.
According to Brad and Kimberly, the secret to their long withstanding marriage is in good communication and honesty. Even before getting married, the two agreed to couples counseling to aid them in dealing with the pressure of fame, and spending lots of time apart from each other. In her interview with “Good Housekeeping”, Kimberly spoke about their decision to do counseling in more detail. ‘We figured, the odds were against us because we’re both in entertainment. And we know that it’s really rare for couples to succeed. So we wanted to arm ourselves with as many strategies as we could.’
He’s a member of the Freemasons
A somewhat controversial fact about Brad Paisley is that he’s an active member of the Freemasons. More specifically, he’s a member of Hiram Lodge #7, which is a part of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and a noble of the Shriners. He officially became a Mason in 2006, along with his keyboardist Kendall Marcy.
Brad still considers himself a Christian, and sees Masonry not as a religious belief, but as a path to tolerance. ‘We live in a society where people don’t have much tolerance for different religious beliefs, different political beliefs’, he said in a video, talking about his involvement with the Freemasons. ‘Masonry is, without equal, in terms of a belief system, which is that nobody can be told what to believe. (…) It’s needed – this viewpoint of total equality for all religions.’, Brad said further.
Is he going to retire soon?
In the past few years, rumors have been circulating the Internet that Brad is planning to retire ‘soon’. Despite being one of the biggest country musicians in the world, Brad has never been a huge fan of being in the media spotlight. Through his career, he’s taken multiple breaks to focus on himself and his family, without the constant pressure of performing and putting out new music.
In 2012, he even went as far as announcing his retirement, before making a comeback in the following year. More recently, during the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak, Brad took the chance to slow down with his work, and focus on other projects. Along with his wife Kimberly, he opened a free referral-based grocery store in Nashville, which aims to help people struggling with food insecurity. As of 2021, it’s estimated that they have made and distributed more than 1.3 million free meals to the people in need.
Around the same time, Brad started developing his own bourbon brand called American Highway. According to the company’s website, the bourbon is made in Kentucky, and will be ‘travelling’ with Brad while he’s touring around the country. This unique way of aging the liquor on the road promises to enhance the flavor of oak, and bring out more natural sugars. Whether it’s just a gimmick, we’ll see once it hits the market.
— Larry Fire (@larryfire) April 21, 2022
When it comes to his music career, the country singer has no plans to retire any time soon. In fact, he’s been releasing some new music he wrote during lockdown. His latest release was the theme song for the new “Naked Lunch” podcast, featuring the “Somebody Feed Phil” star Phil Rosenthal and the “Rolling Stone” feature writer, David Wild. ‘Many years ago, when we were working on a project together and I thought he owed me a big favor, I booked Brad to play my funeral someday,’ Wild said about their unusual collaboration. ‘But earlier this year, I told Brad that if he would write our theme song, then I would allow him not to perform at my funeral, but rather just sit back and enjoy the festivities.’
About a year earlier, Brad surprised his fans with the release of his single “City of Music”, co-written with Ross Copperman and Lee Thomas.
It’s been more than five years now since the release of Brad’s latest full-length album “Love and War”, but with Bard’s new activity it seems that a new release might just be around the corner.
2022 World Tour
In March this year, Brad announced his latest World Tour. The three-times Grammy Award winner has already wrapped up the North American leg of the tour, and is now getting ready to perform in Australia and New Zealand.
His fans will also have a chance to catch him live at music festivals in Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan.
He sold his music catalogue
In July 2022, “Bloomberg” magazine reported that Brad Paisley sold out his entire publishing catalogue to HarbourView Equity Partners for $25 million. This relatively new company, founded in late 2021, has made similar deals with other artists, such as Lady Antebellum, Hollywood Undead, and the Grammy Award-winning duo Dre & Vidal.
Why the hell is my guitar tech Dave the video backdrop to a song? Someone is so fired.I’m very sorry Copenhagen.We can do better.
As we’ve seen in the past several months, buying out full catalogues of legendary musicians has become a new trend among investors and publishers. In early 2022, it was reported that Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and Bruce Springsteen made deals with Universal Music Publishing Group, for more than $100 million each. On the other hand, Taylor Swift, among others, is fighting to keep the publishing rights to her music, amidst this new investment craze.
Although it can be beneficial to musicians themselves, some feel that this practice often undercuts the artists, who could be making more from royalties to their songs. Fans of Brad in particular have a reason to be disappointed, since his catalogue as a Grammy Award winner is arguably worth a lot more than $25 million.
However, Paisley still earns a lot of money from his live performances and business ventures. It’s estimated that the country singer is now worth more than $120 million. According to the “Celebrity Net Worth” website, his yearly income is still up to $40 million, making him one of the highest-earning country artists in the US.