POSTED ON AUGUST 15, 2012:
Virtual reality linking the genre's classic history and contemporary future
When thinking about the modern era of country music, one of the names that readily come to mind is Brad Paisley. Since debuting in 1999, Paisley has become one of the genre's biggest stars, landing 18 #1 hits on the country charts, 14 ACM (Academy of Country Music) Awards and 14 CMA (Country Music Association) Awards -- including five consecutive ACM's for Male Vocalist of the year from 2008 through 2011 and the most prestigious of CMA awards, Entertainer of the Year, in 2010.
Along the way, Paisley has managed to consistently honor his country music heritage, keeping a distinctly classic tone and feel to his music, while still moving forward and putting his own contemporary stamp on the genre in the process. Paisley's latest album, This is Country Music (his 9th studio album), may be the best example of that balance to date as it features guest appearances from peers like Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton as well as Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry, from the group Alabama, and pop stars Don Henley and Sheryl Crow.
With his latest album, Paisley has admitted he made a conscious effort to stay true to his country roots. "The first song written for this album was 'This is Country Music,'" he said. "If you're going to call an album This is Country Music, the last thing I want to do is have someone listen to it and have them say to themselves, 'No it's not.' So in many ways, this is the 'countriest' album I've done. The heart of it is totally country. I even threw a song out on this project that I loved, that could land on a future project, because it didn't say 'this is country music' to me."
At the same time, Paisley has always been a master of weaving outside influences into his music without making it more pop than country. "I'm trying to do something brand new utilizing the influences that made me who I am," he has said. "Some of them are not within country music, but they are more important to modern country than your might think. There are influences that come into play like Eric Clapton. When I try to play or harness anything that has some soul to it, I'm usually channeling him. And Don Henley and the stuff that The Eagles did in the '70s: They are responsible for what you hear on country radio now."
Even looking forward to his next album, which he has already begun recording, Paisley has taken the back-to-basics approach to the next level, deciding not to do any outside editing on the new tracks. After explaining how digital editing has shaped most modern recordings, including his own, he shared in July that "We've had a lot of that on records just like everybody else, where you make sure everything is right before it gets out. This time, the mode has been: 'We're not editing.' If you hear something on this record, we played it."
The more organic approach, using strictly his own band and no digital editing, has affected the music with surprising results. "It's seven musicians," he said. "There are no additional musicians yet, which is really fun. You have this picture of what that might sound like, and it's different than you think. That's what's interesting. It's hard to describe it, but I think it's going to be really cool. I'm at least happy with it."
For the time being, those new tracks are still being held back, having only been played for a few people at the record label. In the meantime, Paisley continues forward with his "Virtual Reality" world tour, which stops at the BOK Center this Thursday, August 16, and continues through the end of the year.
As accomplished as Paisley is in the studio and on his albums, the live show adds a whole different dimension to the experience. Anyone familiar with Paisley already knows he's a phenomenal guitarist, but his playing truly gets to shine in concert. Paisley and his band, The Drama Kings, have been together since '99, with only a few personnel changes over the past 13 years. While that chemistry comes through on Paisley's albums, it shows even more in the live arena, where each of the band members gets to spread his wings and the musicianship allows Paisley to stretch out even more as a guitarist.
Even beyond the musicianship, however, Paisley is known for putting on a huge show, taking it to the next level with each consecutive tour. This year's tour highlights his latest album as well as a catalog of hits.
Paisley takes the current tour one step further, however, opening doors to the BOK Center at 4:30pm in order to feature what is being billed as "The Escape," which includes a "Virtual Opry" stage to spotlight a trio of rising country stars. Kristen Kelly, who is currently breaking into country radio with her single "Ex-Old Man" is scheduled to take the stage for a short set at 5:00pm, followed by Jana Kramer, who is currently riding high on her hit "Why Ya Wanna," at 5:35pm. Love & Theft then takes the stage at 6:10pm for a set that will include the group's current hit, "Angel Eyes."
After a break in the action, the main concert on the arena stage will begin at 7:30pm with Corbin Easton officially opening the night. All in all, the evening will be an extension of what Paisley has done so well over the past 13 years: shine a light on every aspect of country music from its classic heritage, to the contemporary movement. In the breadth of that, Paisley continues to tie it all together, which is what has made him one of the genre's biggest stars and most respected performers. As of press time, tickets were still available for Thursday night's show, with prices ranging from $25-$59.75.
Giddy Up. Brad Paisley gets back to pure country roots at the BOK Center August 16.
Just in case the evening doesn't provide enough music to give you your fix, Love & Theft follows up their appearance at BOK with a special "Brad Paisley After Party" show at Cain's Ballroom with Brandon Clark Band opening at 9:30pm. Tickets are $16 or $8 at the door when you present your ticket stub from the Brad Paisley concert, allowing you to extend your country escape for just a little longer.
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