Brad Paisley: The Vineyard Conversation

Brad Paisley’s been everywhere, man. County fairs, country festivals, arenas, amphitheaters, stadiums and bars. But a winery? This was a first.

“I’ve done a few things here and there that kind of remind me of this, but not like this,” Paisley told me when we talked backstage (backvineyard?) before his Live in the Vineyard Goes Country show on Tuesday night (May 14). “This is a different thing. How beautiful is this? And I think people will even be sitting on hay bales while I play.”

From there, the conversation turned to his wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and the love song she’d most recently inspired: Paisley’s brand new “My Miracle.”

Embedded from I’ve heard you say that this song was the most powerful statement you could make and you feel like this time you got it right. But it’s not the first time you’ve written a song about Kimberly, so what makes this one The One?

Paisley: It’s just that I’ve written my share of the ones that make fun of her cooking and her driving. Or ones where I’d leave her for fishing. You know what I’m saying? Those songs that sort of that make fun of relationships. Like “Little Moments.” That’s one of my wife’s favorites, because I wasn’t sappy in it. And because we were dating when I wrote it. She laughed on the first line, because she had really done those things. And she grew into that song. But you know, every now and then, you come up with an idea for what you can say that’s more deserving. And I like the poetry of this song.

Tell me about your co-writer on this one, Gary Nicholson. This was the first time the two of you wrote together, right?

Yes. This was the first. Gary is a great, legendary country songwriter. He had helped me find a guitar at a guitar show. He pointed me to this old Gibson acoustic, and I said, “Why don’t I pay you back somehow?” And he said, “Just write a song with me.” So he came over and we used that guitar to write this song. The song was in that guitar. It’s kind of the purest way you could get together and write a song.”

Do you think that a love song can reflect the years that that love has been around? You’ve been married for 16 years, and I’m wondering if this song is somehow more powerful and meaningful because of that?

I think it is. Looking back is always a very powerful thing for any of us. You look back, and you see evidence of things you wouldn’t have expected, or how your life is better now. I think that the right woman in a man’s life can make every bit of difference. I mean, there’s a long list of men who are better because of the women in their lives.

This song is on the radio now, exactly 20 years after your very first song was released. How have you changed since the day “Who Needs Pictures” debuted?

I’d say I’ve changed a lot. I have people who would say, “He’s still the same guy.” But no, I’m not. Not in any way. No one is after that amount of time. In some ways I’m better, and in some ways I’m worse. But you know what? It’s been fun. Everything about it has been good, and I wouldn’t change much.

How has your music changed, in those twenty years?

Well, on my first couple albums, I think that there was a kind of purity and a rigid sort of set of rules and stylistic guidelines. I was like, “I’m not doing this or this or this, and I’m going to make sure I check this box and this box, and it’s very traditional.” I never would have done those crazy guitar parts at that point or songs like “Ticks.” And then eventually, that evolved into making sure there’s a piece of that tradition in whatever I’m doing, but I can do other things, too. Stylistically, the music now is a little bit more progressive.

What about country music in general? It has to have changed since you were the rookie releasing your first batch of songs in early 1999, when your debut album not only introduced you to country fans but also shared four chart-topping singles.

I think country music has mostly changed in a technological sense. It goes through these periods of change stylistically, but it’s like a river that weaves through this area and it kind of winds left and right, left and right, but it still stays in its area. But now we’re all just lost as far as the technology and the way to monetize it. Technology is moving so fast that we’re just trying to figure it out. It used to just be about: make a really great album, release a couple singles, and hope it sells. Now we’re trying new things and oh wait, what’s this new app that everybody’s using? Let’s put the song there and see how that goes.

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What memory stands out most from your 1999, when you were cutting songs and playing shows? And when 20 years ago, almost to this day, you played the Grand Ole Opry for the first time?

After that show at the Opry, I walked over to Jimmy Dickens backstage and said, “Do you want to go fishing some time with me?” He said, “Sure. When? I’m free this week.” We didn’t know each other at all. I was just some guy singing on the Opry. I could’ve been anybody. But I picked him up at 7:30 on that Monday morning. He was just standing outside at his mailbox.

Laura Farr

For instant reminiscing, go directly to the 4:30 mark to watch Paisley’s two-song set.

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Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.