"To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main/ I hope you understand
when I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I'm a Skynyrd fan/ the red flag on my chest somehow/ is like the elephant in the corner of the south." - Accidental Racist - Brad Paisley-Lee Thomas Miller-LL Cool J.

Brad Paisley escalated his chances of an Australian tour by igniting by a mass media storm with his huge selling 9th album Wheelhouse (Sony-Bandit).

The hotshot West Virginia guitarist and singer-songwriter also hitched a freewheeling ride on the social media maelstrom with songs that parodied racism, religious zealots and wife bashers.

OK, southern country comics Rev Billy C Wirtz and Tim Wilson may have sowed seeds for satiric stabs at those sacred cows two decades ago.

But they didn't have chart clout of the singer whose cinematic videos feature characters diverse as Little Jimmy Dickens and the late Andy Griffiths.

Needless to say Brad, 40 and wed to actress Kimberley Williams-Paisley, soared to #2 on debut on Billboard all genre Top 200 and #1 on country charts with sales of 100,000.

It was the singer's seventh chart-topper, aided by a mass media TV variety show blitz, and the polarizing passion of lesser talents.

So how did the guitar slinging pal of expatriate Australasian superstar Keith Urban lance the boils aka Barry Humphries?

Well, first doggie out of the chute was Accidental Racist - a duet with rapper LL Cool J - that twisted twitter tribes with suffice strength to take Paisley where peers never ventured.

Yes, right into the powerful alternate U.S. street press with a flurry denied to down under droogs.

And, of course, even on the Ellen DeGeneres show.

"I don't know if anyone has noticed, but there's some racial tension here and there," Paisley, father of two sons, observed in his droll manner.

"I felt like when we were writing the song, I didn't really feel like it was up to the media or Hollywood or sort of talk radio to deal with that. I think it's music's turn to have that conversation."

So Paisley's parlay is echoing deep throughout the room from dancing divas to the chaps sewing up white sheets in haberdashery.

In the Mason Dixon tale Paisley plays the Dixie dude and Mr Cool J rhymes "do rag" with "red flag" and equates gold bling necklaces with slave chains.

Paisley sings from the perspective of a southerner blessed with privilege with an aching conscience.

He also implies a shared burden of duty if both sides work toward reconciliation, ignoring centuries of privilege and imbalance.

LL Cool J's rap response is: "If you don't judge my gold chains/I'll forget the iron chains. R.I.P. Robert E. Lee, but I've got to thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean?"

Robert E Lee and Abraham Lincoln both earn a guernsey but not Abe's assassin John Wilkes Booth who was captured in a Tom Pacheco song on his 1999 double disc The Lost American Songwriter.


"Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood/ what the world is really like when you're livin' in the hood/ just because my pants are saggin' doesn't mean I'm up to no good/ you should try to get to know me, I really wish you would/ now my chains are gold but I'm still misunderstood/ I wasn't there when Sherman's March turned the south into firewood/ I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could." - Accidental Racist - Brad Paisley-Lee Thomas Miller-LL Cool J.

Ironically, the song was spawned in Sin City - not the Deep South.

Paisley said he and Miller started writing the song before a September appearance at the Heart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas.

Thinking LL Cool J could provide a different perspective on the song's message, Paisley contacted a mutual friend and learned the rapper would also be at the festival.

"He walks out and stands next to Lee and watches my show," Paisley recalled.

"Then we walked backstage, and we met, and I said, 'I've got this idea.' I didn't tell him what it was, and he said, 'Well, I'm coming to Nashville in a month. Let's get together.'"

So Paisley gave Mr Cool a tour of the city including historic Ryman Auditorium.

"I drove him around in my truck," he said.

"But before that, he said, 'I want to see the Ryman.' He had such respect for that place and our heritage here. So he shows up and we walk through that building and stand on the stage. And in the Ryman Auditorium, there's a plaque on the balcony with letters that say Confederate Gallery.

"And he's standing there - a New Yorker - looking at that, and they're explaining how Confederate soldiers built this place. He's looking at me and says, 'You know, how great a country do we live in that you and I can stand here - after all this - together?'

"And he didn't know what the song idea was. I said, 'You probably ought to come listen to something.' And we had worked really hard on the lyric and had my whole track done and a space for him to do his part. Driving him around town, playing him that the first time was one of the most heart-wrenching and nerve-racking experiences I've ever had as a songwriter."

Unlike singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman and Lebanese guitarist Washington Ratso, who joked they have solved the Middle East crisis, the singer admits it's like a new career in North Korea.

"We don't answer the questions in this song," Paisley says.

"I don't know the answers, but maybe the question is the first step toward finding the answers. And the question my character in the song says to LL Cool J's character is, 'I've worn this flag. How does it make you feel?'"


"You were a pain girl, a thorn in my side/ drove me insane girl, a white-knuckle ride
So why do I go lookin' through old photographs/ and chase you down the hallways of our checkered past/ hold on for dear life and keep the fire fed/ I oughta let go but instead." - Pressing On A Bruise - Kelly Lovelace-Brad Paisley-Matt Kearney.

It's a sibling of sorts to Over and Over - the 2004 collaboration between Tim McGraw and Nelly but far less reconciliatory.

But it's also not the only song that features rapping here.

Pressing on a Bruise includes a verse by Mat Kearney, who straddles Christian and secular worlds, and also singing and rapping.

He got the idea to include Mat when he was driving to the Opry one night and talking to his friend Kelley Lovelace, who co-wrote Pressing on a Bruise.

"I was listening to some music I had in my iPod and I had Mat Kearney and I said. 'What if we had a hip hop verse instead of the guitar solo?' Paisley revealed.

"I figured out how to get a hold of Mat Kearney, who lives in Nashville and said, 'Do you want to do something?' He said, 'absolutely man! I think it sounds fun.'"

Recruiting Mat gave Brad the vibe he was looking for.

"'Pressing on a Bruise' feels like a Waylon Jennings song to me and I said, 'If I'm going to stick to my rule - which is every song takes a twist you don't expect - how do I make a Waylon song sound like 2013? How do I twist it?"


"When your wheelhouse is the land of cotton/ the first time you leave it can be shocking but I can't see the world outside unless I go/ outside my southern comfort zone." - Southern Comfort Zone - Brad Paisley-Chris Dubois-Kelly Lovelace.

Paisley gives plenty of warning about the direction of Wheelhouse - his name for his studio - in his liner notes.

"It is a digital journal of the shattering of comfort zones and collateral magic - we had only one rule with this record: to throw out the rules."

The three-time Grammy winner enjoyed blurring the lines between genres on Wheelhouse. "I wanted to do some genre-bending, but not the kind of mash up where you feel violated," he says.

"I wanted it to feel like a country band in a house bringing in all these other things they liked without rules or walls."

They date back to when he congratulated his White House mine host Barack Obama in Welcome to the Future in which he quoted the late Martin Luther King.

Paisley performed at Obama's inauguration.

Brad produced himself for the first time and used his band, The Drama Kings, instead of studio musicians on 21 tracks - much longer than the standard country disc.

He also converted the yellow farmhouse on his property to a studio, which allowed him to work on the album at all hours of the day and night.

"A lot of rock bands will go rent a house for a year and that's their studio," Paisley said.
"They don't want to do that in Nashville. In Nashville we've got places like Blackbird and Castle, where I've always recorded. I thought what I need to do is build the funkiest little workable space where I could cut songs."

Once finished, he hung a sign that became a reminder of how unique those sessions would be.

"There was a sign above the studio door that said that, 'This place on Earth, this moment in time has never been recorded before, and will never happen again,'" he confessed.

"And that's what I wanted it to feel like and when you hear it."

Paisley can now afford to bend the Music Row rules without fear or favour.

"What kind of an album do you make after you've made ten records?" Paisley explained.

"What do you do that could be different? One of the rules that I said was, 'every song has to have some little twist to it that you don't see coming,'" Brad says.

"It could be a lyric where you don't realize the song is about one thing until you get to another point in the song, and it twists. Every song was meant to make you do what my dog's head does when he hears something for the first time. When he hears his name, if I say, 'Holler, don't go over there,' his head goes sideways. Every song is supposed to be not quite exactly what you would expect it to be, and in that sense, I'm very happy with it because that's a scary place to start from."

Paisley exploits his celebrity and insider insight to cover subjects that many rock and country peers would drown in.

Southern Comfort Zone preaches the value of travel and nostalgia for home.

"Not everybody drives a truck/not everybody drinks sweet tea/not everybody owns a gun," he sings, pitching it as a positive thing.


"He's in a bar chasing Cuervo with Tecate/ he doesn't know she's been takin' karate/ the way she figures it about July/ she'll finally have the belt/ to match her eye." - Karate - Brad Paisley-Kelly Lovelace-Chris Dubois.

Paisley also packs a punch in Karate where the bashed belle fight back after martial arts lessons.

The bucolic barfly is rewarded with a broken nose in the song featuring a verse eulogizing the victim sung by fiddler Charlie Daniels.

"How can I make these better with these people?" Paisley says of his song partners such as Daniels.

"There's one that takes it to a whole other level. The song Karate existed before him and was OK without him, but it became A+ with him and that's Charlie Daniels. At first it was just me saying, 'He threw a punch. She spun around, grabbed his arm, put him on the ground. He grabbed a cutting board on his way down, she kicked it in half,' but that is not the same as hearing the voice that brought you such classics as The Devil Went Down to Georgia and Uneasy Rider. It's hearing the original white rapper do what he does."

It doesn't enjoy a fiery finale like the bully in Gretchen Peters Independence Day - a hit for Martina McBride - who is incinerated in his home.

Or even the good old boy poisoned with black-eyed peas in Dennis Linde penned Dixie Chicks hit Goodbye Earl or true life villain in Mandurah minstrel Jonny Taylor's You'll Never Break Me who takes a fatal heroin overdose after thinking he has killed his victim.

Texan Miranda Lambert led her gun do the talking in her marital abuse fight-back anthem Gunpowder & Lead - the recipient was not real life singing spouse Blake Shelton.


"A famous TV preacher has a big affair and then/ one tearful confession and he's born again again/ someone yells hallelujah and they shout and clap and sing/ it's like they can't wait to forgive someone for just about anything/ those crazy Christians." - Those Crazy Christians - Brad Paisley-Kelly Lovelace.

Paisley featured a gospel song on every album dating back to his 1999 debut Who Needs Pictures.

But for a singer, a faithful churchgoer who was born and raised a Southern Baptist, didn't intend Those Crazy Christians to be a traditional gospel tune.

It's written from the perspective of a nonbeliever who questions what makes Christians do the things they do like risking their lives in Africa and Haiti or sitting at the bedside of a stranger in the hospital.

"Somebody asked me the other day if I was worried about Those Crazy Christians and nope, I'm not," Brad joked.

"I do think there will be people who say 'How dare you!' but I think it's the most important gospel song I've ever recorded. I've cut How Great Thou Art and I've cut Those Crazy Christians and How Great Thou Art is a very inspiring song but How Great Thou Art doesn't make you defend your faith. "

Paisley had a personal propulsion for the song.

"I wrote it shortly after my cousin-in-law passed away in 2011,' Paisley recalled.

"He was young and he fought against a debilitating disease. There weren't five minutes of intensive care that there weren't at least two church members at the hospital and I remember thinking, what makes people take shifts for somebody they haven't known very long? Well, it's belief. To play the part of the skeptic is a much more powerful argument to me - in favor of belief as well as looking at things that are baffling. My most devout friends love it and so do my agnostic ones, but for very different reasons."


"Chillin' on a hot night/ that's what we do best/ we ain't nothin' special/ we ain't no big deal/ but if you wanna throw a party in the middle of nowhere/ we're outstanding in our field." - Outstanding In Our Field - Brad Paisley-Mike Dean-Chris Dubois-Lee Thomas Miller-Roger Miller.

Paisley has no qualms about broadening his appeal with a diverse cast of album guests.

"They are all on purpose and done because of what they do and who they are," says Brad of his collaborators.

"I felt like they were each perfect for what I'm trying to say in each of those songs and how I tried to convey it, and they are used as instruments almost additional players."

Dierks Bentley sings on the party anthem Outstanding in Our Field that samples Roger Miller's classic Dang Me and features Hunter Hayes on guitar.

British comedian Eric Idle is included on Death of a Married Man.

"He drove to a studio in Hollywood and Skyped with me," Brad says of Idle.

"I watched him do it live on the Internet. He takes you to that place that is the Beatles and Monty Python and Ringo and whatever that is. It's that irreverent British humor that I love and it feels so in keeping with 'I can't see this world unless I go outside my southern comfort zone.'"

Beat This World and I Can't Change the World are the first in a quirky quintet of love songs.

On the Beatles influenced Harvey Bodine, Paisley sings about a henpecked man who dies, finds himself at more peace in death than in life and then, after he's been resuscitated, decides to leave his wife.

Death of a Single Man reads like a funeral, but it describes a wedding - a salient satire about a bachelor who can't tell the difference between a funeral and a wedding.

"Everyone cheered, I thought how odd/I didn't understand why with champagne and cake we celebrate the death of a single man," he jokes with deadpan delivery.

Tin Can On A String offers one of Brad's most dynamic vocals - Brad ponders his love marrying another with the soft line - "She's driving away in that limousine/ and I'm holding on like a tin can on a string."

Paisley showcases his guitar slinging on Runaway Train and cowboy instrumental Onryo revels in horn solos.

The joyous anthem Officially Alive closes the album but here down under we have a bonus - Facebook Friends - maybe the first cyberspace cheating song with a sting in the tail of the tale.

It's the perfect segue to the rollicking Get Even and reprise of Southern Comfort Zone.

And in Paisley's homeland Cracker Barrel Old Country Store released a deluxe package that includes three bonus tracks: an acoustic version of current single, Beat This Summer and two tunes Only Way She'll Stay and She Never Really Got Over Him.

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