After releasing what was arguably his most ambitious work last year in Wheelhouse, Brad Paisley decided to take a back-to-basics approach for his upcoming new album, Moonshine in the Trunk, which is due out on August 26th. Both were recorded in the same studio — however, one unique fixture was brought in to liven up the sessions.
"I put it a bar in there," Paisley — who, ironically, does not drink — tells Rolling Stone Country. "I actually built a pub at the end of the house. I was like, 'Let's make this record feel like a party.' I think a record should be a bit of a party, especially when you cut it like I do with non-hired guns. It's my band - it's the guys that you see on the stage with me and some co-writers that are always busy working with some lyrical changes with me."
Making Moonshine in the Trunk — which contains his latest hit single "River Bank" — was a blast, says Paisley, adding that he thinks he wrote his best songs yet. "The hard part about Wheelhouse was I felt like it was at a time when I wanted to say everything on here is a stretch of some sort. And then obviously there's the stylistic stuff where you bring in a jazz thing, bring in a rapper, bring a rock influence that you didn't expect, bring in a twist, whatever it might be. It was throw the kitchen sink at it and see what we can get away with. And we answered that. [laughs]. This time, you take away that rule book and say, 'Now, how do I make the best record that I can make? How do I make something that would be my favorite album if I was going to buy a country album right now?' That was really the goal."
It's not to say that Paisley hasn't stopped experimenting when it comes to his music. In the same sentence, he mentions the seemingly unlikely pairing of dubstep and a banjo that is on one track. "Already a banjo is a dubstep instrument anyway, so that's essentially nothing but dubstep. But when you take it and you put it in stutter edit [imitating sounds], it comes back up, it's still country. You can't take the country away from the banjo. And that's a basically love song.
"We've had a blast in this sort of laboratory I've built on the farm," he continues. "I think if we learned anything from Wheelhouse, it's how to use all these things. But now we took away being shocking for the sake of it. You throw that away, and now you're just like, 'What enhances the song?' and write the song first. And we wrote the songs first and there you go."
One thing that is for certain on Moonshine in the Trunk is that there won't be a reprise of "Accidental Racist," his critically-panned duet with hip-hop star LL Cool J that garnered much media attention last year over its attempt to address the still-prevalent problem of racism. The singer says he does venture into unchartered lyrical territory again on the new project, but this time in a way that oversteps boundaries in more of a refreshing way.
"I think my format will be like, 'Oh, great! Good, yes, somebody's singing that.' Because right now it's not hard to stretch from what's on our airwaves because it's a very limited sort of thing. There's a lot of people complaining about that. So I try to look at it from that perspective and I see that as opportunity. That's like, 'Well, you won't expect this, let's sing this, this will be fun.' And also something that my fans will be like, 'You know what, I'm so glad to hear that topic.'
"I hope [Moonshine in the Trunk] is something that you can put in your car and you'll remember a lot of things about it right first listen, and it'll also go down fairly smooth. But at the same time, I think you'll see the creativity, too. There's not phoning anything in on this record."
Meanwhile, Paisley recently released a lighthearted music video for the single "River Bank," featuring himself strumming a guitar in the water and a jet-skiing squirrel. (Watch it below.) "That's going over great," he says of the song. "That's a really good example of some of the things on this album where that sounds completely new, yet it's not uncharted territory. It's a hook that I haven't heard before. I can't believe it's been decades of country music and no one ever wrote 'Laughing all the way to the river bank'…. Thanks everybody for waiting on that for me. [laughs]. I appreciate it."
Some of the new album's songs will also performed onstage as part of Paisley's current tour that is sponsored by Kraft Cheese. Not only is Paisley the face of the company's ad's latest campaign, but he also even co-directed several spots for it that feature him in funny cheese-themed situations.
"I said, 'First of all, if we are going to do this type of partnership, let's really collaborate,'" he says of his involvement in the videos. "'Let's not farm it out to a third party where they come up with it, and you're not that happy and I'm not happy when it's over. Let's really make this who we are.' And they had their ideas and we had ours and they were great about that as far as the way they wanted their product presented and the way I wanted to be presented, which is I like to be an idiot. The absurdity of this is the fun part of it — is the idea that they're willing to stretch out and be funny about their product and willing let me be goofy about myself."
Brad Paisley's Country Nation World Tour, sponsored by Kraft, is in full swing. Check out cities and dates on the trek here.