With the advent of cellphones capable of recording video, many performers have bemoaned that the concert-going experience is ruined by fans who immediately whip out their smartphones at the first song of the set. But don’t count country superstar Brad Paisley among the complainers. In fact, he’s fine with fans taking video at his shows and even encourages them to send him their clips.
“I want to see it,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “Get a good one. Get good audio if you can. Your videos [are] a memory, something you can have, and what an amazing experience. Yeah, you see people looking at the concert through their phone. But that’s what they want to do. And what YouTube video of a concert ever made you not go?”
The singer — who just last month performed a show in Afghanistan for U.S. troops — is looking to make more memories for the fans this summer during his current Country Nation World Tour. It comes as Paisley is readying the release of his new record, Moonshine in the Trunk, on August 26, which already has several road-tested songs.
“It’s an interesting thing,” the singer says, “I’ve never launched a tour this far ahead of the record, so the tour is in between. That’s kind of fun because you can try [new songs] out, and a lot of these are gonna be great live.”
In fact, Paisley wrote one of the album’s tracks specifically for the tour. “I felt like there was something missing live-wise,” he says. “So we started to work [the song] up with the band to play live. I was like, ‘You know what I’d love?’ and we wrote it. It’s a great way to write a song — to envision your audience and go, ‘They’ll like this.'”
Aside from the new songs, the Country Nation trek also features a new set. “We have the same thrust design, which where you walk out and there’s this arch,” Paisley reports. “It’s really the perfect design for me because we have a pit, I’m able to go walk around out there.”
Also part of the Paisley live experience are videos shown on a giant screen behind the musician, who played a role in conceiving some of the clips. “It’s like, ‘Bring that album to life,'” he explains of brainstorming for the films. “You’ve got 20,000 people watching a screen. Think about how a movie director would feel if they knew they could direct a movie, stand up in front of that screen and perform something in front of their movie every night and have that many people looking at something they did. They’d lose their minds. Imagine somebody like [Batman director] Christopher Nolan being able to experience what I experience. So it’s fun for me to have a hand in what goes up there, because that’s the other aspect of making these things bigger than they ever were when they were just on a record.”
On a smaller screen, Paisley has also beefed up his video production resume by helping craft ideas for Kraft Cheese commercials. The company is sponsoring his tour and has made him the face of its latest ad campaign, in clips he also had a hand in conceptualizing. “My manager came to me and said, ‘So there’s a really interesting idea from Kraft Cheese about sponsoring the tour.’ My first instinct was, ‘That actually sounds like the kind of thing I can get behind because it’s not serious. It’s more like, ‘What could we do that is disarming and light?’ And there’s nothing really more fun than thinking about summertime and cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese.”
Paisley plays a dumbed-down version of himself in the commercials, which follow a few other comedic acting gigs. Recently, he guested on the season finale of Two and a Half Men and on an episode of The Crazy Ones. But the country star isn’t looking for a Hollywood agent anytime soon. “I like anything in which I’m being an idiot,” he laughs. “But as far as what you would really call acting — where you’re going to get into character and do what my wife [Kimberly Williams Paisley] does, where you research a role and you get ready for it — no, it’s not my thing. I’ll do comedy, though. If Will Ferrell calls, I’m in.”