Last night, while President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address on Capitol Hill, a very different kind of political event was raging in downtown Austin, Texas. There, fueled by the flush of victory — not to mention the four tons of beef brisket and 340 gallons of spicy red pinto beans that had been dished out earlier that afternoon, during a lunchtime picnic on the Texas Capitol lawn — incoming Governor Greg Abbott celebrated his inauguration with a black-tie blowout. The party, which included six cash bars and more than 10,000 attendees, came to a close with a performance by Lady Antebellum.
It was Lady A’s first time playing a political event. Back in 2012, the vocal trio’s name appeared on a “wish list” of artists and celebrities who might lend their support to President Obama’s reelection campaign. Fast forward three years, though, and Lady Antebellum seems to have been an erroneous inclusion, as the group took the stage last night in support of Republican Governor-Elect Abbott following his speech at the Austin Convention Center.
That doesn’t mean President Obama is lacking for high-powered friends on the country charts. On this day in 2013, Brad Paisley performed the title track from his seventh album, American Saturday Night, during the president’s inauguration concert at the Washington Convention Center. Other performers that night included Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Soundgarden and Smokey Robinson. Even so, the stage arguably belonged to Paisley, who’d previously performed for the Obama family during a private concert inside the White House’s East Room on July 21st, 2009, as well as a July 4th celebration on the South Lawn in 2012. (“We’re playing Saturday at the Nissan Pavillon,” he told President Obama during the East Room show, taking a minute to crack a few jokes onstage before ripping into “Welcome to the Future.” “I wanna invite the whole White House. That includes you, sir! It’ll be a little different than this, but we’re thinking about buying the drapes.”)
Dressed up in a black suit and white cowboy hat, Paisley and his road band helped kick off Obama’s second term in January 2013 with equal doses of country twang and Telecaster fretwork. [Watch a short video of the performance above.]
Paisley continues to be personal friends with the Commander in Chief, even hopping aboard Air Force One last year for a top-secret trip to visit the American troops in Afghanistan. While flying over the Black Sea, the two talked about the ABC series Nashville. Paisley even got a little work done during the flight, mixing his cover of George Jones’ “Me and Jesus” while the rest of the plane’s passengers conducted more presidential business.
“It’s like an office,” he told Rolling Stone Country last summer, remembering his time aboard the most famous plane in America. “Someone’s scheduling Obama’s phone call with Karzai, and the press secretary is talking about how many minutes the press can have once the plane lands. Susan Rice is over here, and she’s talking to John Podesta. And I’m like, ‘I guess I’ll mix a song. It’s the most important thing I can do.’ They’re running the world, and I’m like, ‘Hmmm. More treble?'”