In the eight-episode PBS series Landmarks Live in Concert, hosted by Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, artists perform in or around special venues or landmarks in a city that’s close to them. Part concert special and part travelogue, the series premiered last week with singer and The Voice coach Alicia Keys celebrating her hometown of New York City. In this new episode, airing Friday, January 27th, at 9:00 p.m. ET on PBS, Brad Paisley offers a tour of West Virginia.
A native of tiny Glen Dale, West Virginia, near Wheeling, Paisley sat down with Smith to talk about the influence his home state has had on him and his music. The special also returns the “Today” singer to his Appalachian roots to perform a special outdoor show at West Virginia University’s Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, the home of college football’s West Virginia Mountaineers. Although Paisley attended Nashville’s Belmont University, the country guitarist has had a lifelong connection to WVU.
“I probably would have gone [there] if I hadn’t been a musician,” he says. “The only reason I wound up in Nashville and went to Belmont University is because that’s where I needed to be. Otherwise, the route would have been a state school like that, where you get an in-state tuition rate and I would have been… something else. Who knows? I know I would have gone there.”
“Having conversations with other artists is what this is about for me,” Smith tells Rolling Stone of his role as host. “Landmarks is a brand new take on music shows that focus on the stories and not just the performances. I’m getting a whole new education along with the audience.”
In the above clip, Paisley reveals a surprising statistic about Mountaineer Field and the lengths to which his father has gone to show his Mountaineer pride.
Also during the interview, Paisley talks about the collegiate inspiration for his 2015 blue-collar hit – and subsequent tour – “Country Nation,” and his role as head cheerleader for what would essentially become weekend pep rallies.
Paisley also recalls his first musical memory, which was actually his first-ever memory, and how his family and others in his hometown nurtured his talent from a young age. They also inspired the advice he says he would give to anyone trying to make it in the music business.
Among others interviewed for the special is WVU Football’s head coach Dana Holgorsen, who cites the iconic 1971 John Denver hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as “the greatest tradition in college football.” When Mountaineer Field opened in 1980, Denver performed the song acoustically before the start of the game. The moment has only been duplicated one other time, he notes, when Paisley performed the song in 2015 as part of a segment for an ABC special hosted by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts. “Anytime you’re in West Virginia or near it and you sing, ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads,’ it’s a sight to behold,” Paisley says. “Again, it’s all we got … it’s a pretty killer song to have about your state.”