PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Brad Paisley gets patriotic on 'Saturday Night'

Jon Bream
Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)

MINNEAPOLIS — Cold Coronas, Canadian bacon pizza, Beatles music — sounds like somebody's recipe for a party, doesn't it?

Those are among the ingredients mentioned in country superstar Brad Paisley's current hit, "American Saturday Night." With its rockin' beat, some people may interpret the song as simply an invitation to party. But Paisley meant it as a different way of looking at patriotism.

"As we wrote this song, I started thinking about what really makes this country great, and it's the fact that we are sort of 'the greatest hits,' the best of the best," he said. "Whatever we are, we assimilate. Nothing, outside of Native American culture, is indigenous here. We're all from somewhere else way back in our lineage, and it's kind of a neat place to think that we've somehow made this work."

Paisley said he always wanted to write a patriotic song, but he didn't want it to be a jingoistic chest-beater.

"Let's get a little deeper than that," said the 37-year-old West Virginia native of Scottish, Irish, Italian, German and Cherokee heritage ("I'm a total mutt"). "I also wanted to make it fun — the kind of song you want to rock out to because this is the best place to party in the world."

Does Paisley's multi-cultural American Saturday Night Tour play differently on the seventh night?

"I think it does," he said recently before going onstage in Wichita, Kan. "Thursdays are these days when people feel the impending workday the next day. Fridays, they don't but they just worked all day. There's something about a Saturday night that is the peak of the week. People are just a little more ready to let go whatever it is they need to let go of and have a good time."

"American Saturday Night" is one of three key songs on the 2009 album of the same name that prompted a poll of 77 North American country-music critics to name Paisley artist of the year.

"No one had more to lose by gambling than Brad Paisley, perhaps the biggest star Music Row has produced this decade," wrote poll coordinator Geoffrey Himes in last week's Nashville Scene, the alternative weekly that published the 10th annual survey. "He got there by playing it safe and relying on his spectacular gifts as a songwriter, guitarist and singer — telling jokes that were funny but not too funny, playing solos that were edgy but not too edgy, and singing ballads that were sad but not too sad.

"For someone like Paisley, whose audience overlaps more than a little with Glenn Beck's, it took considerable courage to endorse multiculturalism on his title track, feminism on 'She's Her Own Woman' and the civil-rights movement on 'Welcome to the Future.' Just as brave in their own way are the Beatlesque backward-tape swirl that opens the first song, the 6/8 R&B organ feel that undergirds the second, and the extended rockabilly guitar solo that ends the third."

Saying he's flattered by the critics' recognition, Paisley takes the praise in stride. "Those are definitely all themes you would not associate with classic country music," he said. "They were things on my mind and how I feel — and looking at it from (the perspective of) 'What haven't I done?'"

"She's Her Own Woman" reflects on how he'd be lost without his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who runs their households in suburban Nashville and Los Angeles.

"The most I'll do is run out and buy things for her off of a list," he said. "But I get home and I don't know where they are, I don't know where they go, I don't know what they do."

"Welcome to the Future" was written as a "positive look" at the times we're living in. In July, Paisley was invited to perform at the White House, where he played that brand-new song about race relations for President Obama and the First Family.

"I'm looking at this guy and he's nodding and looking right at me," Paisley recalled. "I had to close my eyes on the verses. I'm singing the words about the high-school running back and how they burned a cross in his front yard and it's all I can do to keep my head about me and not break down."

Even now, Paisley finds the White House experience surreal. "I still can't believe I did that," he said, vividly recalling another moment from early in that eventful day. "There's this large painting of George Washington that's famous for Dolley Madison having saved it from the fire in the War of 1812. Right under it, as I'm rehearsing, I see my sound man, Kevin Freeman, eating a bag of Cheetos in a black T-shirt. If that's not 'Welcome to the Future,' I don't know what is."

While Paisley's splendid 2007 album "5th Gear" reflected on his childhood, "American Saturday Night" is more about tomorrow than yesterday. He thinks that outlook is partly because his wife gave birth to two sons in the past three years.

"You can certainly see the effect of these two boys on my songwriting on this record," he said. "I allowed that. I said, 'I'm going to be as personal as I can be. I don't really care how open I make myself, because this is the only way I can expand my artistry.' I wrote about things I never thought I'd be willing to write about. There's no 'Ticks' or 'Online' on this record; those were fun, imaginary scenarios."

In his distinguished career, Paisley has won three Grammys and 13 Country Music Association Awards, including album of the year (for 2005's "Time Well Wasted") and the past three male-vocalist-of-the-year prizes. However, he has never won the CMA's prestigious entertainer-of-the-year award, despite being one of country's most entertaining, ambitious and well-rounded performers (not to mention a LOL-funny host of the CMA telecast).

How does he feel about never winning the big one?

"It hasn't ever been my time," Paisley said. "I started off last year with people saying, 'It's your time.' Then Taylor Swift had the year she had. That day (of the CMAs), my wife said, 'Do you have a chance?' I said, 'No. I don't want to win this. I don't belong up there accepting this this year.' It doesn't hurt. Not in the least."

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.