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Brad Paisley ready to 'Beat This Winter'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --

WANT TO GO?

Brad Paisley

With Chris Young and Danielle Bradbery

WHERE: Charleston Civic Center

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

TICKETS: $40.75 and $60.75

INFO: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com

Brad Paisley isn't sure if his show Saturday night at the Charleston Civic Center counts as the last U.S. date for his "Beat This Winter" tour.

The West Virginia native and country superstar said, "It might be the end -- unless you count the Houston Rodeo."

Paisley doesn't want to. No offense to Texas.

"They don't let you bring everything," he groaned. "You're kind of at the mercy of the horses and cows."

Paisley is proud of the tour. He thinks it might be the best production he's ever done. It's certainly one of the best-timed tours he's ever been part of.

It's been a miserable winter for much of the country, and Paisley is acutely aware it's been especially bad for the nine counties in his home state affected by the January chemical spill into the Elk River.

He's been following the story on TV. After it happened, he said he called people back home to ask what was going on.

"All of us felt completely helpless," he said. "It wasn't like when a tornado rolls through, and you sort of pitch in and try to help. It was, 'What are we supposed to do? It's the water supply.'

 "What could any kind of celebrity do? We couldn't comfort anybody. It was a weird, weird thing."

So, Paisley watched, waited to see what happened and hoped the government did what it was supposed to: take care of the people.

Paisley believes things will get better. While it's not the same as living through a chemical spill, he was affected by the middle Tennessee flood four years ago.

That flood caused damage in 52 counties and killed 21 people. In Nashville alone, it caused an estimated $1.5 billion worth of property damage. Among other places, water flooded the Grand Ole Opry House, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and SoundCheck Storage, where Paisley kept his touring equipment and many of his guitars.

Ironically, when the flood hit, Paisley had been preparing for his H20 tour.

"I look back on that year as one of the best years of my life in many ways," he said. "We're stronger than we were. The Opry is renovated. People came together.

"It became, let's figure out who got hit and let's help them. Let's make sure they have a place to sleep if they don't."

The singer acknowledged the flood might have been an easier thing to figure out than how to handle a chemical spill, but in the end, he thinks they've come out ahead and better than they were.

Adversity isn't pleasant, but it's sometimes necessary to learn and grown. Paisley experienced a bit of that this past year, too.

His latest record, "Wheelhouse," has done fairly well with four hit singles, including its latest, "The Mona Lisa." However, Paisley took a lot of heat over one track: "Accidental Racist," a deep cut that ignited a lot of controversy when the track leaked to the Internet just prior to the album's release.

Criticism about the song and Paisley for recording it was harsh and relentless.

 "It's an interesting time to be famous," he said. "When I first started, it was very easy to be someone with a hit single. You got it on the charts, it did well, maybe went to number one and then you got nominated for an award."

The fans were great.

"Then everybody is talking to me about this new concept: you need to have an artist website."

Interacting with fans directly online sounded like fun, and in the beginning, it was. Paisley said he used to go online and talk with people directly through the website, and it was all great -- until it wasn't.

"Then it's, 'You suck,'" he said. "Or worse, it's 'I hate your songs. I hate your face.'"

Paisley said nobody realized where this was all going or how loud the negativity could get. He started to say it's a brave new world, but stopped.

"Actually, it's a cowardly new world," he corrected. "It's a world where it's easy to be anonymous and mean."

And it's hard to be the subject of those kinds of comments, to be criticized, particularly when he hadn't meant any harm and was really trying to do what he thought was the right thing.

"It's just like that episode of 'The Andy Griffith Show' where Opie is being picked on and he finally takes the punch and realizes that it doesn't hurt that bad," he said. "It doesn't kill you to take one across the jaw."

So, he took his punch across the jaw.

The sharp-tongued remarks about his character and who he was were just paper cuts, he said.

"Nobody dies from paper cuts."

Adversity happens, and everybody should get a little of it from time to time.

"I'd wish it on my children," he said. "I wouldn't wish tragedy on anyone, but I think the right kind of adversity can be good. I'd hope my kids would have to come help someone or have to figure out how to help themselves.

"I'd want them to come out of it and be able to say to themselves, 'I handled that well.'"

With his visit to Charleston, Paisley just wants to help people take their minds off this awful season and maybe pretend it's summer for a little while.

"I think when people go to a concert, they're instantly ready to just play along and be in a land of make-believe. They want to forget something or remember the right things and go into a trance-like state.

"Between the music and alcohol, you get there."

He laughed and added, "And all of our beverages at the show will be safe to drink - well, maybe not to excess."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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