When Brad Paisley performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival June 21-22, he isn't taking anything for granted—least of all that it'll be just his fans tuning in for the webcast, taking place live from Las Vegas. Hard as it might be to imagine he needs any more converts, Paisley's aiming to win a few when he settles into Sin City for one of his typically electrifying sets. Seems like a good gamble.
Yahoo! checked in with Paisley for an exclusive interview in advance of the show, where we queried him not just about this gig but a historic one he has coming up at the Hollywood Bowl. We also took the occasion to ask him about the new job his wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley has on the soon-to-debut ABC series Nashville, as well as being on tour with the Band Perry and Scotty McCreery, and what 2013 holds for him as a recording artist.
YAHOO!: As you approach playing at the iHeartradio Festival, do you imagine adjusting anything about your performance when you know that, as many people as there are in the hall, there are millions more people streaming it?
PAISLEY: Well, the biggest thing about a show like this is knowing that most of the people listening are probably not my fans. I like the challenge of that, trying to appeal to people for the first time. So in a short set we will try to hit some highlights and be entertaining as efficiently as possible. It reminds me of being a new artist, being so hungry to impress, realizing that you can't just rely on hits to win over an audience. It makes you give a little more thought to the performance.
YAHOO!: A month after that, on Oct. 20, you'll be playing the Hollywood Bowl. You've played for audiences that big before, of course—even in southern California, with your repeat visits to Stagecoach. But is there anything special as a milestone about headlining that particular venue?
PAISLEY: I guess it's the history of what has happened on that stage, the multiple milestones that have occurred in that very venue. From the Beatles to the Doors, to you name it. Plus it's an open-air venue, which, weather permitting, always feels right for country music. There's something about singing my songs in the great outdoors that always works a little better. These great outdoors just happen to be in Hollywood.
YAHOO!: But there are so many hazards at these shows—more for your opening acts than you, it seems like. We heard about how Scott McCreery fell off the stage while he was opening for you a couple of weeks ago, and then saw photos of the traffic cones you put out for him on the stage ramp following the fall. Can you reveal who's a better or worse sport about pranks--Scotty or the Band Perry?
PAISLEY: On that same night, I replaced the Band Perry's intro video with footage of "The Doodlebops." If you're not familiar with the Doodlebops, just imagine the Band Perry in blue, yellow, and orange makeup, wigs, and tripping on acid. Both these acts took these two pranks like old pros and seemed to be very gracious about it. Now, I wasn't there when they trashed their dressing rooms and fired their inner circle of assistants that night, but to me they were champs.
YAHOO!: Your career and Kimberly's haven't had many opportunities to cross over. But her being on Nashville this fall is certainly a tantalizing development. Was it appealing to her because, with the show filming on location in Nashville, she gets to work on what is considered your turf and go home to Franklin at night?
PAISLEY: She got to drop the kids off at school the morning she started filming, and then came home in time to put them to bed. It was the single most convenient day of work she's ever experienced. Just a thrill.
YAHOO!: And is there any chance you'd do a cameo on the series?
PAISLEY: Yeah, sure, I'd do a cameo on the series, I guess. Especially if they can cast me another wife, since mine is now playing someone else's. That wouldn't be weird or anything.
YAHOO!: You've talked a little bit about how you thought the new album you're working on was being impacted by working a lot off the clock in your home studio this time. Is there anything more you can reveal about the album--possible song titles, collaborations, overall tone, release date?
PAISLEY: This album is really taking shape now. A good majority of it is on tape, and we're just hammering out the missing pieces. It really did work somehow, I think, this strange idea of mine, which was: To build a drum room, retrofit a studio out of an old farmhouse, use pretty much only my band, do very little editing, and capture and write music spontaneously. Oh, and be up and running in a matter of two weeks from inception. As well as keep a theme alive throughout of being unpredictable in some way with every track. There is a sign above the studio door that says, "This place on earth, this moment in time, has never been recorded before and will never happen again." It really does sound like that so far to me.
And as far as song titles go, it's some of the most interesting of my career, I think. I don't think it will be ready till spring, though. It's gotta be right before we present it.
YAHOO!: You seem somewhat apolitical, but politicians can't resist you. Ann Romney quoted from "Welcome to the Future" at the GOP convention a couple of weeks back. And you've been a guest at the Obama White House, of course. How does it feel to be so wanted by both the Republicans and Democrats?
PAISLEY: Well, seeing as I'm polling very well with both parties, as well as independents, I'm optimistic about my future. Unfortunately, I have almost no fans in the Whig party, and dismal support in the Prohibition Party. But we're working to raise those numbers.
Brad Paisley, Aerosmith, Taylor Swift, Mary J. Blige and seven other superstar artists will perform at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas on Saturday, September 22. Green Day, Lil Wayne, Rihanna and Miranda Lambert are among the acts playing Friday, September 21, the event's opening night. The shows begin at 7 p.m. PST and will be streamed exclusively on Yahoo! Music.