Brad Talks "Southern Comfort Zone" - The Tennessean

Brad Paisley admits it. He's nervous Thursday night the singer released “Southern Comfort Zone,” the debut single from his yet-to-be-titled album, to country radio. He knows the song, which incorporates everything from the voice of Eddie Stubbs to the Brentwood Baptist Church choir, sounds different than anything he’s released up to this point. He didn’t write it to be commercial, but rather to set the tone for his upcoming album, which is due in stores April 9. Now, it’s the song that fans will hear first. As for what “Southern Comfort Zone” is about, the singer is hesitant to say, because he says he thinks it will mean different things to different people. “I will say, I love Nashville and I love the South and I love living in that area,” he said, seated on his bus before his Virtual Reality tour date in Atlanta last weekend. “It’s very comfortable, and we all feel so at home there. It’s not until you see the world that you learn to appreciate that. I’m encouraging people to take a look around. There’s some great places around the world that will expand your mind and also make you love this Southern comfort zone.” The song is one of about 14 tracks Paisley and his band have recorded in a farmhouse the singer recently turned into a studio on his Williamson County property. About half of those songs probably will be featured on the new album, which Paisley chose to make as raw as possible. Doing that meant forgoing the standard use of studio musicians and highly utilized editing techniques for a method that leans more on hard work and skillmore than the latest studio technology. “My opinion, lately, has been that making it better (with technology) is sometimes making it worse, because the first guy decided they could use Pro Tools and take a bass guitar and a kick drum and make that an immoveable sort of symphonic unit. Everybody else caught on really quick, and now that’s on every record,” Paisley says. “Now, I turn on the radio and hear a lot of things that sound like what I’ve done already. Where do you go from here?” If you’re Brad Paisley, you do what he calls “gorilla” recording. You spend “all day and all night and do whatever it takes to get it right.” “ We’re going to replay things (as) opposed to saying, ‘That’s good enough; the digital editor can fix that,’” he says. “We ask, ‘What can we do to this verse to make it a unique way of presenting what this song is?’ “So it’s a big experiment. My rule for this record is to leave our comfort zone as musicians and songwriters and production-wise, themes and everything, and think outside the box. And every song should, at some moment, do to you what my dog does when I say a command he doesn’t understand: His head goes sideways. And every song should have that moment in a good way.” The approach also made for some uncertainty for the normally confident Paisley. “It’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt,” he says. “I had a very dark couple of weeks in the middle of this where I felt like, ‘What are we doing here? We’ve lost our minds. We should scrap this and start over with a bunch of pros on Music Row and do everything we’ve normally done.’ But that is not right for me right now. But I was frustrated. “My wife has been one of the biggest inspirations for this. ... I was going, ‘These aren’t going to work.’ My fans are going to go, ‘You’re crazy. We’re leaving.’ And she’s like, ‘No, they won’t.’ She said, ‘Listen, do you love it?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘Are you proud of it?’ ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘Then put it out. Who cares how it does? I couldn’t have more respect for you than when you do something this daring. ... The guy that I know is fearless.’” As for how Paisley feels about the album these days: “It’s the kind of album that is meant to expand my art, and I don’t think it’s the least bit uncommerical of a record. I just think it’s different.” by Cindy WattsThe Tennessean