How’s Brad Paisley Get His Idols to Be in His Music Videos? Polite Asks and Naivete
It all started with former ESPN sportscaster Dan Patrick.
In 2002, when Brad Paisley set out to film a music video for "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)" -- a song he'd written back during his days as a Belmont University student in the '90s and kept in his back pocket throughout the success of his debut album, Who Needs Pictures, despite interest from country giants such as George Strait and Garth Brooks -- the country star had a novel idea.
"I've always written with a little humor. Even my saddest songs have a little smile to them," Paisley recalled in his spotlight interview during the 2018 Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, Tenn. "So for the ["I'm Gonna Miss Her"] music video, I pitched this whole idea: I said, 'I'm gonna do a video that's gonna take the song to whole other places.' I was going to get Dan Patrick, who was at ESPN at the time, and have him officiate a fishing tournament. And then Jimmy Dickens was gonna be my fishing buddy. Then, we were going to end up on The Jerry Springer Show. The wives were going to be upset with us, throwing chairs and stuff. [The guy from the label] said, 'Can you really make this happen?' And I said, 'Absolutely.'
"I walked out of that meeting," Paisley continued, "called my agent and said, 'I really, really need Dan Patrick's number.'"
Amazingly, it worked. The resulting video established a pattern of celebrity cameos that have become a fixture in Paisley's music videos, which have featured the likes of Andy Griffith and William Shatner, to name just a couple. Some of Paisley's most iconic videos were filmed in the early 2000s -- a time when, Paisley says, music videos were a more powerful medium than they are today.
"Now it's all about what you post on Instagram," he explains. "Back then, you could take the song further, and make it about something bigger, by catching people's attention with a video on CMT."
When asked how he managed to convince so many celebrities to appear in his music videos, Paisley credits his naivete: "The reason I suggested Dan Patrick in the first place was because I had seen an interview where someone asked him what he was listening to, and he replied, 'I've got everything from hip-hop to Brad Paisley,'" the singer remembers. "I figured, 'He'll wanna be in a video then, right?' I was naive enough to think people would be willing."
In Shatner's case, that approach almost backfired: When Paisley asked the icon if he would be in his music video for "Celebrity," the Star Trek actor originally said no. That changed, however, once Shatner heard the song. With lyrics such as "Can't wait to date a supermodel / Can't wait to sue my dad / Can't wait to wreck a Ferrari on my way to rehab," the tune is a tongue-in-cheek spoof on the celebrity lifestyle.
"Eventually I grabbed the guitar and sang it, and he laughed at it -- he howled," Paisley recalls. "He said, 'Is that the song?' I told him it was. And he said, 'You know what? I'll do it.'"
Paisley has made a point of inviting his idols to appear in his music videos; Dickens, who starred in several of Paisley's videos, "was and is my hero," according to the country star. And when he set out to film the video for his 2005 song "Waiting on a Woman," Paisley called on another of his idols: Andy Griffith.
"Who's the perfect person to sit next to you on a bench and tell you, 'Here's some advice, son'? Andy Griffith," Paisley explains. "I wrote him a letter. I told him, 'I grew up watching [The Andy Griffith Show]. Your show helped me raise my son. I now know how to raise a boy because of watching that show. If you want to be in the video, that would be great, but if not, thank you for everything you've done.'"
Once again, Paisley's supposed "naivete" paid off: A couple weeks later, he picked up the phone, and Griffith was on the other end of the line.
"He said, 'Bradley, I love this song. I'd love to do this. But one thing: Do I need to sing?'" Paisley recalls with a laugh. He assured Griffith he didn't need to, but Griffith learned every word to the song anyway.
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