Touring his Tennessee farm in his pickup, Brad Paisley points out the green hills in the distance. “You can see four ridges when it’s clear,” he says. Farther down the road, the singer passes another picturesque sight: eight cows lounging in the shade of his parked tour bus. He lets out a laugh and asks, “How country is that?”
He should know. A performer since age 12, Paisley, now 33, is the second youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry, earning accolades for fusing heart and humor into his traditionalist music. A recent example? His ditty “Alcohol”—the first hit single off his latest album Time Well Wasted—is written from the liquor’s point of view, with choice phrases like “I got blamed at your wedding reception for your best man’s embarrassing speech.” “I like finding humor in the world,” says Paisley. Still, as an active MADD board member, “I didn’t want it to seem 100 percent pro-drinking.”
“Alcohol” turned out to be a 100 percent hit, bringing him a song of the year nomination—one of six, including entertainer of the year—at the Nov. 15 Country Music Association Awards. Not that any of this has bolstered the singer’s confidence. “I feel more nervous than I’ve been in my career,” says Paisley, who is currently touring with Sara Evans and Sugarland. “There still isn’t a night when I don’t worry if people will come [to a show].”
One fan he can count on: his wife of two years, According to Jim star Kimberly Williams-Paisley. “I’ve never met anybody more normal and beautiful than Kim,” says Paisley, who first laid eyes on the actress in her role as the bride in Father of the Bride. Paisley called her agent to ask her to star in a music video, all the while “selfishly I’m thinking, ‘I wonder if she’s single.’ ”
She was—but not for long. After they wrapped the video for his song “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)” in 2002, the smitten pair began a Nashville-L.A. commuter romance. In March 2003 they exchanged vows in a denim-required ceremony in California—not exactly Paisley’s idea of paradise. “He’s definitely a fish out of water when he goes there with the big city and all the traffic,” says Kimberly, 34, who ping-pongs between the couple’s homes in Pacific Palisades and Franklin, Tenn., and joins her husband on tour when her schedule allows. Paisley says his wife is “more of a free spirit willing to go places.” He, on the other hand, admits he’s a bona fide nester. “I’m a bit of a stick in the mud that way.”
Which is why the Glen Dale, W. Va. (“It was very Mayberry”), native is thrilled to settle into the Franklin property the couple bought last summer. The Paisleys have already moved into the original century-old farmhouse complete with rooster-themed rooms. Plans for a nursery? “I wanted a baby, Brad gave me a dog,” Kimberly jokes of her new King Charles spaniel, Holler. “We’re both really busy so it’s not the right time yet. But we’re going to have a family sooner or later.”
Till then, they’re excited about a different addition in their lives. In Franklin contractors are about to lay the foundation for their dream home. “We’re building the log cabin we’ve always wanted,” Paisley says proudly. Now how country is that?
Michelle Tan. Michael McCall in Franklin