ALL WRAPPED UP

Story by Wendy Newcomer

 

Part one happened so fast. No sooner did Brad Paisley realize his dream of getting a record deal than he saw his debut album, Who Needs Pictures, churn out four hit singles and make a rising star of the West Virginia native.

Though he jokes that Tulsa, Okla., is "where I keep my clean clothes," the road is still home for Roy Clark. Part II, Brad's follow-up album, now finds him in another stage - that of an artist still coming to grips with his celebrity status and the price of runaway success.

"If anything, I have less of a game plan now than when I first started," confesses Brad of his whirlwind life. "I wind up rolling with things a little bit more, realizing I can't plan everything. But I'm in a good place."

Actually, he's in many places, not the least of which is back in the Top 20 with his latest hit, "Wrapped Around." And he's also finding himself all over the map lately, as the demands of his touring itinerary fling him far and wide. "I played in San Antonio and flew to L.A. the next day for a show," says Brad, recounting a recent leg of his fall tour. "Then I flew to Phoenix and met up with the band, and flew back to L.A. to do a TV taping. Then I flew to Amarillo and did a show. From Amarillo we drove to Georgia."

Such a hectic schedule on the road is in sharp contrast to his former life in the sleepy little town of Glen Dale, W.Va. "It's a weird way to live," he admits. "Nobody in my family has ever done anything like this, so I'm constantly learning about it. If I were outside looking in, I'd think, 'I don't want to be like him. He's having a hard time with this.' And I kind of am at times. Then there are other times when I wouldn't trade it for the world."

There's one thing Brad definitely wouldn't trade - writing the No. 1 song "He Didn't Have To Be" with his buddy Kelley Lovelace. The song, written about Kelley's experience as a stepfather, also inspired the longtime friends to write a book of the same name.

Following the impact of the song and the new book, there's now an upcoming TBS Superstation movie on the same subject. Brad will be one of the executive producers as well as act in a supporting role. He'll also write the music for the TV flick.

"I'm psyched about this," he explains. "I spent all of August going back and forth to L.A. meeting with people. Luckily they're giving me a lot of free rein. I won't be playing myself, but I'm another country singer and the best friend of the main character."

If Brad gets his wish, the movie will be full of familiar faces. "I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about this yet, but who cares?" he declares, grinning. "What am I going to do - fire myself? I'm hoping to get cameo roles for a lot of my friends. I want to call up somebody who's a hero and a friend, like Patty Loveless, and say, 'You wanna play a waitress? I need somebody to serve eggs to these guys in one scene.'

"It's funny," adds Brad. "She'll probably read this in Country Weekly and say, 'I wish he'd just call and ask me!' "

Brad will draw from his performing experience for the role. "I don't see a whole lot of difference between getting up one night and singing a love song when I'm not in that state, or a heartbreak song when I'm not in that state."

As for his personal life, Brad's not comfortable saying which state he's currently in. He describes dating as a celebrity with one word: "weird." And, with a gleam in his eyes, he describes some romantic pointers he jokingly claims to have learned from fellow-bachelor pal Kenny Chesney.

"Kenny has a house full of mannequins," teases Brad. "He plays with them, puts wigs on them, dresses them up and sticks them in different rooms. It makes him feel less lonely. He'll drive around with one in the car. That way you don't have any of the baggage of actually hurting somebody's feelings if it doesn't work out. People still assume you've got a personal life." He bursts out in a hearty laugh as he visualizes the preposterous scenario he's just described. "I'm thinking of doing that if Kenny will let me borrow one."

And what about those rumors that Brad is dating fellow country star Chely Wright? Brad blushes and then gives an enigmatic answer.

"Let's just say this," he begins. "If we were [dating], do you think of the two of us, I would be the spokesman? There's no way in heck I'd be the spokesman if that were true."

Nice job of sidestepping, Brad! But there's no mystery at all when it comes to his first loves - music and his fans. "I like doing what I do," says Brad. "I never dreamed that some of the things would happen that did in the first couple of years I was on the charts. I was dreaming big, but not that big. Then all of a sudden things started snowballing.

"I hope to gain more fans throughout the years," he says. "But if I level off and never do, I'm all right with that, too.

"I like the life I've got."

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