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Brad Paisley stars in an emotionally charged sequel

Story by Larry Holden

A nervous Brad Paisley is sitting in a dark movie theater. His heart is ka-thumping as he watches every girl enter. He knows if the right one walks in - his ex-girlfriend - this night could change his life forever.

"On the very first date I had with this girl, we went to a movie," reminisces Brad. "That movie became 'our' movie. It meant something to us."

Even after they broke up, Brad confesses that he still thought about that girl. Then Hollywood cranked out a sequel to "their" movie.

"I was hit really hard by the fact that a sequel was made," he explains. Suddenly, he realized the flick could possibly breathe new life into his old romance.

"I was going home to West Virginia for Christmas," he remembers, "and I was encouraged by my Nashville friends to go to the same theater to see the sequel on the anniversary of our first date. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be something if she was thinking about me like I was thinking about her, and that she went to the 7:45 showing just like we did so many years before ...'

"On the way to the theater, I even debated on whether to stop and get flowers. I'd convinced myself she'd be there."

But doubts surfaced after he settled in the theater's seat. "I remember telling myself, 'By 20 minutes into this movie if she hasn't walked through that door, I'm outta here.' That would be the closure I needed."

The movie flickered onto the screen. Brad kept watching girls straggling in.

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

"She didn't show after 20 minutes, so I started to leave. Then I decided, heck, I'd paid six bucks, I might as well stay for the whole movie."

That 1995 experience, alas, didn't turn out to be a sequel to Brad's romance. But it did provide a jump start to his just-released album, Part II , the musical sequel to his debut CD, Who Needs Pictures.

"When I got back to Nashville," notes Brad, "I got together with my songwriting bud, Kelley Lovelace - one of the friends who encouraged me to go to the sequel showing - and we wrote 'Part II ,' a song about why can't love be more like the movies. That day, I looked at Kelley and said, 'Part II ' would be a great second album title.' "

Brad's new CD is more cinematic than just its title. When he started writing songs such as "Who Needs Pictures," "He Didn't Have To Be" and his current hit, "Two People Fell In Love," he noticed they fell into two categories - songs that were snapshots of life, and ones that had more "motion," like a movie. The result was the snapshot songs in Who Needs Pictures and, now, the movie-like songs of Part II .

"The journey I started in my first album continues - and picks up steam in the second album," explains Brad. "The songs, from 'I Wish You'd Stay' to 'Two Feet Of Top Soil' to 'I'm Gonna Miss Her,' seem a little deeper."

Brad even built a musical bridge between his two albums. "The fiddle that fades out at the end of the first record leads you into the first song on Part II," he reveals. "I pictured someone putting them into the CD player and playing them back to back."

For Part II, Brad penned "Come On Over Tonight" with Chely Wright. "I was still looking for that last up-tempo song. Chely and I were talking about how difficult it is for a guy to say 'I love you' to a girl. This is a fun song and my favorite line is about flyin' pigs."

Brad and Chely have become regular writing partners since they penned "Hard To Be A Husband, Hard To Be A Wife" for a pair of Grand Ole Opry tribute albums. "I love writing with her," declares Brad. "We wrote three songs on her upcoming album."

Almost before the final notes of "Hard To Be A Husband, Hard To Be A Wife" faded away, tongues were wagging that there may be more to Brad and Chely's relationship than just writing songs. But so far, Brad will only confirm that they make beautiful music together.

Brad's also proud of the music he made with his old pal Kelley Lovelace. Just as Brad's mega-hit "He Didn't Have To Be" came from pal Kelley's real life, Kelley was also the springboard for "Wrapped Around," which will most likely become the album's second single.

"He was trying to figure out, should I get married? Am I a dad? Is this something I want to do?" remembers Brad. "Then he called me and said, 'I think it's time to put a ring on the finger I'm wrapped around.' "

On "Too Country," Brad got a little help from his friends Bill Anderson, Buck Owens and George Jones. "Bill wrote the song, so it was a given I'd ask him to sing on it," explains Brad, "plus he also has one of the most identifiable voices in country music.

"Buck has become one of my closest friends. I called him up and asked if he'd sing on the record. He said yes, without even needing to know what the song was.

"George has become a big fan of what I'm doing, which is the ultimate compliment. I went to his house and said, 'Hey, George, I need to ask you a favor.' Even before I could finish the sentence, he said, 'Sure, whatever you want.' "

Brad confesses that he was blown away by the opportunity to sing with his heroes. "It's something I will cherish the rest of my life. Hey, I got to sing with three of the most influential legends in country music."

Brad is on the fast track to becoming a legend in his own right after being tapped to star in this year's George Strait Country Music Festival Tour, being named the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, and now with his emotionally charged songs on Part II.

But he's always been an emotional guy. Even back in 1995, when his ex-girlfriend didn't walk into that movie theater, he just had to take a second chance at love.

"In the theater parking lot," he recalls, "I was about to put my key in the car door when it dawned on me: Did we go to the 7:45 show ... or the 9:45 show? I couldn't remember, so I bought another ticket and went back inside the theater.

"Twenty minutes later, she still hadn't shown," he says with a grin, "so I was out the door."