21. June 2014
It Isn’t Brad’s Fault
By Walter Price
There is that moment when artists stop being ‘artists’, stop creating from the heart and start producing formulaic music to please their new zombie-like core audience, radio, TV, advertisers, promoters and whoever else will be involved in profiting from their ‘brand’. It ends up feeling soulless and unltimatley sad and disingenuous to the true listener or fans that helped you along the way. Or does it.
Fans as robots just doesn’t feel right to me or just about anyone else I know. There are countless artists music makers who find a sound, sell some huge piles of records, radio hit after radio hit and stop at that and redo that thing they did the last time that got them on every late-night talk show the last time they had that big song that sounded pretty damn similar to the other five songs that had previously garnered so much mainstream attention. It’s addictive but not all that honest.
Unless, you’re honest about the fact that you are now just a format, a brand, a business empire that needs to satisfy the machine and just about blatantly assume your ‘fans’ will follow whatever amalgamation of sounds you package up and sale at a steep discount at the big boxstore that has partnered up with your team in hopes that your two corporations can ride the coattails of each other’s marketplace share on the way to big sales and another radio smash hit that then can be used in a beer, automobile or douche commercial. I smell another WIN!
One of the nicest guys in music, outstanding guitarists and a famously formulaic hit maker, Brad Paisley, recently spoke to Rolling Stones David Browne in NYC about a few this and that’s about his music heroes (Buck Owens, Huey Lewis & Jason Isbell) and the such but it is this bit here that got my “oh no he didn’t just say that” juices flowing. See if you can spot anything odd…(I’ll give you a hint)
During a recent visit to New York, Brad Paisley has a hotel room with a Central Park view but no guitar, so he does the next best thing: He grabs his iPhone, punches up his forthcoming album, Moonshine in the Trunk, and cranks one of its songs as loud as it can go on a mobile device. Out comes a barrage of guitar riffage, followed by a solo that leaps from Van Halen-style fret-tapping to bluegrass-on-speed velocity. “It’s like, ‘What is that?'” Paisley grins. “I couldn’t have done that in 1989 — you think I could’ve gotten away with a tap solo?” He mimes a shrieky air-guitar solo. “But it fits our format now. It all becomes country eventually, somehow. We assimilate it like the Borg.“
Is it wrong to want to chase or maintain that level of big-time success you’ve tasted so often and feels so good to your bottom line? Keep in mind that you have teams of people working for or around you now and they have families to feed. Concert venues are counting on you to come back and fill the seats again, they need 120 minutes of back to back Ticks, Alcohol, Mud On The Tires, I’m Still A Guy, I’m Going To Miss Her and of course This Is Country Music. What the hell have you gotten yourself into…
This isn’t an attack on Brad personally, it isn’t his fault, but a ramble about what keeps the ‘almost no art left’ in the mainstream machine called the music/radio businesses. It has been going on since the 1950’s when music producers like the great Chet Atkins and Bob Fergusan started to strip down honky tonk music to please a growing pop and rock marketplace culminating in what is now known as The Nashville Sound or the hit making sound, if you will.
I know recorded music is and always has been a business but perhaps I just don’t like it broadcast so clearly. The not so secret skeleton in the closet, maybe I’m still fighting a lost cause of becoming a robot. Could be I’d rather buy an album from an artists pushing the envelope a bit. Making music they want to make. Music with true spirit, heart, emotion and the grand tradition of telling a story with song. Stories that maybe you and only a few will understands but you are free. Or at least for now…