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"Ticks" Don't Keep Brad Paisley From Shifting Into "5th Gear"

Of the Oakland Press

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Brad Paisley wasn’t necessarily going to put out a new album this year — only if he felt that “I have a unique project to offer at this point in time.”

“Ticks,” the first single from the country singer’s gold-certified “5th Gear,” certainly qualifies as that.

The song, written by Paisley with Chris DuBois and Kelly Lovelace, is a slyly worded come-on to a woman, offering to “kiss you back in the sticks,” “walk you through a field of wildflowers” and, of course, “check you for ticks” — theoretically in areas that, if specified, would keep earn the song a parental advisory warning and a probable ban from radio play.

There was a moment, Paisley acknowledges, where he wondered, “Is this the stupidest thing I’ve ever done?” but after the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard country charts and spawned a side industry that includes special T-shirts at his shows, he has his answer.

“One of my drivers told me the other day that when he was checking into a hotel, a lady asked who he drove for, and he said Brad Paisley,” says the 34-year-old West Virginia native, who has a 7-month-old son, William Huckleberry, with actress Kimberly Williams. “This was an older lady, and she put her head down and said, ‘Oh, man, he can check me for ticks any time ...’

“The line is very thin between humor and shock sometimes, but it’s fun to feel like we came up with something that’s causing a little laughter.”

That’s not necessarily a unique position for Paisley, of course. Since he started recording in 1999 and through his back-toback double-platinum triumphs of 2003’s “Mud on the Tires” and 2005’s “Time Well Wasted,” he’s peppered the charts and airwaves with good-humored hits such as “Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)” “Celebrity” and, from last year’s holiday set “Brad Paisley Christmas,” “Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday.”

And “Online,” the second single from “5th Gear,” pokes good-natured fun at Internet dating.

He’s not exactly the Weird Al Yankovic of country music, but Paisley does like to make his listeners smile. And, he adds, that’s not an easy thing to do.

“Harlan Howard always said that all songs are rewrites in the sense that all have been written before and you’re just trying to find a new way to say it,” Paisley explains. “So for ‘Ticks,’ I was thinking about how, in urban and rap music, you have stuff like ‘My Humps’ or ‘Hollaback Girl.’ I didn’t even know what things like that meant until I listened to the songs and figured out, ‘OK, I know what they’re talking about now ...’

“And then I started thinking, ‘How would you say that in country?’ and went from there.”

He doesn’t just sit around waiting for answers to come off the top of his hat, either.

“I have to dig,” Paisley says. “I take a lot of time on my writing and go on a big scavenger hunt for ideas. I do a lot of reading, a lot of studying for things. I search the Internet and look for good inspirational sites or famous sayings, quotations. Or I just read the news and see what’s happening right now.

“All of that really starts to be the way I do my research, if you want to call it that — just anything that helps you be creative.”

The effort has certainly paid off. Paisley has 18 Top 20 country hits and 20 awards on his shelf already, along with a pack-leading five Country Music Association Award nominations in November. His career is definitely in, well, high gear, and Paisley actually has a sense of why that is.

“There is a certain unexplainable quality to people who become popular and famous and successful in music,” he says, “but there’s also certain things you can point to and say, ‘I get that ...’

“I believe it’s all about songs. I can understand why people hear these songs and go nuts; it’s the same reason I would’ve liked the song even if I hadn’t written it. The pressure is to make sure that we always go places that I’ve never been and do songs that I feel like no one else has ever done.

“That’s not easy (to do) in music, but it works.”

Brad Paisley, Rodney Atkins and Taylor Swift perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 4) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $49.75 and $29.75. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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