This blog was originally published on the Grand Lodge of Ohio website.
In 1999, country singer Brad Paisley released his first album, Who Needs Pictures. It was quickly met with critical acclaim, and Paisley was well on his way to stardom, receiving numerous accolades that year. He has created compelling country music for over two decades that has redefined the genre, earning him several Grammy Awards, dozens of chart-topping singles, and selling over 11 million albums. His rapid rise to fame came seemingly from nowhere but was, in truth, the result of relentless study, practice, and experience that began when Paisley was a young boy.
As a Freemason, Paisley has been an ambassador for DeMolay International and is a member of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction. Due to his position as a modern pop culture icon, his advocacy for the virtues of the Craft is significant, and Brethren country-wide value his commitment to Masonic principles. Brother Paisley continues the lineage of great men and creative minds that have devoted themselves to the tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
The Young Star
Brad Paisley was born on October 28, 1972, in Glen Dale, West Virginia, to parents Douglas Edward "Doug" Paisley and Sandra Jean "Sandy" (née Jarvis) Paisley. He was an only child who, thanks to the influence of his grandfather, Warren Jarvis, gained a passion for country music while still young.
Warren, who worked on the railroad, was a bluegrass acoustic guitarist and gave young Brad his first guitar, a Danelectro Silvertone when he was eight years old. Warren started giving his grandson lessons, and before long, Brad performed publicly for his community at church and received invites to play events throughout town, including holiday parties and events.
"Born on Christmas Day" was the first song Brad wrote when he was just 13 years old, and it later made it onto his album Brad Paisley Christmas. Around this time, he also formed his first band with a local musician, Clarence "Hank" Goddard: Brad Paisley and the C-Notes. While still in junior high school, Brad's principal invited him to perform at a Rotary Club meeting after hearing him perform. The Rotary Club performance impressed Tom Miller, the program director of a radio station in Wheeling, West Virginia, that he asked Brad to guest star on Jamboree USA. His appearance was such a hit that he spent the next eight years returning to Jamboree USA, opening for country singers such as The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, and George Jones.
College and Early Career
In 1991, Paisley graduated from John Marshall High School in Glen Dale and went on to attend West Liberty State College in West Liberty, West Virginia for two years. From there, he received a full scholarship from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Paisley majored in music business and received a bachelor’s degree in 1995.
By the time Brad graduated in 1995, he had already completed internships with ASCAP, Atlantic Records, and Fitzgerald-Hartley Management. Not only did these positions help him build foundational experience and knowledge of the music industry, they also allowed him to network and foster relationships with contacts in the business, including scouts from EMI Music Publishing.
Within days of graduating, Brad signed a songwriting deal with EMI and soon recorded a demo of his song, "I'm Gonna Miss Her." During this time, he wrote David Kersh's hit song, "Another You," and co-wrote David Ball's 1999 single, "Watching My Baby Not Come Back." The success of his songs quickly earned Brad a recording contract with Arista Records, and in 1998 he began to work on his first record.
Rise to Stardom
By the time Brad began writing Who Needs Pictures, he had already written enough songs to fill several albums. Despite limited experience in studios, Brad relied on his tour band to help record the album and played all the guitar parts himself. He invited his college friend, Frank Rogers, to produce the album despite having no experience working on a major record.
Trusting his instinct proved the right decision, and Brad released his first major album on June 1, 1999. The record sold more than one million copies and earned Paisley several chart-topping hits, including, "He Didn't Have to Be," "Me Neither," and "We Danced." Brad was an instant sensation, and the following year, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) named him the Best New Male Vocalist. He received the Horizon Award from the Country Music Association (CMA), and the album went certified platinum in less than two years.
As the accolades poured in, Paisley secured his place as a national icon, appearing at Nashville's legendary Grand Ole Opry for the first time. In 2001, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Later that year, pulling from his massive collection of pre-written songs, Brad returned with his second record: Part II. The album included several guest appearances from celebrities and saw several hit singles, including, "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)," "I Wish You'd Stay," "Wrapped Around," and "Two People Fell in Love." Part II enjoyed over 70 weeks on the national music charts and was certified platinum the following year.
In the last 20 years, Paisley released ten more albums to wide-ranging appeal and acclaim. He received praise for steadily releasing a diverse array of music, from his instrumental, "Throttleneck" to the mournful, "Whiskey Lullaby," written in collaboration with critically acclaimed bluegrass singer Alison Krauss. He has written and performed with countless artists, including Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, Mick Jagger, Demi Lovato, and LL Cool J.
Paisley has stated that his albums are musical photographs of his life and considering his journey, it seems to reflect the diversity of his music. The content of his songs touch on lighthearted and everyday topics while also tackling complex social subjects like racism, hatred on the internet, and cultural identity.
He performed at The White House for President Barack Obama and has toured the country nearly 20 times as a headliner and opening act. Brad has also written songs for Pixar's Cars franchise, including "Behind the Clouds," "Find Yourself," "Collision of Worlds," "Nobody's Fool," and more.
Paisley has also written two books, including the 2003 release Jug Fishing for Greazy and Other Brad Paisley Fishing Stories. In 2011, he published his autobiography Diary of a Player: How My Musical Heroes Made a Guitar Man Out of Me, which catalogs his early life and career in music.
Brother Brad Paisley is an active Freemason, and member of Hiram Lodge #7 in Franklin, Tennessee. Paisley has made Freemasons proud for years, demonstrating Masonic values through more than just his artistic contributions. Even as a young emerging artist in 2000, Paisley used his influence to help those most in need when he secured a sponsorship deal with USA Meats. With this sponsorship, the Brad Paisley Foundation used the funding to benefit the Children's Miracle Network, St. Jude's Research Hospital, the Opry Trust Fund, and the American Cancer Society.
Bro. Paisley is also a Noble of the AAONMS, also known as Shriners, and a member of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction. When he was inducted into the Scottish Rite on October 28, 2006, he was accompanied by his father, Douglas Paisley, 33°, at the House of the Temple in Washington D.C. Brad's keyboardist Kendall Marcy joined the Scottish Rite that day. Scottish Rite brethren from Marcy's Blue Lodge in Tennessee and West Virginia participated in the ceremony with both new Brothers. They witnessed the 4th, 14th, 18th, 30th, and 32nd degrees during the proceedings.
During his time in the Craft, Brad has developed recordings supporting the virtues of Freemasonry and DeMolay International. He has been instrumental in helping the fraternity maintain a positive reputation in the modern world, emphasizing the helpful impact Masons have in our communities.