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August Issue
more... ArtistsNovember 2009Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley: Proud Gearhead



Photo by Ben Enos, 2008
Can you run down your main stage guitars for us?

I use my ’68 Paisley Telecaster, and the rest of them are custom made for me by Bill Crook, except for my “mutt” Tele that has a ’52 refinished body with a ’56 neck. The ones Bill has made for me include a black paisley Tele, a blue paisley Esquire, and a new blue sparkle paisley Esquire. I also use a Gibson Country Gentleman and a Music Man Albert Lee.

What is it about Bill’s guitars you like?

Bill makes guitars the way you want them. You might wait eight months for one, but if you’re willing to spend two to three grand for one of his guitars, you’ll get one exactly the way you want it. I’ve known Bill since I was eight years old. He worked in a music store in West Virginia. That was a nice write-up you did in your magazine on Bill a while ago.

Thank you. You’ve mentioned that you prefer using a G-Bender versus a B-Bender. Why is that?

I just like the sound better. It’s less piercing and trebly—more subtle and again, different. I wanted to sound like myself and not be compared to Steve Wariner or Clarence White. People think I thought up the G-Bender, but it was Joe Glaser who came up with the idea of a double bender years ago. My G-Bender guitar pretty much stays at home now.

Was that the guitar you used on “Waitin’ On A Woman?”

Yes, that was the one.

Click here to read Bill Crook, Dr. Z and Robert Keeley's take on Brad Paisley and his gear.
I knew it had to have been the G-Bender. Let’s discuss your amplification. You used to rely on Vox AC30s, now you’re using Dr. Z amps.


I always loved the sound of AC30s, but after my first major tour and a few good falls down the steps, I decided I should find something with that British sound that could withstand the road. I tried a Dr. Z with 10” speakers, and it sounded like my old AC30. Mike Zaite has a philosophy: make world-class amps and make them affordable. I think they’re just about the least expensive of all the boutique amps out there. I’ve used Mike’s amps on TV and on tour, and he sends me amps to try at home, things he’s working on. It’s been fun to watch the company grow.

Live, I use the Dr. Z Remedy and a special Z-Wreck that was made for me. Mike, Ken Fischer and I collaborated on that. I actually use all kinds of amps in the studio, including old Marshalls with 6V6s. I always am on the lookout for something that’s different. I’m always looking for that angle. I like to switch amps onstage for different things.

Did you ever think it might be easier to simplify your live rig, and if so, how would you do that?

It’s pretty involved onstage just because it can be. I can get away with it. Sure, I could do a show with one amp and two pedals, but it wouldn’t be too good for the people in the back rows.

Talk to us about your stompboxes.

I use Keeley pedals and Keeley-modded pedals, as well as a few other things, like the Fulltone Echodrive and a modded 808 Tube Screamer. I don’t use compression on my Tele, but I do use a lot of delay. Robert Keeley is just great at tweaking pedals and building new ones based on older designs. He’ll hear something, take it into his shop and change the character completely. It goes back to what we said about not sounding like anybody else, about having a different guitar than your friend. It’s the same way with pedals. You always want to sound different. Robert takes things to sonic places where no one has gone before. He’s very passionate about his work, and I like passionate people.

I hear a lot of jazzy chord changes and riffs going on in your music. Is that true?

BRAD'S LIVE GEARBOX

Guitars:
1968 Paisley Fender Telecaster
Three Bill Crook Tele or Esquire replicas in black paisley, blue paisley and blue sparkle paisley
’52/’56 “Mutt” modded Fender Telecaster
Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentleman
Music Man Albert Lee hardtail.

Amps:
Dr. Z Remedy and Z-Wreck
Vox AC30 handwired by Tony Bruno
Tony Bruno Underground 30

Effects:
Four delays: Way Huge Aquapuss, Modded Boss DD-2 and DD-3, Maxon AD-999
Fulltone Echodrive
Modded Ibanez 808 Tube Screamer
Modded Boss Blues Driver
Hermida Audio Technology Zendrive
Keeley Compressor and Katana pedals
Line 6 M-13 with 12 presets for tremolo, vibrato and other effects
Modded Dunlop wah-wah.

Accessories:
Ernie Ball .010-.046. Strings
Ernie Ball medium or heavy picks
Custom cables made by Guitar-Cable.com
Shure wireless system
Custom straps made by Matt Ali of West Virginia.
Definitely. I like jazz guitar, and I think country really isn’t that far removed from jazz in some ways. I always felt you weren’t a real guitar player unless you could handle some jazz modulations and changes. I joined the jazz band in school and learned standards like “How High The Moon” and “Just The Way You Look Tonight.” Tunes that people like Frank Sinatra sang. I love that music. I was able to play in a more jazzy style on my Christmas album and get away with it.

The catch phrase at Premier Guitar is “The relentless pursuit of tone.” How would you define great tone, and do you agree it’s a very subjective thing?

It is very subjective. But to me, when someone says, “I love that,” then that’s great tone. I’m very picky about little stuff. If I’m playing a clean sound with my Tele, I can tell if a cable has been changed. You really can hear those things. I’d say that great tone is when raw emotion is allowed to pass unencumbered from your hands to the speakers so people can relate to it. I love tone when it’s allowed to bloom.

Does your wife understand your obsession with gear?

Yes, she does, fortunately. It’s not a big issue because these are the tools of my trade and I can afford what I want. This is how I make my living. If you’re in the construction business you need to buy bulldozers and tools. I’m a musician, so I buy musical equipment. [Authors Note: try that explanation on your wife next time you plan to drop a few grand on a custom shop axe!]

My wife is so jealous. The other night, Vince Gill and I went to the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville to see Robben Ford, and we went onstage and sat in. My wife was in the audience. Later on, she said to me, “You guys had the most amazing conversation up there and you never said a word.”

She and I have always had an agreement that if either one of us spends more than $5000 on anything, we discuss it first … you can buy a lot of cool stuff for less than five thousand bucks!


The author would like to thank Bill Crook, Mike “Dr. Z” Zaite, Robert Keeley and Brad’s tech, Chad Weaver, for their help in preparing this article.