Brad Paisley may be one of the biggest country music superstars today, but he''s also one of the biggest gearheads this side of Nashville.
He’s scored over 10 million album sales, 14 No.1 hits, boasts a virtual army of fans that cuts across generations, and sells out wherever he performs. He has won three Grammys and multiple Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards. As of this writing, he has been nominated for seven more CMA trophies.
From the beginning, Brad managed to use his road band in the studio—no small accomplishment in Nashville—and he’s charted his own course every step of the way, fortunate to have management and a record label that have given him free reign to do as he pleases. Very few Nashville artists can boast his accomplishments as a singer, songwriter and prodigious instrumentalist. Unlike People, however, we’ll focus on Brad Paisley, guitarist and gearhead extraordinaire. From his home in Franklin, TN, Brad and I spoke about equipment, his influences, his equipment, tone, his wife’s tolerance of that peculiar affliction known as G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), his equipment … and more equipment, his trademark pink ’68 Fender Paisley Telecaster. And by the way, his last name really is Paisley.
Let’s start by talking about the Play album. Can you tell us how that came about and what you had to do to make it happen?
Not a lot. I did a Christmas album between Time Well Wasted and 5th Gear, and I had such a good time making it that I wanted to do another low-pressure record and not have to worry about hit singles. I enjoy making commercially viable records, but there’s something to be said about making an album that’s selfish in a way. I had always wanted to do an instrumental record. The records that stand the test of time to me are instrumental albums, like Ah Via Musicom by Eric Johnson. We didn’t want to do something that was self-important, and we weren’t out to save the world or win song of the year.
It sounds like there was some compromising that must have occurred with that record. I’m sure your record company wanted hit singles, didn’t they?
They didn’t expect any singles. It was really easy. They said, “Here’s your budget. It’s lower than usual, but if you can make the album for that much, go do it.” After we finished it, they were ecstatic. Joe Galante, the president of my record company, believes that artists need to grow, and I respect him for that. Of course, we had a hit with that track with Keith Urban, “Start A Band,” but it wasn’t a preconceived thing to try and have a hit. Doing an instrumental album was great for me personally. We played on The David Letterman Show around that time, and their guitarist Sid McGinnis came out and talked with me, along with Paul Shaffer, so it did a lot for me as a guitarist.
Photo by Ben Enos, 2008
Those were my top seven guys: James Burton, Albert Lee, Redd Volkaert, John Jorgenson, Vince Gill, Steve Wariner and Brent Mason. If you put them all in a blender, it would probably come out as me. They were all influences. I think all of us try to emulate our heroes, but we’re never as good as they are. It was a real thrill to have them all participate. James Burton is the father of all those great Telecaster licks, and it was an honor to have him as part of that track. He had requested to meet me because he’d seen me on TV. James played that Paisley Tele with Elvis and Emmylou Harris and made it a very collectible instrument. Today, those original Paisley Teles go for about $15,000.
I just saw his original Paisley Telecaster in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
They have so many great guitars on display there.
Do you agree or disagree with the Nashville tradition of using studio musicians versus an artist’s road band in the studio?
I definitely disagree. I use my band and have from the beginning. My band is highly capable, and I have great drummer, but I can understand that if you go into the studio with your road drummer or any musician who isn’t familiar with the recording studio, you will have problem. There are a lot of reasons why they use studio musicians. Nashville is a very small, tight-knit community. It’s also because those studio cats are just such great players.
Photo by Ben Enos, 2008
How did you get started playing guitar?
It was my grandfather. He used to sit in a chair on the front porch and play guitar. He worked for the railroad and didn’t go to work until 1 pm, so he sat and played one song after another. He was in love with the guitar, and used to give me advice and tell me that playing guitar would be a life-changing thingfor me. He taught me how to play initially, and then I took lessons.
One of the reasons we wanted to feature you in Premier Guitar is because you’re a self-admitted “Gear Hound.” What were your first instruments?
I had a Sears Silvertone my grandfather gave me, then a Sekova ES-335 copy. I didn’t have a high-quality instrument until I got a Tokai electric. You know how it is—you want a guitar that’s different, one your friend doesn’t have, so you buy it. Then your friend gets something really cool and you have to have one like that, so you buy one. Next thing you know, you have a house full of guitars.
It’s Teles in the studio and onstage, of course, but do you use any other acoustics and electrics either live or in the studio?
I’m identified with that Tele sound, but I use lots of stuff. I use an old Gretsch. I have a Gibson ES-335 that I use in the studio. I have a Music Man Albert Lee model that’s like a Strat. I love Gibson hollowbody guitars: ES-335s, Byrdlands, and those later Chet Atkins models that Gibson made. It makes me look like I have some class! For acoustics, I like older Gibsons and Martins, as well some newer handmade guitars.
I have a ‘70s Les Paul, but I have never felt comfortable with it for some reason. It’s never felt right to me. It isn’t nimble, if that’s the right word.
It’s been said you were responsible for bringing the Telecaster back to country music after it seemed to disappear. Do you think that’s true?
Is it back? I don’t think it’s really back. I don’t hear a lot of Tele-heavy stuff going on. I was a big fan of Buck Owens and Don Rich, and most of my heroes play Teles, so it was natural for me. I was just hoping they didn’t laugh me out of town! Country music runs such a wide gamut these days, from stuff like mine to harder-edged music, so you have guys using different guitars.
Keith Urban plays a Les Paul Junior; that’s never been considered a country guitar.
That’s right, but it works for him. I can’t take credit for bringing the Tele back.
I saw the photo of you with an old non-reverse Firebird in the booklet of Play. Was that the guitar you borrowed for that track with Steve Wariner, “More Than Just This Song?”
Yes, that Firebird belonged to my guitar teacher, Hank Goddard, from Wheeling, WV. He was a fantastic jazz player and a great teacher. Had he gone to Nashville at the right time, I’m sure he would have done very well, made a lot of money, and would have provided a better life for himself and his family. But he wouldn’t leave West Virginia. He had this idea that Nashville musicians were always on tour, but session musicians do their playing like a normal job and go home and have dinner with their families.
Photo by Ben Enos, 2008
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 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?
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.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
Belltone P-90 Foil-Tron Pickup
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.