NASHVILLE — Brad Paisley will do anything to get fans to listen to an entire album front to back, even shoot an hour-long visual album featuring Mick Jagger, Timbaland, John Fogerty and an unfinished Johnny Cash song.
The Grammy-winning country singer, songwriter and guitarist spent less than a month shooting sequences for each one of the 15 songs on his new record, “Love and War,” to make what he’s calling the first visual album in country music. The video is available for streaming on Apple Music on Friday (the album was released last week).
“I am a big fan of this art form called an album,” Paisley said during an interview Wednesday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, where he screened the visual album for the first time for fans. “I have a lot to say and I can’t say it in 10 songs.”
Paisley is not aiming to compete with Beyonce’s powerful “Lemonade,” which combined songs and videos into a visually stunning and complex musical project, which Paisley said he hasn’t even watched in its entirety. After finishing his record, Paisley thought he could create a story line out of his song sequence.
“Basically we used the album as a script,” Paisley said. “There’s chapters. There’s couplets.”
Paisley pulled together an army of people to accomplish the task in the short time frame and included scenes shot on an aircraft carrier, in a shopping mall, at a burnt church, at the Grand Ole Opry and in his home town square with hundreds of extras. He included cameos from his actress wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, for a “Stranger Things”-inspired sequence, as well as David Hasselhoff and KITT the car from “Knight Rider.”
Jeff Venable, one of the directors on the visual album, said Paisley himself would spend all night helping to finish the editing or shooting scenes in between his gigs.
“There were some days where we shot three videos in a day,” Venable said. “The most amazing thing about Brad on camera is I have never seen him miss a note on the solos. And that is crazy to me.”
The video highlights Paisley’s natural on-camera charisma and his ease at transitioning through multiple topics, such as playing the comedian in a funny segment about our selfie-obsessed culture but also wielding enough gravitas to call out the lack of support for veterans in another section.
“One of those without the other is either too light or too dark,” Paisley said of his song choices on the album. “It’s a Skywalker balance kind of thing.”
Finding common ground is Paisley’s specialty. When hit-making producer Timbaland came into the studio with Paisley, they found their middle ground was bluegrass. On the Jagger-Paisley co-written “Drive of Shame,” the impact that the Rolling Stones had on country music was the underlying thread.
“They are the greatest rock band in the world and a top five country one,” Paisley said. “I didn’t have to change at all because I have been ripping them off since I first started.”