Tag Archives: Brad Paisley



     “Suntans and white tank tops….Summertime and no flip flops…..A little country, a little rock, yeah, yeah.” Sounds like summer in Parmele, North Carolina, where four guys grew up and nurtured their musical roots. Matt and Scott Thomas are brothers who grew up in Parmele along with their cousin, Barry Knox, and friend, Josh McSwain. Barely a dot on the map with a PARMALEE INTERVIEW PARMELEpopulation of just 278, the closest concert venue was 88 miles away in Raleigh. The Walnut Creek Amphitheatre opened in 1991 and has played host to over 20 years of live music, including many concerts these guys attended. Watching some of their favorite bands perform on the big stage fueled their dreams of becoming a band worthy of playing here some day. Ten years after the opening of this venue, in 2001, these brothers formed a band that was as much a product of their musical influences as it was their talent and home town. Once Parmele born and bred, now bound together as Parmalee.

I’ll Bring the Music” – Feels Like Carolina

     For those old enough to remember the tape deck and the audio cassettes it played, it was a tedious process to fast forward to the exact spot you were PAISLEY, BRAD COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR WITH PARMALEE AND THE SWON BROTHERSlooking for in the music. Oftentimes you had to rewind when you overshot it and fast forward again to hit it just right. This is much like the process a band goes through in their formative years. I met with Parmalee on their tour bus outside the WVU Coliseum, where they were set to open for Brad Paisley on the winter leg of his Country Nation World Tour. They were comfortably confident on this day that they were prepared for the task. Their set list for the evening opened with “I’ll Bring the Music,” but to find out where that music came from, we’ll have to rewind to the music they were listening to “Back in the Day.”   

Back in the Day” – Feels Like Carolina

     Watching the bands play live at Walnut Creek is how Parmalee learned to play like one. Pearl Jam, The Allman Brothers Band, and Foo Fighters were among their favorites, but it wasn’t just the music that influenced them. Bands such as these have longevity on their side and it shows in their live WALNUT CREEK AMPHITHEATRE RDUperformances. Studying them is how these four guys honed their stage presence as a band. In the studio, there are a lot of things to play with that can affect the recorded sound. Live, it’s all about what you can make happen as a group in the moment, which means skill and interaction must balance to put on a high quality, entertaining show.

     Fast forward to the stage they’ll be playing on with Brad Paisley. When selecting the songs for the set list, knowing your audience is key. Parmalee PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY MATTmakes it their job to figure out what kind of crowd they’re playing to and uses the opportunities they have to play something they would like. Whether the fans prefer Bob Seger or Snoop Dog, they “Think You Oughta Know That.” Many of today’s headlining acts play to pre-recorded tracks. Parmalee doesn’t. Everything you hear, they’re actually playing. Their philosophy is if you’ve come to see a live show, you want it to sound live. Part of the fun for a band is keeping it fresh on stage and creating unique moments within each performance. Doing that means knowing your bandmates well enough to anticipate each other’s moves and react PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH ON GUITARaccordingly. Within their set, there is no down time for these four guys. Creating a live, organic performance means working through every minute on stage as if the band’s success depends on it. Unlike the headliner, whose set is likely in sync with lights, sounds, and videos, Parmalee has some leeway to change things up and still have their lighting engineer on target. Matt knows his limitations when the mood strikes to stray from the preset program and keeps it fresh, yet manageable.

Think You Oughta Know That” – Feels Like Carolina

     For Parmalee, being a band means their approach to the set list is creating an outline for an original performance. It is in no way a simple reproduction of their PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY MATT JOSHrecorded album. Within several of their songs, it works well to add snippets of popular music covers that vary based on the audience. Call it creating a live mixtape on the fly. One of the advantages they have to playing songs not everyone is familiar with is vocal flexibility. Fans become attached to their favorite songs as they were recorded. How it was sung on the one day of its recording is pressed in PARMALEE SCOTT IN COLORour memories. When the singer strays from that version, audiences don’t always react favorably. As the lead vocalist, Matt tries to stay close to the recorded sound while changing it up as he sees fit. As for the music, Scott says he never plays the drums live the way he played on the record. His versatility pushes the rest of the guys to adjust and create in the moment. Today,  Parmalee is an outstanding live band because they understand and embrace this concept and can adjust to suit any size venue or setting.


     With only four guys to create the sound of Parmalee, instrument choice and volume control matter. How much equipment they’re toting depends on the PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY POSEsize of the room that sound has to fill. Looking back, the guys credit playing all those shows in small rooms when they were just starting out for giving them a full spectrum vantage point. Being able to “Move” seamlessly between different sized venues, and not compromise their sound, is something Parmalee has done for years. They may play an acoustic setting where no amps are required one night and switch to two electric guitars and a bass the next in an arena. More equipment is needed to produce the volume an arena demands and how loud the drums are will determine how high that volume needs to go. Making adjustments is what sound check is for.

Move” – Feels Like Carolina

     Parmalee has the middle slot on Brad Paisley’s tour, which means their sound check will come after his band has finished and before the opening act, PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY JOSH ON KEYS MATTThe Swon Brothers, gets their turn. I asked them for their assessment of being in the middle relative to what they were used to. For most of the years they’ve been playing together, they’ve headlined their own shows, playing sets as long as 75+ minutes. They’ve had the opening slot at festivals but not on an organized tour, essentially skipping that step to where they are here. Being in the middle makes them less vulnerable to PARMALEE SCOTT ON DRUMSwhat happens during the day, which can lead to delays and a crunch for time. Opening acts take the fall for what may go awry on show days, sometimes missing a sound check entirely and having to “throw and go” when the lights go down. Parmalee’s set on this tour is 45 minutes long, “a breeze,” they called it, from what they’re used to as a headliner. Comparatively, they said an opening act may have two songs the audience is familiar with in a short set. Parmalee said they have three songs the fans may know and a longer time to entertain with songs they don’t. Their new single, “Already Callin’ You Mine,” was just released to radio, making it one more the fans will soon recognize off their debut album, Feels Like Carolina. There are no cover songs in Parmalee’s set, so the songs on the album get shuffled to make up the set list. It would be the launch of this first album that set the wheels of their tour bus in motion.

Already Callin’ You Mine” – Feels Like Carolina

Download the new single through iTunes: HERE

     The first thing I asked about, when I sat with the guys for this interview, was the bus we were sitting on. They’ve done a lot of traveling in their 14 years as a band, most of which was not on a comfortable tour bus. Van and trailer gigs are the norm for a band starting out, and Parmalee said that getting the bus is PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT ACOUSTIC COLORprobably the biggest change for a band. When they started playing the big festivals, the bus became a necessity, making their time on the road a whole lot easier. A tour bus is considered a big perk for a band, but Josh said having a crew with them now is an even bigger perk. When I asked what the criteria was for hiring a crew, the guys laughed and said, “Getting paid enough to have one.” Fair enough. Last year, they were able to hire two guys to assist them. Now, they have six crew members and a driver along for the ride, making it a snug fit with PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY TAMBOURINE11 guys on the bus. They’re also hauling a trailer packed from top to bottom with equipment. Prior to having the crew, they would arrive for a show and have to set everything up themselves. They said it’s taken about a year to find the right guys that fit the bill and the budget, mostly going by word of mouth recommendations and choosing from what they called a small community of roadies in Nashville. The other big change for them this year is finding themselves on stage with someone they idolized, Brad Paisley. Brad is one of the most skilled guitar players in Nashville, and that fact is not lost on these guys. Sharing the stage with him has left Parmalee a little awed by where they are and cognizant of where they’ve been. Now that they have the bus, they can toast this with a little “Day Drinkin’” in style.

Day Drinkin’” – Feels Like Carolina

     Between show dates, the guys are back home in Nashville working on their upcoming new album. There is no scheduled release date for it yet, but we PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH B & Wdiscussed the process of recording in Nashville, which is unlike any other place in the world. Taking advantage of present day technology and the resources they have available in Nashville makes them appreciate how far we’ve come in the evolution of music. The guys remember listening to things on the tape deck with their dads and said they came of age doing things on analog tape. They’ve gone through the process of making music in a lot of different ways, appreciating the experience for what it’s taught PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT POSEthem. Only in Nashville can you potentially write a song, record the demo, have top musicians play on it, press it, and have it ready for sale in one day. Not that anyone does this, but Nashville has the resources to make it possible. Recognizing the advantages of digital music and the speed of the process, they still expressed a desire to have at least one of their albums pressed in vinyl. Having a record player, like Barry does, and a collection of vinyl albums is hip again. Perhaps if they get a vinyl copy of the new album, they can listen to it at Barry’s house, and talk about the days when vinyl was king. Just “Another Day Gone.”

Another Day Gone” – Feels Like Carolina

     In some ways, Parmalee has embraced the old school way of recording and settled into the process with their second album. They’ve found things easier this time around because they’ve gotten to know the songwriters better and have been able to write with some of the best in Nashville. They’re writing as th5O88P53Lmuch as they can, and with the luxury of not being pushed to finish the record, if a great song comes their way, they can opt to record it. They’ve recorded four songs so far, but the process is ongoing. It’s not as simple as going into the studio and in one day having a finished product. Parmalee works with New Voice Entertainment on the production process, a group comprised of Rich Redmond, Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, and David Fanning. Getting the four of them and the four guys from Parmalee in one room PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH ON KEYSat the same time is a balancing act that requires finding small blocks of time over the course of a year to complete the process. They may cut 20 songs for the record and have to whittle it down to 12 or so, but that’s a positive problem. While writing is a big part of the new project, so is playing on the album. On most of the records recorded in Nashville, studio musicians are used instead of the guys who play on tour with the artist. These professionals can knock out a recording in one day. Parmalee, as a band, plays on their own records. They spend most of their time playing as a live band and that’s the sound they want to capture on the recordings. This requires time and patience to get it to sound the way they want it to, but they see it as part of being a band, and they love it. Like the lyrics of  “My Montgomery” state, “trading these Chicago lights for fireflies,” there’s something to be said for finding brilliance in what comes naturally.

My Montgomery” – Feels Like Carolina


     From the studio to the venue, if there’s one thing Parmalee‘s music makes you want to do, it’s “Dance,” and in 2014, those dance floors got bigger. On select dates, Parmalee opened for Jake Owen on the Days of Gold Tour. If you saw one of these shows, you “Musta Had a Good Time.” This took them to PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY WITH JAKEsmall arenas and amphitheatres across the country. In addition to those dates, they played large festivals that sometimes had them performing for 60,000 people. They opened a show in Ohio for Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean and played Faster Horses in Michigan. Aside from the festivals though, the sold out crowd at the WVU Coliseum was the biggest they’d played for. As it so happened, I was witnessing Parmalee PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT AND JOSHhistory, and this is just the start of a big year for them. They have three months on tour with Brad Paisley, after which they will go back to headlining their own shows again. Their first USO Tour is coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s a ten day trip and a chance to support the troops they’re looking forward to. In late April, they’ll be playing Stagecoach for the first time, and when the summer season arrives, they will once again be performing for multitudes at outdoor festivals.

Dance” – Feels Like Carolina

     When most people talk about their dreams, you picture it as something that exists only when you “Close Your Eyes.” When I asked Parmalee what their dream venues were, their eyes were wide open and looking towards the future. The three places that came out first were Madison Square Garden, The PARMALEE INTERVIEW CAROLINA LYRICS PICHollywood Bowl, and Red Rocks. Then, almost in unison, they declared the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh their ultimate choice. “Carolina” became Parmalee’s first #1 single with lyrics that may have foreshadowed these dream choices. “…she feels like Carolina, looks like California, Shining like those New York lights on Broadway.” They’ve played the side stage at Walnut Creek but haven’t had the chance to play the main stage yet. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. Having met these guys, one thing is certain, Carolina will always have their back as much as this band of brothers will always have each other’s. In their music, on the stage, and in life, these four guys exude a bond that is palpable. The music and the talent they play it with is entirely a product of who they are and where they came from. They take nothing for granted and appreciate the journey they’ve been on and the places it’s taken them so far. No matter what stage they play on, in any city in the world, as long as they can play music together the only way they know how, it Feels Like Carolina.

Carolina” – Feels Like Carolina

From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus


All of the LIVE photos of Parmalee are courtesy of Bill McClintic at 90 East Photography. Visit his website to see additional photos and for booking information: http://www.90eastphotography.com/home.html


Feels Like Carolina is available through iTunes NOW for just $5.99! HERE

Read my review of Feels Like Carolina: http://waynorthofnashville.com/parmalee-ready-to-make-their-move/


Visit Parmalee’s website: http://parmalee.com/

Follow Parmalee on Twitter @parmalee

 Follow Parmalee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/parmaleemusic


For information on how you can join the Parmalee Famalee and all the amazing things they do, read my interview with Shari: http://waynorthofnashville.com/stand-by-me-superfans/

Become a member of the Parmalee Famalee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/parmaleefamalee/

 Follow Parmalee Famalee on Twitter @ParmaleeFamalee

©2015Bev Miskus


Country Roads Take Brad Paisley’s Winter Tour Home To West Virginia


Download Brad’s #1 single, “Perfect Storm,” through iTunes: HERE

       Brad Paisley came home this past weekend to kick off the winter season of his Country Nation World Tour in Morgantown, West Virginia. He performed two shows at the WVU Coliseum with a lot of students in attendance, none of which were likely expecting to be schooled by Brad in the art of concert Brad-Paisley-Country-Nation-World-Tourperformance 101. The cost of this class was the price of admission and on Saturday night, this was a sold out class. As one of the lucky students in this coliseum turned classroom, I watched a master class in live performance by a headliner who appreciates the art form that live music can be and the professional musicians it takes to create such art. Every aspect of this show was staged only to the point of being a platform for audience interaction, opening act participation, video enhancement, and inspired musical excellence. Not one detail was missed in the preparation for this show when taking into account all of the elements that would be present. When Brad’s drummer, Ben Sesar, broke into a drum solo late into the evening, I already knew where this was leading and I was ready to shout these lyrics: “Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad…….I’m HOT FOR TEACHER!!”

     Brad Paisley is an entertainer who values family and music and his live show is an extension of those values. His opening acts on this tour are two family based groups, The Swon Brothers and Parmalee, both of which share Brad’s approach to creating music and delivering an organic, in the moment performance. The Swon Brothers, Zach and Colton, engage with the audience THE SWON BROTHERS LATER ONas if they know every person in the room. Their opening slot only allows for the playing of a few songs, giving them little time to make a lasting impression. Most people aren’t familiar with their original music just yet, so it’s not as much about what they’re singing as it is about their delivery. Covering a Boston classic was a comfortable fit and leaving the audience with their radio single, “Later On,” provided the first link to a future musical identity. It was a solid performance that was well received.

     Parmalee is a band made up of two brothers, Matt and Scott Thomas, a cousin, Barry Knox, and their best friend, Josh McSwain. They’ve played together for a very long time and their live show is a product of that relationship and longevity. Parmalee’s music is arena ready and could easily be reproduced on the stage with nothing more than a turn it up mentality. Fortunately, these Parmalee_CountryMusicRocks_net-copyguys are a band in every sense of the word and understand the opportunity they have to create something new with each performance. They opened with “I’ll Bring the Music” and it was a statement they delivered on. Matt was brilliant in introducing each song with a scenario that played on relatability. In the absence of having instantly recognizable intros, giving the listeners a connection to the music keeps them attentive and engaged. It also allows for improvisation within the songs because the audience isn’t attached to a singular recorded version. While Matt was talking to the crowd before each song, the band provided a unique segue that gave them flexibility to keep it fresh. They used particular creative license in “Musta Had a Good Time” and “Dance” by adding snippets of other songs the audience knew well. Parmalee’s set was an invitation to dance and have a good time while leaving this West Virginia audience with a sampling of music that Feels Like Carolina. I’d say the crowd’s reaction made these boys from Carolina feel like home’s not so far away.

Download Parmalee’s new single, “Already Callin’ You Mine” thru iTunes: HERE

     At this point in the show, the opening acts typically disappear and the headliner takes the stage. Not here. Never before have I seen such a creative and thoughtful opening to a headliner’s set. In the spirit of family and the tradition of Appalachian folk music from West Virginia to Tennessee, the stage PAISLEY, BRAD COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR WITH PARMALEE AND THE SWON BROTHERSset up was like what you’d find on a front porch in the mountains. As if family had just dropped in and started playing together, Brad’s band members assembled at the front of the stage with The Swon Brothers and Parmalee. With an improvised lyric, they sang an Appalachian standard, “Good Old Mountain Dew.” Towards the end of the song, Brad simply walked onto the stage from the right side and took his place amongst the other front porch players as casually as if he were no one in particular. They finished the song and went immediately into “The World” followed by “Camouflage.” This mini-set ended with the intro to “Moonshine In The Trunk,” which was the perfect way to come full circle with the theme of this opening. “Good Old Mountain Dew,” an ode to moonshine, was written in 1928 in ballad form about a man accused of making illegal alcohol during prohibition. The title track from Brad’s latest album is “Moonshine In The Trunk.” In the song, he describes a joy ride with a girl that feels like an illegal liquor run…..and this would be the feel of the rest of the evening.


     The band took their regular places on stage and the roar of that car engine launched us into full throttle “Moonshine In The Trunk.” It was the perfect kick start to what would be an incredible night of music and entertainment. Brad’s set included 27 songs, and he and his incredible band didn’t give an ounce less WVU COLISEUMthan their best to every one of them. The setting of the WVU Coliseum, on the campus of the state’s flagship university, was home field advantage for Brad and he played to it brilliantly. His banter with the crowd, knowledge of what riled them up, video footage of the campus, lyrical changes to suit the location, and love for his home state made for an A+ performance and a showcase of musical ability. His many years of success in the music business have taken him far outside his Southern Comfort Zone and the borders of his home state, but on this night, he was full of Mountaineer pride and it resonated through the strings of his many guitars.



     If Brad were to provide a syllabus for this master class in concert performance, it would be broken out into five key components – creating the music, use of video, audience interaction, staging, and set list. These essential elements aren’t something he puts together at the start of the tour season and sets to auto pilot at each show. He creates the framework and allows space Little+Jimmy+Dickens+Country+Comes+Home+Opry+96U-gIIrDKRlwithin that to tailor each show to its audience. His videos are highly imaginative and entertaining without detracting from the music. During his singing of “When I Get Where I’m Going,” there was a video tribute to his late friend, Little Jimmy Dickens. It was a very moving moment in the show, at the end of which, Brad tipped his hat towards the screen. During the song, “Crushin’ It,” the video included pictures of the WVU campus as well as live footage from WVU football games. His commentary during the song mentioned the school’s team getting no respect on ESPN and its being the number one party school in the world. Both of these facts were met with cheers from the audience.



     Creating moments with the audience is something Brad does naturally and his use of the stage often helps to encapsulate such moments. He invited a young couple to join him on stage for his singing of “Then.” A few of his band members joined him at the front of the stage, creating an opening within their circle for the couple to dance in. If you’ve seen a Brad Paisley concert before, you know where this is going…..guy drops to one knee, asks girl to marry him, she says yes, and they finish the dance. Magic moment, courtesy of Brad Paisley. His awareness of his surroundings, and in this case, knowledge of his audience, helps to create unique moments in the show where he can ad lib between songs or within the song and entertain in the moment. When fans attend a concert, it’s nice to leave knowing that you had an experience no one else will. This is what a live performance is all about.



     At the heart of every concert experience is the music, and no one understands that better than Brad Paisley. His dedication to excellence in music drives his performance at each show and gives the fans an opportunity to see organic live music as it happens. Brad doesn’t just play through the music, he breathes life PAISLEY, BRAD WV GUITARinto it through his exceptional guitar playing and the talented musicians he shares the stage with. Unlike many of today’s live acts, Brad and his band do not use pre-recorded tracks. Everything you hear is being played live in the moment. Brad is a rare exception to the norm in that he uses his tour band to play on his records. They’ve been together for 15 years and that longevity contributes to the quality of their live shows. Watch their interaction during a song and you will see the individual contributions create the whole. The six gifted musicians who share the stage with Brad are Gary Hooker (guitar), Kendal Marcy (keys), Kenny Lewis (bass), Randle Currie (steel guitar), Justin Williamson (fiddle), and Ben Sesar (drums). Throughout the show, each one of them may get a chance to spotlight their ability in a particular song. How that plays out depends on the set list.



     Brad Paisley has an extensive music catalog to draw from and the set list for this show was a greatest hits manifesto. Out of this extensive 27 song playlist, only two of the songs were covers, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” The other 25 songs were an ebb and flow of fun songs with a sprinkling of his tender ballads. “Southern Comfort Zone” and “Waitin’ On a Woman” used the video backdrop to support the stories. “I’m Still a Guy” was a hit with the men in the audience and we were invited to disregard the current cold season in favor of warmer temps with “Beat This Summer.” “Mud On The Tires” showcased the dynamic fiddle playing of Justin Williamson and we got to ad lib a famous TV line WILLIAMSON, JUSTIN BRAD PAISLEY FIDDLE PLAYERin “American Saturday Night” – LIVE from Morgantown, it’s Saturday night!! “I’m Gonna Miss Her” and “She’s Everything” were back to back examples of the diversity in Brad’s songwriting, humorous and heartfelt. Four songs off the new album were part of this set with “River Bank” anchoring the end of regulation time and “Perfect Storm” leading off the encore. Just weeks ago, “Perfect Storm” became Brad’s 23rd number one hit and the performance of this song was worthy of the accomplishment. With the help of the video showing stormy seas and the sound of thunder and lightning crashing, the song erupts from the stage. Hearing this on the radio or on an ipod is like trying to contain the ocean with a few sandbags. The power of the song was made for an arena setting where the video can provide that imax feel and the band can demonstrate its full bodied potential behind the intense playing of Brad on guitar. This was truly an encore moment.



     The evening ended just as this set began, with an ode to “Alcohol” and both of the opening acts back on stage for the singing of it. Brad’s live bobble head counterpart makes an appearance here to serve the troublesome beverage to those on stage. The playing of this encourages a sing-along and sends everyone home in a celebratory mood. Brad’s extended guitar play at the end of the song put an exclamation point on an outstanding night of live music. Brad’s home town of Glen Dale, West Virginia is just 85 miles from Morgantown. Since moving away to Nashville, he’s played some of the most prestigious venues in the world and traveled in style on the superhighways music has led him to. Yet it’s these simple country roads in West Virginia that supported his journey and welcome him back home on occasions like this. I’m not originally from West Virginia, but I’ve lived here for the past 12 years. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a special song to the people of this state and I’ve heard it many times since moving here. Watching Brad sing this in Morgantown, surrounded by family, friends, and fans from his home state, was as moving a moment as you’ll find on a concert stage. The power of music, as grand as it can be, can often be felt most deeply in the simplest of arrangements. A simple lesson from a master class in musical performance by West Virginia‘s own, Brad Paisley. I think all in attendance would agree that on this night BP, you nailed it, as they say!


From WAY North of Nashville….in West Virginia…..Bev Miskus

The drum solo at the end of this is performed by Ben Sesar!


Download Moonshine In The Trunk through iTunes: HERE

Visit Brad Paisley’s website: https://www.bradpaisley.com/home

Download Feels Like Carolina through iTunes: HERE

Visit Parmalee’s website: http://parmalee.com/

Download The Swon Brothers through iTunes: HERE

Visit The Swon Brothers’ website: http://www.swonbrothers.com/

©2015Bev Miskus




     Modern Drummer. If I use that phrase in conversation, I usually get a blank stare in return. If I say that Ben Sesar is Brad Paisley’s drummer, I’ll get a stream of comments about Brad Paisley. This is what has happened to drummers in the modern world. Over the years, the little drummer boy has marched into pop culture and largely lost his identity. When rock bands came of age, fans knew who the drummer was in most of these iconic bands. Keith Moon was a brand within The Who that he created and stamped into the fabric of what that band became, not the other way around. Drummers in Nashville today, despite the credentials they carry on their resume, don’t often claim an identity until SESAR, BEN - 1they’ve made it onto a major tour. Their success is attributed to the name the headliner lends them, not any particular assets they bring to the stage. Yet one of the first things I notice when everyone else is losing their minds over the headliner that just arrived like a phoenix on the stage, is the drummer. In my interview with Ben Sesar, he compared the stage experience to that of a running car. The first thing you notice about a car is what it looks like. How it shines, how it’s detailed, its shape and size, gets most of the oohs and aahs – just like the headliner. What makes it notable is how it runs. A perfect engine requires having all its moving parts working in unison to deliver the smooth ride and expert handling that give it value and reliability. When an engine purrs, we pay it no mind. It if starts making an odd noise, we notice. The quality of the music a band makes keeps us buying concert tickets and coming back for more. Look and listen closely. The man in the driver’s seat of our concert experience is the modern day drummer.

     Ben Sesar jumped off the stage, not literally, when I saw him recently at a Brad Paisley concert. There was a leadership and a strength in his playing that told me he was a serious drummer with above average credentials – way above SESAR, BEN WITH BRAD PAISLEYaverage. When he blew me away with his drum solo on Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher,” I had to know who he was. If you Google ‘Brad Paisley’s drummer,’ you’re going to get a YouTube video of a GMA performance where Brad plays with a 6 year old. Fairly confident that this was not him, I went to the only source I know for reliable drum information, Rich Redmond. Now having his name, I gave Google another try. First result: bensesar.com. Once I find a musician’s identity, I can’t just look up their number in the phone book and call them. If they don’t have a website, facebook page, or twitter account, there really is no way to contact them. Through his website, I was able to send him a message and ask for this interview, in addition to finding out more about him. Having a website is a basic component of building a brand for yourself, but first, you have to do the work to make yourself stand out in the professional world of musicians.

     Becoming a drummer on a major tour does not happen without the solid credentials to put you there. Ben was born and raised in New Jersey, a very gifted drummer from an early age. He finished high school confident in his SESAR, BEN - 3abilities, feeling like he had something to show his new classmates at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Instead, what he found when he got there, shocked him. The other drum students seemed to play on another level, and all of the drum swag he thought he possessed eroded. He described it as starting from ground zero in learning how to play and figuring out how to get where he wanted to be. His fellow students had no idea how to teach him what they knew and the teachers couldn’t get him there either. He was left to his own devices to bridge the gap between their abilities and his. What he did learn from Berklee, though, was valuable in other ways. He gained a solid knowledge of theory, ear training, and non-drumming principles. It was a foundation to build his playing techniques on. What he felt he lacked at that age may have been more life-changing than he realized.

     Music is an evolutionary, progressive process. It is never a finite encounter. In some professions, what is learned in college is the bulk of information you’ll ever need to succeed in the real world. For professional musicians, it’s just the beginning….at least for the good ones. Feeling less qualified than his peers, Ben developed a zest for learning everything he could about improving his playing. Even to this day, he still takes an occasional lesson. He played in bands to SESAR, BEN - 2advance his skills and stayed in Boston after college to pursue a music career with a rock band there. One of his fellow bandmates, who was also from New Jersey, was a singer/songwriter named Dylan Altman. When that band gig ended in Boston, he and Dylan got in a car with their meager belongings and drove to Nashville. Like many who arrive in that city with little more than a hopeful resume, Ben said he knew one person there who he stayed with for two weeks. Quickly, he and Dylan reformed the band and rented a house. Over the next two years in the late 90s, every Tuesday night, you could find them playing at a dive bar called Jack’s Guitar Bar. He described their style as a jam band with heavy guitar influences. Far from being a dream gig in a marquee venue, it’s often these early Nashville experiences that shape a musician’s style of play. The nature of the Nashville bar scene, with so many skilled musicians in town, is a very organic environment. Show up with an instrument and you never know who might be there and what will come of the fusion. Ben recalled a young Keith Urban showing up frequently to see them play when he was new in town. Keith had a band called The Ranch back then and asked if they could jam together. They played a few gigs in that bar and Ben said he could tell even then that Keith’s playing was something special. Who knew that their paths would continue to cross over the years since those early sessions in that dive bar?

     Whenever I ask a musician how they landed the big gig, all of them have a six degrees of separation story to tell me. Ben’s happened in 1999 and involved a receptionist at a record label that he knew and Brad Paisley’s manager. It sounds very clandestine but in the world of music industry relationships, it’s the norm. Come as it may, he got the audition and landed the job. Do the math and you can figure out that Ben has been Brad’s drummer for 15 years. That’s SESAR, BEN - 5quite a long lasting relationship by Nashville standards and one that has shaped Ben’s career. Brad’s guitar skills are well known, but he is also an impassioned musician all around and takes the entire process of recording and performing very seriously. Ben respects him for that and has developed as a drummer in this environment. Being a part of a group of very talented musicians tends to elevate everyone’s level of play. All of the guys in Brad’s band have been there nearly as long as Ben, and he noted that no one has ever quit. Over such a long period of time, they’ve developed an onstage telepathy that allows them to communicate solely through the music. He said they can read each other’s mood within the first few notes of a song. Having the luxury of a band that can read each other so completely, Brad will often change the arrangement of a song at will. This requires exceptional skill to pull off cleanly and keeps things fresh and interesting for the musicians and the audience alike.

     Being a spectator, I can tell when a band has been together for awhile and when they’re truly invested in the music. Watching Ben play, I could see the intensity he plays with and how he steers the music so precisely, however the song demands it. His connection to the music begins in the recording sessions. PAISLEY, BRAD - WHEELHOUSEIt is not the standard in Nashville for session players to tour with the solo artist. Brad Paisley’s band is one of few exceptions. Ben has played on ten of Brad’s albums, every one since he joined the band. Since 2000, all of Brad’s band members, with the exception of one, have been a part of the recording sessions. A few years ago, Brad built a recording studio in his house, where both Wheelhouse and Moonshine In The Trunk have been recorded. This created a family atmosphere for the recording process, which enticed the final band member to come along for the ride. Ben describes the experience of being a part PAISLEY, BRAD - TIME WELL WASTEDof Brad’s band as joining a family, which is exactly how Brad wants it to be. Everyone contributes to the creative process and shares pride in the finished product. It is through such session playing that Ben has found opportunities to share the stage and his inspired play with some music legends. Joe Walsh, John Fogerty, George Jones, B.B. King, Don Henley, Hank Williams, Jr., and ZZ Top are just a few of the names on his impressive resume. He also appears on live television on a regular basis whenever Brad performs and has multiple award winning albums and song recordings to his credit as a session player. While the opportunities may come from the career Brad Paisley has built, being a part of it was earned. Getting there, and maintaining that level of musicianship, comes from hard work and diligent practice.

     Ben is both a fan and a student of music. He watches the musicians that inspire him and listens to the music that moves him. He sees music as a means of communication, and how well you speak through it depends on your commitment to improving your play and developing your own style. Part of Ben’s learning process comes from teaching students privately in his home. He says it’s one thing to teach someone how to play something and another SESAR, BEN - 6entirely to inspire them to be creative in the process. In his lessons, he promotes creativity through movement. Being expressive in one’s play involves pouring raw emotion into your actions and attempting to make the listener feel what you’re feeling. This is where the role of teacher becomes mentor. Leading by example is the only way to encourage a pioneering vision in a young student. Despite the abundance of music that’s being made in Nashville, Ben says that musicians still have to carve out their own paradigm if they want to raise their value and improve their chances of working at a high level on a long term basis. With the music industry downsizing a little more each year, opportunities are fewer and personal branding for musicians becomes more vital.

     Making yourself an asset in the music market that Nashville has created is an individual pursuit. There aren’t managers for musicians that advocate on their behalf, or inherent support from one’s peers. Developing a recognizable style and padding your resume through years of playing and life on the road isn’t guaranteed to make you a household name or a sizable bank account. No amount of YouTube watching will accomplish this either. Ben’s sense of immersion into the process and his desire to improve his skills consistently is what makes him stand out on the stage even when the spotlight isn’t on him. In reviewing my notes after our phone conversation, I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of personal emphasis in what Ben talked about. He gave me a sense of the big picture and how he fit into it. This is very much the way drummers in Nashville find themselves on the country music stage. Most of them won’t get SESAR, BEN - 4the killer drum solo that Ben did, albeit during the cover of a rock song. Country songs just don’t call for that. Their role is to marshal the collection of contributing sounds from their position at the back of the stage, channel the energy from the music, and return it to the audience with just the right amount of style and force to support the storytelling of the song. Ben recognizes that not every song needs a heavy hand to make a statement. Sometimes the lightest touch can speak volumes. Knowing the difference is what makes a modern drummer’s role invaluable. In the ever changing landscape of country music, versatility is key, and being able to keep that musical engine running smoothly on the stage requires experience not often appreciated. Modern Drummer: someone who marches to the beat of their own drum while incorporating that unique beat into the sound of today’s music in a way that makes a statement. On and off stage, Ben Sesar exemplifies the vision of a modern drummer with a soul that is passionate about music. As fans, we should consider this a gift.

 From WAY NORTH of NASHVILLE…..Bev Miskus

  Covering our #countrymusicnation.


Ben is available as a teacher, speaker, and clinician. For information on the services he offers, visit his website: http://bensesar.com/.

Connect with Ben on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ben.sesar.3.

Follow Ben on Twitter @bensesar.

©2014Bev Miskus




     A lot of topics in country music give rise to debate. When it’s award season, Entertainer of the Year provokes the most heated discussions. This seems to be the one people are most passionate about. When the nominees are announced, PAISLEY, BRAD - MOONSHINE IN THE TRUNKthere are the usual gasps at who made the list and who didn’t. The night of the awards ceremony, when the winner is revealed, will either be considered a coronation of the deserving nominee or a WTF were they thinking moment of dismay amongst fans. When I ask who the best are in concert, I hear the same names repeatedly. Some I’ve seen. Some I haven’t. Brad Paisley had been on my radar for awhile. I was intrigued by what I thought he was capable of and just what he might do at a live show. When he announced the title of his new album, Moonshine In The Trunk, my curiosity was piqued. Adding DEE JAY SILVER to the tour, sealed the deal. I had no idea what to expect from a BRAD PAISLEY concert and the date I selected made it even more uncertain. September 20 at JIFFY LUBE LIVE in Bristow, VA, was the last US stop on his COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR. Being such, I knew it would be a prank filled night where even he couldn’t predict what might happen.


     The only time BRAD PAISLEY has won CMA ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR was in 2010. The devastating flood in Nashville earlier that year had wiped out much of what was needed to start his summer tour. With the help of his crew, they pulled things together and went out as scheduled. He dedicated the win to his crew for their efforts, not something I’ve heard anyone else do. “This Is Country Music” was his featured song that night. It was new and hadn’t been PAISLEY, BRAD - THIS IS COUNTRY MUSICreleased yet. He called it a love song for his fans and the industry who allow him to do what he loves and make music people can relate to. Leaving the show Saturday night, thinking about what summed up the evening, that is the song that stuck with me. From the opening acts to Brad’s encore, it was a night of country music as wild and free as you can imagine. Innovative, current, relative, yet true to the roots of the genre, it was a concert event unlike any I’d ever seen.

     Waiting for the gates to open before the show, I was standing in line with a friend who, like me, was a rock girl at heart. Country concerts are a very new thing for us and we were discussing with others Brad’s guitar skills versus say Slash or Eric Clapton. It was generally agreed upon that Brad and Keith PAISLEY, BRAD - COUNTRY NATION TOUR POSTERUrban were two of the best country music had to offer. Could they hold their own with some of rock’s greatest guitar heroes? I’d seen Slash perform just two weeks earlier at this same venue when he opened for Aerosmith. Perhaps some of the lingering aura would settle on Brad’s guitar tonight. It was to be a jam packed show with three opening acts and the incomparable, DEE JAY SILVER, entertaining us between them. CHARLIE WORSHAM, Leah Turner, and RANDY HOUSER were all part of the COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR.

     I went into this concert knowing that the opening acts would be solid if they were on the road with Brad Paisley, and they did not disappoint! CHARLIE WORSHAM has to be one of the most talented artists to ever open on a major tour. What he brings to the concert stage is better than what I’ve seen from PAISLEY, BRAD - WORSHAM, CHARLIEsome headliners. His voice is rock solid. He establishes a rapport with the audience the moment he steps on stage. His musicianship is off the charts astounding, and his stage presence is magnetic. It didn’t matter if you knew any of his songs, he captivated with sheer talent. I believe he changed instruments on every song, and I’m not just talking about the color of the guitar. He was like watching a pinball that was shot onto the stage with a force you weren’t expecting, and for the length of his set, he stayed in play no matter what obstacles were thrown at him…and there were obstacles. Being the last night of the tour, pranks were inevitable. He and his band members were teepeed (yep, wrapped in toilet paper by crew members WHILE PLAYING) multiple times. Charlie was slapped on the back, mid-song, enduring the installation of a “KICK ME AGAIN” sign on his back. At one point, he took off, WORSHAM, CHARLIE - RUBBERBANDrunning through the aisles of the venue while playing a guitar and singing the entire trip. He interacted with the fans in the pit and never broke his connection to the audience, come what may. The last song of his set was the title track from his debut album, Rubberband. Now I want you to think for a moment about Brad Paisley’s sense of humor. What do you think might have happened to Charlie while playing a song called “Rubberband? That’s way too easy. Yes, he was bombarded by rubberbands from seemingly every crew member Brad could muster. It was a Yankee ambush on a Mississippi born Rebel. But the unflappable Charlie Worsham left the fans with an indelible impression. He ROCKED “Rubberband” instrumentally, vocally, and performance-wise. What a set! And his band gave an outstanding performance despite being tortured throughout. Charlie Worsham should not be Nashville’s best kept secret.  This young Rebel just took the Union capital with a rubberband.

     Leah Turner wasn’t added to this tour just to fill a gender gap. The girl can sing! There’s an obvious strength in her presence on the stage that warns you not to take her lightly before she’s had a chance to show you what she’s got. Leah is no shrinking violet. Her set was full of songs that showcased her vocal grit and the powerful emotion she brings to a song. If something is tugging at TURNER, LEAH - EPher heart strings, you’re going to feel it too. If she’s in love, she’ll sweep you up in the moment. If she’s pissed, stand back, or at the very least, get out of her way. She has two singles off her new EP, “Take the Keys” and “Pull Me Back,” which both require an emotional connection to breathe life into the lyrics. The grit in Leah’s voice seems to pull her vocals from the depths of her soul. Her mature sound defies her youth, making you forget she hasn’t yet lived a full life. What I loved about Leah’s performance was the straight forward approach she took to the music. She was there to wow the audience with her singing. Period. There was nothing contrived about her image or how she performed. Her spotlight prank of the evening came during one of her most powerful songs. She covered the Dixie PAISLEY, BRAD - LEAH TURNER SOLOChicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away,” during which she was literally taken away on the arms of Randy Houser’s band mates (all wearing cowboy hats of course). While being carried like a sacrificial offering, she still managed to sing the song and made every attempt not to lose eye contact with the audience. Leah keeping her composure during this physical interruption to her song was only part of why I was impressed with her. It’s been a very long time since I heard anyone cover a Dixie Chicks song. This tells me that Leah Turner is her own woman and refuses to be a cookie cutter version of anything. The last song on her EP, and one she performed, is called “My Finger.” Should you need any further convincing of her straight forward character, download this song. It was an empowering lyrical manifesto explaining what she will and will not put up with in a relationship and one that had the audience cheering her on. We may not have known what was coming when Leah took the stage, but there was no need to ask for ID when she left. Leah Turner. Damn straight.

     When RANDY HOUSER takes the stage, you’ll know it. He does not come quietly into his set, nor does the outstanding band he has backing him PAISLEY, BRAD - RANDY HOUSER'S DRUMMER - KEVIN MURPHYup. Besides Randy’s commanding presence on the stage, I couldn’t help but notice his drummer, Kevin Murphy. From the outset, these two were like a one-two punch. The enormous sound coming from the stage had me wondering if they’d set those amps on Appetite For Destruction instead of How Country Feels. And this was not a temporary moment of sound eruption. They played like Guns ‘N Roses blazing the entire set. Lights flashing, drums pounding, guitars rockin’, and Randy’s big voice leading this barrage of sight and sound ammunition. Had we HOUSER, RANDY - HOW COUNTRY FEELSbeen paying attention in 2010, he warned us, “I ain’t just Whistlin’ Dixie.” Well that ain’t no lie! Randy’s set included all of his big hits and he was definitely no stranger to the crowd. He has a classic country voice with a rock star projection. When he goes for that big emotional note, hold on! Jiffy Lube Live lit up with the power he mustered and reverberated from the excitement of having a guy “goin’ out with his Boots On” leave a wake. His new single, “Like a Cowboy,” is a power ballad, and was expected to be an emotional moment in his set. Naturally, this would be where Brad would provide some comic relief. Rather than having Randy sing this heart wrencher to a woman, a man in a wheelchair, wearing a cowboy hat, holding red flowers, was wheeled onto the stage at the beginning of the song. I never quite got the significance of this other than to completely throw Randy off his game on this one. Nice try, but he held it together, for the most part. I was told, just prior to Randy’s set, that he would be my new favorite country singer after hearing him tonight. If this is “How Country Feels” with Randy Houser on stage, sign me up for the fan club!


     Typically, between acts, the venue will play some preset music over the sound system and everyone will go about their business. Fortunately for us, Brad Paisley had DEE JAY SILVER on tour with him. Most people in the audience PAISLEY, BRAD - DEE JAY SILVERseemed to know who he was. When it was announced that he would be providing the music between acts, women stood up to dance. His job is to become a musical amphetamine. He selects songs that are addictive, mood-altering, and stimulating, thereby keeping our attention in focus and preventing us from falling asleep. He is a master at what he does and makes it look effortless. By the time that headliner is stage ready, fans may wish to hold him back for a moment, or at least until that AC/DC song Dee Jay Silver is playing is over. That’s when you know you have a good Dee Jay in the house…when HE becomes a show stopper.

     You’re not supposed to put Mountaineers (Big 12)

and Volunteers (SEC) together, in a song

And tellin’ folks we’re one big “Country Nation

Can rub ‘em wrong

It ain’t hip to sing “Moonshine In The Trunk” and “Alcohol

Near Westboro Baptist

Yeah that might be true

But “This Is Country Music”…..and you never know what Brad will do


     For those of us who grew up on Saturday Night Live from its inception, there were seven words we looked forward to hearing every weekend….LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT! This marked the beginning of the best LIVE 90 minutes on television. It contained some of the best pranks, parodies, and live music you’d ever see on an “American Saturday Night.” If you took the components of that show, added a double shot of musicianship along with aPAISLEY, BRAD - AMERICAN SATURDAY NIGHT generous portion of country music roots and a twist of “Limes,” put it all in a blender and let it rip, what you’d be sippin’ on is BRAD PAISLEY LIVE! Even his entrance onto the stage served to “Remind Me” of the unassuming way that show used to start. Brad didn’t drop from the ceiling, rise from the floor, or exit Air Force One in a grand show of  “Celebrity,” (actually, that kind of happened but, shh…security here is VERY excitable!). The lights went down…and he walked on stage. No cliché pyrotechnics or flames needed to kick this show off. What ignited this night of music was “Moonshine In The Trunk.”

Well, you like to play a prank or two

On tour, and delight the crowd

Are you thinkin’ your opening acts would love to get you back

But don’t know how?

Do you wish your tour mates had the nerve

To show that childish boss of theirs

That payback is on their minds too

Well, this is the last night of the tour, and they do


     Only Brad Paisley could write a song called “Ticks” and turn it into a hit. The silliness of this song proved the perfect opportunity for his tour mates to get a little payback. I’m sure Brad was expecting some sort of barrage for all the unanswered shots he’d fired, so when his companions on tour made their move, PAISLEY, BRAD - TICKSthey brought the cavalry. Silly string was flying, and suddenly there were a lot of people on stage trying to pull off their version of Punk’d. Crew members appeared on the risers like holograms of guitar heroes. Each band member had a twin trying to engage them in a game of shadowboxing with instruments, and someone had the all important responsibility of disrupting the king himself. As expected, the master did not fall for this and finished the song as if nothing more problematic than a tick had crawled up his arm. He apologized for the “silliness” that went on during that song as if scoffing at their childish ways. Truthfully, he was probably a proud papa after this attempt thinking, my work here is done.

     Brad’s set included 22 songs. He’s got a huge catalog to choose from and an infinite number of ways to stage them. What he did was use a bit of nostalgia to showcase this incredible night of music. If you see Brad Paisley do a single performance or hear one of his songs on the radio, it will not do justice to the artist and entertainer he is. Sit through a concert and I guarantee, you’ll be PAISLEY, BRAD - WHEELHOUSEback. His set design was simple, yet high tech enough to accommodate 3D looking graphics and the appearance of throwback home movies. Throughout the show, the images on the big screen, located directly behind center stage, played like a film we’d come to see with a soundtrack that was Grammy worthy. Some of these images were taken from his videos and others were newly filmed. “American Saturday Night” and “Southern Comfort Zone” are both big sound songs with geographically diverse images illustrating our world connections. Brad’s guitar playing, along with the phenomenal talent of his backing band, was as big as the world we were looking at. These two songs played consecutively made us feel like we were standing on top of the Eiffel Tower looking down on Times Square. Cue the big guitar and church choir!

(Photo of Brad Paisley courtesy of 90 East Photography, Art of Reflection By Bill)

 So turn it on, turn it up and sing along

This is real, this is your life in a song

Yeah this is country music

     The next three songs in Brad’s set directed our focus to what was playing on the screen behind him. The video for “Waitin’ On a Woman” features Andy PAISLEY, BRAD - WITH ANDY GRIFFITHGriffith talking to him about the virtues of doing just that. The interplay between the two was brought to life on stage with an emphasis on the music track. At the end of the song, acknowledging the passing of that television icon, Brad tipped his hat towards the image on the screen. This would be the first of many acts of gratitude throughout the show. “Celebrity” brought to the screen the night’s first glimpse of a character I can best describe as Brad’s bobblehead twin. His gigantic head doesn’t exactly PAISLEY, BRAD - BOBBLEHEAD BRADbob, but proportionally, the image suits. I have to believe the size of the head piece worn signifies the ego that often comes with celebrity. In one scene, Brad’s bobblehead wore a nude colored body suit, cowboy hat, and boots while swinging on a wrecking ball. Fully appreciating the parody of this, the audience laughed at the many outlandish stunts this ego driven bobblehead would try in this ode to adios reality. Perhaps because he followed that example of what not to emulate with “This Is Country Music,” it seemed to be a tribute to the legends of country music who Brad so obviously respects. Like something you’d see at the Country Music Hall of Fame, a highlight reel of country greats provided the back drop for this moving song. Seeing who was included in this montage spoke volumes about PAISLEY, BRAD - THIS IS COUNTRY MUSIC BACK DROPwhere Brad gets his inspiration from and his nod to George Jones (again with the tip of his hat), showed the humility he feels in their presence. Part of the lyrics to this song talk about serving one’s country and the devastation felt when you get the phone call no one wants to answer. Brad’s respect for the military and all those who serve is well known. This concert venue sits in what locals consider part of the suburbia of Washington DC and draws from all of the surrounding states. We have a high concentration of military members here and many were in the audience for this show. When the flag flies in the image on screen, the pride of patriotism ripples through the crowd and manifests itself in a loud ovation. This song was a defining moment in the show and one that left the fans beaming with pride over an artist who truly connects with his fans. As concert moments go, they don’t come any better than this.

Are you haunted by the stories of those nurses

At Bull Run?

Cryin’ as they lose another patient

To a soldier’s gun?

And if there’s anyone that still

has pride and the memory of those

that died just five miles from the site of this venue

This is Virginia…and we do

     Whether it’s a lighthearted, playful song, or a serious power ballad, Brad sings a lot about his love for a woman. The next seven songs of the evening were devoted to just that topic. “I’m Still a Guy” has huge appeal for the male fans in PAISLEY, BRAD - I'M STILL A GUYthe audience who more than applauded this musical defense of their actions. Appealing to the females in  attendance, he poured his heart out in “She’s Everything.” In addition to the tremendous vocal performance he gives on this song, his heart strings play their love song on his guitar strings and you can’t help but feel his passion for both the girl and the music. Last summer’s seasonal hit song, “Beat This Summer,” was illustrated through images in a View-Master. PAISLEY, BRAD - VINTAGE VIEW-MASTERSome of us are old enough to remember the original version of this toy that came with images on a paper wheel that was inserted into the “camera.” A slide show was presented by clicking the button on the side continuously. This was an awesome nostalgic touch to the set. He continued framing the evening with “The Mona Lisa” and “Then” turned our attention towards the back of the amphitheater for the night’s Kodak moment. He made his way to a platform located behind the last PAISLEY, BRAD - THEN LYRICSof the seats, just below the crowd gathered on the lawn. He introduced the song by saying if you’d come to make out with someone tonight, this would be your best chance. Part way through the song he stopped to allow a guy and his girlfriend to join him in the spotlight. It didn’t take long to figure out where this was going. Brad called attention to his military service in Iraq and gave him the floor to propose to his unsuspecting girlfriend. She said yes, Brad congratulated them, and finished the song. Is there any doubt what their first dance will be?

So turn it on, turn it up and sing along

This is real, this is your life in a song

Just like those country roads, take me home

To the place I belong…

West Virginia


     Finished with the sentimental portion of the show, it was time to get a little “Mud On the Tires.” You cannot call it a country concert if there isn’t at least PAISLEY, BRAD - MUD ON THE TIRESone ode to trucks and mud. You’re going to have to drive a ways to get mud on your tires in the DC area, but based on the pick ups in the parking lot that night, clearly there were some experienced fans among us. It wasn’t hard to guess that where there’s mud, there’s water. Brad didn’t bring just ordinary H2O to the stage; he brought the “Perfect Storm.” This is his latest single off Moonshine In The Trunk and it is an absolute stunner. Crashing waves and lightning enveloped the screen as Brad’s soaring vocal on this matched power with the awesome storm we PAISLEY, BRAD - PERFECT STORMwitnessed. If they awarded standout concert moments that matched a powerful song to its staging, this would be a winner without question. Like the calm after the storm, we emerged from that force of nature to sunshine and “Water.” This song played out in home movies on the big screen of people of all ages enjoying summer’s most essential element. To illustrate just how important water is to our headliner, he testified in song. “I’m Gonna Miss Her” gave Brad a chance to ham it up over his decision to choose fishing over a woman. The men in the audience weren’t shy about their approval.

    What happened next I’d heard rumors of but wasn’t sure how exactly Brad would include such a rock divergence into his This Is Country Music set. As I said earlier, nostalgia was in the air. Darkening the front part of the stage, our attention was diverted to the two risen platforms at the back of the set. Brad appeared on one and DEE JAY SILVER was on the other. Consider this the PAISLEY, BRAD - ADDS SILVER TO TOURlive version of Guitar Hero. Dee Jay Silver picked the challenging riffs and Brad had to answer. This was sweet satisfaction for those of us whose wheelhouse rocks. Playing to my heart’s desire, my favorite dee jay threw AC/DC and GNR Brad’s way. Just two weeks earlier, Slash himself had stood on that stage not far from where Brad was playing. When he launched into the opening riff of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the rock angels did sing. But don’t let Brad’s country picking fingers fool you. Apparently, he’s spent more than a few hours in his room practicing this riff, so feel free to crush it Brad, you nailed it! To further PAISLEY, BRAD - BEN SESAR DRUMMERappease us throwback rock lovers, he then came down onto the stage and took us back to 1984, channeling his inner Eddie Van Halen. Say what you will about country bands, but this one ROCKED “Hot For Teacher.” And this was no karaoke version. His drummer, Ben Sesar, did a KILLER drum solo on this and his fiddle player – yes, I said FIDDLE PLAYER (whose name I sadly don’t know), was bad ass on this song! When this one was over, Brad’s guitar was seriously overheated.


  (Photo of Brad Paisley courtesy of 90 East Photography, Art of Reflection By Bill)

      Recharged from our rock interlude, it was time to play me some Old Alabama.” This one is full of old school country and a nice tribute to an iconic country band. Carrie Underwood appeared via hologram to assist with their PAISLEY, BRAD - OLD ALABAMAhit duet, “ Remind Me,” which would be the last of the serious song moments for the evening. His regular set ended with this summer’s smash hit, “River Bank.” The water skiing squirrel made an appearance on the big screen for this one and it was a fun way to bring the summer to a close. Brad made his way to the raised platform for the end of this one and thanked the fans for all their support. It was PAISLEY, BRAD - RIVER BANKobvious from the way he looked out over the audience that he was taking in the moment and that his thanks was genuine and heartfelt. The platform on which he was standing had turned into a pool of sorts (think dunk tank) and he jumped in to exit the stage, appearing to swim away. The crowd applauded and whistled their approval of the evening’s entertainer, knowing full well he’d be back. Inviting everyone backstage, including his bobblehead, he reappeared PAISLEY, BRAD - ALCOHOL LYRICSwith an entourage and a cart full of shots. The soundtrack for this finale would be, of course, “Alcohol.” All of the crew and the opening acts took part in this toast to a great tour. Shots were also shared with some of the lucky few in the pit area. Despite the celebration surrounding him, Brad continued playing, giving it his all to the very end – as did his band. Somehow I missed the partial unrobing of his drummer in all of this commotion. At the end of the song, he was suddenly bare chested. I learned later that Randy Houser’s drummer was responsible for this. All’s fair the last night of the tour I guess!

This is country music

This is country music

    Looking at the fans filing in for this concert, it was a cross section of America. There were families and young adults, corporate execs and farmers, grandparents with their grandchildren. Brad’s home state of West Virginia was PAISLEY, BRAD - WVUwell represented in their blue and gold Mountaineer sportswear. He appeals to all of these people. He puts on a show that everyone can enjoy and he does it with a big dose of humor, expert musicianship, and a healthy dose of humility and appreciation for his fans. His rapport with the audience is everyday man. He signs things handed to him, gave a signed guitar to a young child, accepted flowers from a fan, made a video on someone’s cell phone, and asked about the WVU game that was in progress during showtime (they were losing). I’m always impressed when a headliner with Brad’s reputation and expert musical skills takes the stage like he’s just another guy who plays guitar. The only pyrotechnics he needs come from his fingers touching the guitar strings. It’s cool and it’s classy. Everyone leaving this show PAISLEY, BRAD - CMA FEST - BILL'S PICS 3left with a smile on their face. From the opening act to Brad’s encore, every part of this concert event left an impression on the audience. It was a display of truly excellent musicianship, not only from the artists, but their bands as well, presented in a way that was engaging and entertaining. I’ve often wondered about the CMA process for nominating artists for Entertainer of the Year. Living in the nation’s capital, we recognize politics when we see it and it PAISLEY, BRAD - CMA FEST - BILL'S PICS 4appears Nashville is no stranger to its ways. If the nomination process and subsequent winner was based on a fan vote, it would be more representative of what the award stands for. How can you judge someone’s entertainment value if you haven’t been to one of their shows? Sometimes the people I expect to blow me away, don’t. Other times, I go with few expectations and leave so impressed I can’t wait to see them again. Two things are absolute at a Brad Paisley concert – This Is Country Music and Alcohol. Across our Country Nation, that’s a winner!

(Photos of Brad Paisley courtesy of 90 East Photography, Art of Reflection By Bill)

From WAYNorthof Nashvillepart of one big Country NationBev Miskus

The featured black and white photograph and others noted throughout the article are courtesy of 90 East Photography, Art of Reflection By Bill. For professional inquiries and to view more of his acclaimed photos, visit his website: http://www.90eastphotography.com/home.html


Brad Paisley, 2010 CMA Entertainer of the Year

Whiskey Lullaby

(This is country music)

The World

(This is country music)

Little Moments

(This is country music)


(This is country music)

Anything Like Me

(This is country music)

Little Moments

(This is country music)

Welcome to the Future

(This is country music)

Outstanding In Our Field


Visit Brad Paisley’s website:



Moonshine In The Trunk is available through iTunes: HERE


Visit Randy Houser’s website:  http://www.randyhouser.com/


How Country Feels is available through iTunes: HERE


Visit Leah Turner’s website: http://www.leahturner.com/


Leah Turner – EP is available through iTunes: HERE


Visit Charlie Worsham’s website: http://www.charlieworsham.com/


Rubberband is available through iTunes: HERE


Visit Dee Jay Silver’s website: http://www.deejaysilver.com/


Country Club – EP is available through iTunes: HERE




To find out more about country music’s HOTTEST DEE JAY, read my interview with Nashville’s DEE JAY SILVERhttp://waynorthofnashville.com/deejaysilver/

©2014Bev Miskus


DAN WELLER @FGL #musician #MasterofBandAdmin



Download the song through iTunes: HERE

DAN WELLER demos how to Maximize your Band’s Assets

     Brad Paisley and Keith Urban teamed up a few years ago to offer their advice on how to Start A Band.Let’s see what they had to say.Just get you a guitar and learn how to play/Cut up some jeans, come up PAISLEY, BRAD - START A BANDwith a name/When you’re living in a world that you don’t understand/Find a few good buddies, start a band.Sounds easy enough. Is there anything else we need?Scrape up some money, buy a van/Learn Free Bird and Ramblin’ Man.Is that it?Grow out your hair.Got it. Now if we do all of these things, what can we expect in return for our investment?All those girls who were too cool to talk WELLER, DAN - START A BAND CHORUS LYRICSto/They’ll be waiting in the line out back/Might get your picture in the hometown paper/Maybe buy your momma that Cadillac.Really?Never buy another beer again.Awesome!With a little bit of luck you’ll be packing the stands.Wow!No need to study/Call up some buddies man, start a band.Does this sound like good advice? Let’s ask Florida Georgia Line band member, Dan Weller. Why? What makes him qualified to hand out advice about the music business? A whole lot more than the stereotype would infer.


     Dan Weller is currently on tour with Florida Georgia Line. His job description involves playing keys, banjo, acoustic, and singing harmonies on all the songs. His audition did not require submitting a formal resume. If it had, you WELLER, DAN - FGL ALBUM COVERwouldn’t be surprised he got the job. What would shock you, is the calculated path he took to his current success. Dan was born in Wichita and raised in Hays, Kansas. He wasn’t a child musical prodigy and did not opt for an early exit from school to start a band and pursue a career in music. Those things would come later. When he was six or seven, he took an interest in his dad’s full size classical guitar. At the time, he said it was bigger than he was. With his oversized intentions and a book, he taught himself to play some chords. Nearby, at Fort Hays State University, there was a grad student there named Mark Selby. He WELLER, DAN - FHSU LOGOtaught private lessons while attending grad school and pursuing his own musical interests as well as an advanced degree in music. At eight, Dan was fortunate to get to work with someone of Mark’s caliber. After Mark graduated, Dan began taking lessons from Mark’s college instructor, Dr. Martin Shapiro. Being exposed to the possibilities in higher learning, Dan took advantage of the opportunities he found there. By 8th grade, he’d started taking college courses.


     By high school, Dan was intoxicated…..with higher learning and broadening his musical experiences. Sophomore year, he took his guitar playing skills to new audiences. He played both acoustic and electric guitar in the pit for musicals at the university and was eventually invited to audition for the FHSU Jazz Ensemble. Throughout his remaining high school years, he continued this relationship with the university music program and took courses there to WELLER, DAN - STRIPED SHIRTsupplement his high school curriculum. Looking back at the advice Brad and Keith gave us on starting a band, Dan put his own twist on this endeavor; he started a band AND stayed in school. Around 16, honing his electric guitar skills, he joined a band with other classmates called Broken Promises. So let’s see how he’s doing. He has the guitar/learned how to play/not sure if he cut up his jeans, but he did come up with the name. In fact, he’s named and/or come up with the logo for every band he’s played in. So far, I think he’s doing pretty well with these start a band instructions. By comparison to his peers at the end of high school, I’d say he was definitely more experienced in the music world. 


     Entering college with both academic credits and music experience at that level, Dan’s years at Fort Hays State University would serve to sharpen his focus on the theory behind the music skills he had and allow him to cut his teeth on the business side of the music. Many of the classes you take while earning a bachelor’s degree may seem rote and without purpose. I would bet at the time Dan WELLER, DAN - FHSU LOGO WITH TIGERwas taking those music theory classes at FHSU, he was probably as bored as everyone else in the class. Recounting to me how he landed the gig with Florida Georgia Line, he now credits those tedious classes for his current employment. Seems like there should almost be a statue of Dan Weller outside the music department building on campus with a hologram of FGL on stage surrounding it. The memorial plaque would read: Stay in school. This could be you. Embarking on the business side of things during this time, Dan started another band he named Apollyon, later changed to Zion. Their genre was rock/pop and they traveled around to nearby states playing mostly clubs WELLER, DAN - BITING PACKAGEand frat parties. This would mark the beginning of Dan’s interest in entrepreneurship, being involved with the band’s investment in their equipment and setting up a side business to earn capital from renting it out. Most of us were lucky if we could oversee the funding of beer and pizza on the weekend. The only thing we invested in was a hangover, and the return on that investment was not pretty. Dan, eye of the tiger, college survivor, Weller, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a major in damn good business sense. The return on his start a band investment so far – his picture in the hometown paper and occasional free beer.



     After college, Dan would do more than get his picture in the hometown paper, he went to work for the second largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. at that time, Knight Ridder. This was the parent media company to 32 daily newspapers, one of which was the Miami Herald. He started out selling newspaper ads and went to Miami to further his training. His time there would give him a greater understanding of multiple forms of media and how to tailor ads for clients to maximize their intended reach. The experience he gained from his time with WELLER, DAN - WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY LOGOKnight Ridder and clients sparked an interest in entrepreneurship with a goal to understand the inner workings of a business from every angle. Should he someday decide to own and operate a business, there would be no naivete in the venture. Supplementing his hands on education, he pursued a bachelor’s of business administration (BBA) degree in entrepreneurship and marketing from Wichita State University. During this time, he would embark on a new start a band project with the zeal of a student and the detailed perspective of a budding entrepreneur. Perhaps stamping his lofty expectations on the name of the band, he called it King Me. Following dutifully the next set of Brad and Keith’s “Start A Band” instructions, “When you’re living in a world that you don’t understand/Find a few good buddies, start a band,” Dan set out to be an example of just how to go about understanding what you don’t. Most young, eager musicians watch successful bands and try to follow their lead. This band leader got an MBA. While working on his MBA studies at Wichita State University, with the help of the supportive staff in the Entrepreneurship Department, he officially made “Start A WELLER, DAN - START A BAND LYRICSBand” his grad project. Put that in your lyrics fellas! The department staff served as mentors on the project and allowed the use of university resources to help with marketing and development of the group. As a result…the band never played outside of Wichita, Kansas. Sounds like they were a flop, huh? Without leaving that zip code they managed to receive national airplay on stations even the big players in the market couldn’t reach. Suddenly, they were receiving calls from major labels wanting to know how they did it and RCA and Roadrunner even showed some interest in the band. I’d say they earned an ‘A,’ and Dan became a master. Adding to the lyrical instructions, “Scrape up some money, buy a van/Learn Free Bird and Ramblin’ Man”…and get an MBA, if you can!


     Despite the success King Me had achieved, Dan parted ways with the group he’d help start after earning his MBA. Turns out, starting a band is the easy part, keeping all the parts moving in the same direction is more problematic. If band members cannot agree on a singular goal, goodbye harmony. Putting his education to work, Dan moved to Kansas City and took a job with Arthur Anderson. His work there was team oriented and their task was to take apart struggling WELLER, DAN - JUMPINGbusinesses and put them back together more efficiently. After about a year at this, he accepted a position with Anderson’s Global Consulting Group in Dallas. Over the next three years, he worked a stable day job and played music on the side. Prior to 2001, though he wanted to, Dan hadn’t really considered playing music professionally full time. He was focused on getting a solid education and some financial footing. While based out of Dallas, he performed with touring house bands who played in nearby states and joined backing bands for regional artists on the Texas circuit. His only connection to Nashville during that time was getting a call to play with the band Rushlow. Tim Rushlow had formerly been the lead singer for Little Texas and formed a band based out of Nashville. Dan played with them for a short time but the gig didn’t last long enough for him to consider WELLER, DAN - BLACK AND WHITE WITH GUITARrelocating to Tennessee. In 2004, he moved back to Kansas City and became a full-time stay-at-home-dad. He and his wife had planned this arrangement (one would stay at home) prior to marriage and job opportunities. The time of their son’s birth landed Dan the at-home-employment gig. You might say divine intervention brought Dan back to playing music on a regular basis. He’d started playing bass because of his background in marketing. He told me that “you could throw a rock and hit a guitarist, but no one played bass.” You might even call this a classic example of principles of econ 101 – simple supply and demand. His bass skills were such that no one even knew he played guitar until it came up in conversation. As you would expect, these were gospel gigs he played on and he said it was a nice change of pace. Once they heard him play guitar, they were looking for a new bass player – ’nuff said! Enjoying the music again, he started looking for guitar gigs in WELLER, DAN - FENDER FORUMthe area and played around with a few bands. Through an online connection on The Fender Forum, he’d met a guy he instantly became friends with. Jason, by that time, had moved from Atlanta and lived in Nashville, working as a third generation professional musician. In 2007, Dan started making trips to Nashville for “weekend runs” with Bobby Pinson, Jamie O’Neal, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson. The Pinson gig came about through Jason and he got to play with both his online buddy and a bassist he’d recommended from KC. As gigs go, he said this was “one of the best, most fun groups” he’s worked with. Their time together would qualify under the instruction: “Call up some buddies man, start a band.” Done!


     Everyone who’s in the music business will tell you that it’s all about relationships. Bands are built around them, and sometimes, they form in the oddest of places. If you’ve seen Dan Weller, and heard him play, this next part of his story is gonna shock you. Our exceedingly educated, musically gifted Dan Weller, one time Arthur Anderson associate, is going to start his next gig….in a Walmart parking lot….playing with….Colt Ford. I can hear you WELLER, DAN - WALMART PARKING LOTgasp from here. Brad Paisley is from West Virginia, and even he couldn’t fathom this scenario for his “Start A Band” lyrics. Dan had met a few of Colt’s band members when they were passing through Texas. His online friend Jason (relationships!)  had started working with Colt and, as instructed, he called up some of his buddies again to round out this band. When they passed through KC, Dan would meet up with them and hang out. In a bind, Jason phoned a friend. He innocently asked Dan what he was doing the next couple of weeks. Being the star student Dan is, he asked what he needed to learn and where to meet them. For those of you who don’t know, WELLER, DAN - COLT FORDKansas City is split between Kansas and Missouri. Dan lives on the Kansas side. At 3am, in a Walmart parking lot, on the Missouri side of KC, Dan was picked up by Colt’s bus, given a bunk to sleep in, and woke up in Minnesota to play a gig. There was no rehearsal. Two weeks later, Colt asked him to stay on full time, and he spent the next two years touring with him. Honestly, I thought this seemed an odd fit, until he explained Colt’s performance philosophy. Dan couldn’t say enough good things about this man. He said that Colt believes in giving his fans the best show he can, regardless of who gets the spotlight on the stage. He encourages his band members to showcase their skills and give the audience the best show they possibly can. Often, band members are cautious in pushing too much, even if the song calls for it, in fear of upstaging the artist. He said Colt Ford is one of the most generous headliners you will ever find. He called him a “salt of the Earth” kind of guy who isn’t FORD, COLT - DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCEanything on stage that he isn’t off it. Dan played lead guitar on Colt’s 2012 album, Declaration of Independence, and that seems fitting. Colt allowed him the independence to be the musician he can be and the album is better because of it, the fans love it, and Colt couldn’t be happier about it. His time with Colt Ford laid the groundwork for his current gig with FGL, but there is a cautionary lesson to be learned. Don’t start a band in a Walmart parking lot, because not even Brad Paisley could come up with a lyric for that.



     Dan’s connection to the guys from Florida Georgia Line began while he was touring with Colt Ford. They were a very new group at that time and had just started opening for bigger artists on a regular basis. FGL was touring out of a van and trailer and literally had nothing in the way of creature comforts. Dan would often sneak them bus stock because venues offer nothing until you reach a more VIP status. His list of the “essentials” he swiped for them included: vodka, tequila, rum, and peanut butter. FGL touring WELLER, DAN - FGL TOUR 2012without Fireball?? Somebody call social services! This is clearly abusive. Tyler and Brian used to joke with Dan that if they ever needed another guy, they’d hire him. Hmm…By May of 2012, Dan had been on the road for roughly 400 shows with Colt Ford and needed a break. At that point, he thought he was done touring. He had a few other opportunities come his way, but he’d WELLER, DAN - BLACK AND WHITEdecided that if he was going to go back out on the road, it had to be with a band that was singularly focused. In FGL, he found that. “Cruise” had just dropped with the promise of an album still being finished. Their appearance on Jimmy Fallon had been their first national TV exposure and they were scheduled to open for Luke Bryan on his upcoming tour. Dan dropped them a note and offered his services if they needed anyone with the intention of just trying to help them out. He says he wasn’t looking at it as a potentially lucrative gig and they made no illusions that it would be. When they passed through KC for a show, he was told that they needed a lead guitarist who could sing and cover keys/utility or a singing keys guy who could cover guitar/utility. If he was hired, the other slot would be filled eventually.


     Prior to this audition, Dan had known Tyler Chiarelli (current FGL guitarist) for about eight years in Kansas City. They’d crossed paths being in different bands on the same bill. Brian Bonds (current FGL guitarist) came to KC one weekend to hang out with his friend, Tyler. Dan meets Brian WELLER, DAN - WITH BRIAN BONDSand….this is fast becoming a testament to six degrees of separation. At the time of Dan’s audition, Brian Bonds was the band leader for FGL (relationships!). He auditioned on every instrument they threw at him….piano, organ, electric and acoustic guitar, banjo, and vocals. He landed the gig and opposite Brian, they were expecting a KILLER dual guitar assault. As FGL’s popularity went through the roof, they started to fill arenas and began making lists for a keys player. “With a little bit of luck you’ll be packing the stands.” Check that box on the return investment promise! Being half of this expected new WELLER, DAN - ON KEYSKILLER guitar attack, he never expected the pat on the back he got from management. They LOVED what he was doing….on keys and utility. Their plan was to hire another guitarist. Talk about shock and awe. Looking on the bright side, Dan says it’s improved his keyboard skills tremendously and at the same time, he sees the irony in this. He sums up the experience by saying, “The highest profile gig I’ve ever had has me primarily playing the two instruments I have the least experience with (keys/banjo or ganjo).” He then thanks FHSU for his theory, aural skills, and keyboarding courses. This would seemingly negate that advice, “No need to study.”


     Now that we’ve come to the end of our “Start A Band” project, let’s see how Dan and Florida Georgia Line have fared. The only instruction we haven’t addressed is the “grow out your hair” idea. Tyler Hubbard has that one covered and the rest of the band supports the cause through hair dye and styling products. As for the return WELLER, DAN - BRAD PAISLEY START A BAND LYRICSon investment they promised, “Maybe buy your momma that Cadillac” is probably covered and “All those girls who were too good to talk to/They’ll be waiting in the line out back”….covered in spades!!! Equally covered is “Never buy a beer again”…..or an alcoholic beverage of any kind. And as for sneaking them bus stock, probably no longer necessary. The lesson to be learned from the highly educated and experienced Dan Weller, is that music is indeed a business so it’s important to understand the mechanics that make a band, and its musicians, financially successful. As a musician, it’s necessary to study theory in WELLER, DAN - BLURRED BLUEorder to expand your skill set and maximize your potential assets. Entertaining an audience is about putting on the best show possible. If you restrict your assets’ potential, you undervalue them, causing your stock value to fall. Marketing is about taking what you have and using it to the best of your ability to ensure the greatest return on your investment. By working together, as FGL and their band members do, they give the best performance possible every time they take the stage. With each member giving their all, it’s a demonstration in how to maximize your band’s assets and succeed in the music business. The “Start A Band” instructions may be the encouragement you need to get started, but if you stay in school and build your music business foundation, your band is likely to be on more stable ground and may someday have you raising a shot glass in toast: Here’s To The Good Times!


Download the album through iTunes: HERE

From WAYNorthofNashville…Bev Miskus

Bringing the stories of musicians in country music to life!


To stay connected with Dan Weller:


Follow him on twitter @dan_weller

 Check out his Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/danwellermusic


Subscribe to his YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/dan5weller

His website has been removed for a rebuild but should be back up by the end of the year! The address will be: www.danweller.com/


Catch Dan on tour with FGL! Visit their website for tour dates: http://floridageorgialine.com/tour-dates


Download Colt Ford’s album through iTunes:  HERE

Thanks to all of the partner companies who support Dan Weller and professional musicians! Please support these companies who help make it possible for Dan and others to do what they do so well!!























©2014Bev Miskus