The dude can play
Brad Paisley’s new book Diary of a Player explores his connection to his guitar
People drool over Brad Paisely. They drool over Paisley for his looks, or they drool over him because of the way he can pick up a guitar and play his signature hybrid style of chicken-pickin’ better than any country guitarist can today, or, arguably, any country guitarist ever. Paisley’s first book, Diary of a Player, is far more than just a book about some young Glen Dale, West Virginian hick that grew up to wear a cowboy hat and learned to pluck some strings on an acoustic guitar while screaming out, “Yeehaw!”
Diary of a Player is filled with musical knowledge about classic country pickers like Chet Atkins and Albert Lee, while also paying homage to some of Paisely’s favourite gear, like the Vox AC-30 amp and the Fender Telecaster guitar. He doesn’t just fill the book with these references to show off. Paisely’s book is a memoir about the power that playing guitar has had for him during the ups and downs of his life.
To those without much of a musical background, it’s obvious that Paisley’s love for his guitar is sentimental, sometimes even creepy. How could someone love a hollowed-out chunk of wood, constructed with six loosely attached nylon strings so much?
After receiving his first guitar Dec. 25, 1980, at the tender age of eight-years-old from his inspiring “Papaw” Warren Jarvis, Paisley surprisingly didn’t give two buckaroos whether he played his newfound toy or not. But eventually, Paisley’s attachment to his guitar became a way of escaping his real world problems; he didn’t drink, he didn’t do drugs, but he played until all of his heartaches, sorrows, and pains were gone, something that young, aspiring guitar heroes and musicians could take note of and live by. It’s always easier to play guitar than get shitfaced.
There’s something special about how Paisley talks about his guitar. He writes in the prologue that the guitar is not only a crutch to all of his problems, but also the answer to almost every question that life would throw at him, and one of the best friends he would ever have.
Though it may seem like Diary of a Player is your stereotypical hillbilly heartbreak story, don’t be fooled. Paisley can be quite the joker and prankster. He spends a portion of his book talking about those songs that demonstrate his jokester ways. Whether Paisley is enjoying life and writing satirical songs like “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)” for university competitions, or whether he’s paying tribute to former guitar heroes that have helped pave the way for him to become successful, Paisley is the perfect example of how fame and glory isn’t always about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.
But Diary of a Player isn’t only about Paisley the comedian. There are some tender moments, for example, when Paisley discusses how his 2008 album Play is a tribute to the one man who made his dreams come true, Warren Jarvis.
“He said if I learned to play, anything would be manageable, and life would be richer,” Paisley proudly admitted in his chapter, “Welcome to the Future.”
“You can get through some real tough moments with that guitar on your knee… When life gets intense, there are people who drink, who seek counseling, eat, or watch TV, pray, cry, sleep, and so on. I play.”
Play was a way for Paisley to pay tribute to not only his grandfather, but to many important people in his life. Paisley mentioned in his chapter, “Waitin’ On a Woman,” that the instrumental, “Huckleberry Jam,” was written for his first-born son, William Huckleberry Paisley, while “Kim” was written for his wife, actress Kimberly Williams. But undeniably, the most inspiring song that Paisley mentioned in Diary of a Player is the ninth track, “More Than Just This Song,” which was written as a tribute to his childhood guitar teacher, Clarence “Hank” Goddard, whom Paisley calls “the greatest guitar player you may never have heard of.
Is Diary of a Player an autobiography? Absolutely not. How can Paisley write a book on his life when he’s in the prime of it? But one thing Diary of a Player is, is a guide to any musician’s life. Paisley shows it’s acceptable to put faith into an instrument and make it not only a sentimental friend, but a best friend. There’s always something special about playing an instrument. When times are tough, your instrument will always be there to play and get you through the pain, and when times are extravagant, the instrument is there waiting to be played to make an amazing moment better.
But no matter what instrument is being played, or where it’s being played, or who’s playing it, as Paisley states in the last chapter of Diary of a Player, they call it playing. So have fun, and play.