When he takes the stage Wednesday night at Shepherds Bush Empire in London, Brad Paisley will add a new wrinkle to his career: It will mark the first time he’s been a headliner in the United Kingdom.
He left Sunday to get ready for the gig — and plans to fit some vacation time in while he’s overseas. But it’s a trip that had him scratching his head before his departure.
“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I’m super-excited because I love England. I’ve been there, I had a great time, but it’s been 10 years ago. And I noticed at that time, I went with Reba [McEntire],and it felt a bit like a struggle for all of us — even her, to some degree. People went to see Reba, but it’s this feeling of, ‘Let’s go see what this is all about.’ It wasn’t like doin’ shows with Reba here. There was curiosity more than there was pandelarium, to borrow a Jeff Foxworthy word — the pandemonium that usually comes with fandom in the United States.”
Historically, English crowds are much more attuned to the musical details of a show than Americans. Some fans study liner notes and are often as familiar with the supporting musicians on recordings as they are with the singer. That likely plays well for Brad, who — unlike most country acts — uses a lot of his touring band members on his albums.
“What I’m really excited about is I think it’s a different audience,” Brad observed. “This’ll be a whole different show for me. I might do a couple of instrumentals. I know there’s a big instrumental community, a big guitar community. I’ve gotten more tweets from Telecaster guitar players over there that are ‘I finally get to see you play live.’ So I’m really gonna work that.”
Brad actually has two shows scheduled at Shepherds Bush Empire, which trivia fans will recall is the same venue in which Natalie Maines took a jab at the president in 2003, ultimately offending a big portion of the Dixie Chicks’ country audience.
Brad hopes it won’t be his last U.K. trip.
“I’d like to start this process of you go once and then build this [audience] and come back again,” he said. “I’m not gonna be playing Wembley Stadium there, but it’d be nice to build a loyal fan base and selfishly be able to go over there and visit. It’s a great country.”
Rounding out his overseas escapade, Brad has his first-ever show in Norway Friday at the Notodden Musikkfestival.