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Brad Paisley Lives Beyond His Dreams

Brad Paisley performs “This is Country Music” at “The 44th Annual CMA Awards,” live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010, on the ABC Television Network. Photographer: John Russell / CMA

From the day Brad Paisley signed his first recording contract more than 10 years ago, he had a plan. He knew how he wanted his first album to introduce him, the kinds of talents and lyrical themes he wanted to unveil on the second and even a bit of how the third project should go.

Plans change, of course, and Brad’s planned and adjusted repeatedly through the years, finally finding himself at the top of the country music heap in 2010. He won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award after being nominated six straight years.

But it wasn’t the only highlight of the last 12 months for Brad. He put out his first greatest-hits album, he was the first musical guest when Jay Leno resumed his place as the host of “The Tonight Show,” and he got a personal phone call from President Barack Obama with words of encouragement for the city of Nashville in the wake of the floods in May. If that weren’t enough, Brad played for an estimated 65,000 people in boats during an AquaPalooza concert at Lake Travis in Texas. And he headlined a sold-out stadium for the first time, playing Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., with Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Sara Evans and Easton Corbin.

All of that planning he did in the beginning? Well, Brad’s way beyond any of his expectations.

“My dream, as far as my lifetime goal early on, was to get to what I call the level of tour musician,” he says. “To have a tour bus, to pile onto it, to go play a show somewhere other than where I lived, and then pile off of it, do the show, get back on it, and go to another town. And really stop there. That was what I wanted to do. And have hit songs that people knew. That was really it. I really felt like if I ever reach that league — that league of person, that has a hit song that people know their name, and go see them sing — I would be fine. That was the goal. I’m so far past where I planned to be that I’m here without a road map of any kind. I didn’t necessarily ask for directions on the way. So I’m certainly in more shock today than anybody.”

In addition to his status as a stadium-filler and a CMA kingpin, Brad’s also become something of a spokesman for the Grand Ole Opry. He joined Little Jimmy Dickens to put a crucial, historic circle of wood back in place on the stage at the Opry House when the building was renovated after the May flood. And Brad and Little Jimmy also led a passel of stars in a round of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” when the venue reopened in September.

Brad hasn’t announced any stadium plans for 2011, but he does have 16 shows on the itinerary — many in the northern reaches of the U.S. and Canada that he’s billing as the Frozen Over Tour. He’ll be joined on those dates by Jerrod Niemann and Darius Rucker.

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