Ask Brad Paisley to choose a favorite guitar from his collection, and he’ll point to “Old Pink.” Weathered and warm-sounding, the 1968 Telecaster can be heard on his debut record, Who Needs Pictures, setting the tone – literally – for a career that focuses not only on songwriting, but instrumental chops. In a coincidental twist, the instrument’s lower half is decorated with a rose-colored paisley pattern.
“The guys at Fender were so nice, they made a Brad Paisley signature model before I was even born,” Paisley jokes during a tour stop in Seattle. “I’m probably one of the only players who can claim that.”
Today, Fender unveils an actual Paisley model during the NAMM trade show in Nashville: the Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster. The customized guitar has been in the works for years, with Paisley road-testing a number of prototypes while touring the country. He’d pore over their pickups during soundcheck, then talk with his guitar tech about possible modifications. A few weeks later, Fender would send him a revised guitar. Everything about the final product, from the length of the medium-jumbo frets to the size of the neck, was developed with Paisley’s specifications in mind. The result is a lightweight guitar made of paulownia and spruce wood, finished with an aged, silver-sparkle lacquer and decorated with – what else? – a few paisley swirls.
“I’ve played Telecasters my whole career,” says Paisley, who credits Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill and Albert Lee with introducing him to the Tele brand. “When Fender approached me about doing this model, I was drawn in by their willingness to make something that was obtainable. I didn’t have any interest in starting out with some $10,000 guitar, because really, we’re talking about a cutting board with electronics. You could chop vegetables on it and then play it. I didn’t want to make something that was untouchable for anybody.”
Retailing at $1,999.99, the Road Worn Tele is modestly priced compared to other high-end, American-made guitars, landing a bit south of Fender’s Stratocaster line and nearly $1,000 below some of Gibson’s Les Paul Classics. To make sure the cost stayed low, Paisley avoided adding accessories like the B-bender, which allows players to emulate the swooning sound of a pedal steel. The goal was to keep things simple and straightforward, focusing on the core ingredients of Paisley’s Tele tone.
“If we started putting all of these crazy additions into it,” he explains, “it would’ve turned into a Mercedes or something. What we really wanted to do was sell a Chevy – a great muscle car.”
Paisley is selling something else this summer, too: his burgeoning side hustle as a stand-up comic. Brad Paisley’s Comedy Rodeo debuts on Netflix on August 15th. The hour-long comedy special was taped at a Nashville comedy club earlier this year, with Paisley holding his own alongside funnymen like Nate Bargatze and John Heffron.
“It’s much scarier to release an album,” he says. “With something like a standup comedy special, the pressure feels like it’s a little less, in the sense that we already did this in front of an audience. It’s an edit of two shows. Everything sorta landed. The audience laughed that night, so that’s good. At least the people in the room thought it was funny.”
Another fan of Paisley’s humor? David Hasselhoff, who sat alongside the singer on the hood of Knight Rider‘s iconic car, KITT, to film a promotional teaser for the Comedy Rodeo earlier this summer.
“[Hasselhoff] reminds me of a few of these guys that I’ve befriended over the years, like William Shatner or Little Jimmy Dickens,” Paisley explains. “These guys that are iconic and don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re willing to be roasted, and they can admit their mistakes and laugh at themselves.”
Although he isn’t planning on launching a comedy tour anytime soon, Paisley remains on the road all summer long, continuing to promote this year’s Love and War.