(Taste of Country) - Brad Paisley was asked to go on a very special secret mission to Afghanistan before Memorial Day. He hopped on Air Force One with the President and was ready to play and thank the troops before the holiday, but to make it happen Paisley had to change his schedule and take a pay cut — not that he was complaining.
Paisley’s mission was secret — even to him. He was in talks with the Chief of Staff and although he didn’t initially get many details about the trip, he was in and said he’d do anything for them. He did, however, have a scheduling conflict that could have kept him from making the long trek to Afghanistan.
“The problem was that I was the headliner for the Tree Town Music Festival in Iowa,” he tells Country Aircheck. “So I called the booking agent and just said, ‘Look, I can’t really tell you why, but there’s something that’s very, very important to me that would really do a lot of good and I’d really love to do it.’ I offered to go on earlier in the day so I could still play, and to take a huge pay cut. It’s a first-year festival, and those things don’t always know if they’re going to make money, so in that sense it [was helpful to them]. So I performed, got on a plane to D.C. and then got on a bigger plane and flew to Afghanistan.”
The ‘River Bank’ singer made the long flight with with his band leader and “right hand man” Kendall Marcy. They flew with a crew, special forces, press and of course, security. Paisley says he spent a lot of time chatting with the press about the show ‘Nashville.’ When they finally arrived, Paisley had the great honor of opening for the President.
“I played for 55 minutes before he came out. Then I took a little break, and then played one more song to bring him out. Then he spoke.”
This performance was one unlike any other for Paisley and he spent a lot of time picking each song he would play.
“I’ve got some songs like ‘This Is Country Music,’ which is just perfect. You know the last verse is like, “If there’s anyone who still has pride for those who died defending the old red, white and blue. This is country music and we do.’”
“And I knew they’d wanna hear ‘I’m Gonna Miss Her’ and ‘Alcohol.’ They really wanna hear ‘Alcohol’ because … they’re not allowed to have it.”
After his performance, Paisley took some time to meet and greet the troops and hear their stories. The hardest part for him was when younger members would hand him photos of their wives and small children — and then tell him to keep the photo. “He just wants you to see his family and wants you to have it,” he says of the photo.
They only spent a few hours on the ground in Afghanistan. The members of the press were only allowed to make their mission public when they landed. “It was complete and total radio silence on the way over. They lifted that and then the doors [on the plane] opened. So then the clock is ticking to get out. You’ve got to think that that’s the biggest target in the world at that point and you have to be smart about it.”
Look for Paisley and his full band at the Taste of Country Music Festival in Hunter, N.Y. this June.
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