So I’m writing my blog post for the day, accompanied by tunes from the country music cable station emanating from my television. I have never been able to concentrate in silence, always needing a void-filling soundtrack keeping me company without being so distractingly attention-grabbing that I am diverted from my focus on the task at hand.
By the end of studying for my Grade Thirteen Finals (Grade Thirteen was a, now abandoned, college-prep year In Canada, at the end of which were a battery of two-and-a-half-hour-long exams), I was equally conversant with Latin noun declensions and the Top Forty renderings of Leslie Gore.
So I’m working away on my computer, and up comes a song, delivered by country superstar Brad Paisley. I don’t even have to look over. I immediately recognize his sidewinder-smooth singing voice. (I may be a little “off” there. The point is I know who it is.)
Brad Paisley has been around – and virtually instantly successful – since the late nineties. What are his songs like? Smart. Insightful. Often slyly funny. Sentimental, though stopping well before the gag reflex sets in. Paisley is also a great, studio-level guitarist, and as an endearing bonus, at least from my perspective, he’s a little geeky looking.
Though his songs are sometimes nudgingly “Bad Boy” in nature – the quotation marks appropriately earned, because he’s relentlessly playful in his approach rather than an actual trash-the-bar-and-wind-up-in-rehab “Bad Boy” – Paisley emerges in the end insistently “Good Boy”, a persona that, for a while, got him nominated for awards but continually passed over in favor of the “Bad Boys”, until, recently, outlasting the “Bad Boys” who eventually wore out their welcomes, Paisley belated garnered numerous major honors, culminating with country’ music’s Entertainer of the Year Award in 2010.
I originally became aware of Brad Paisley when, it seems now eons ago, I would drive to my job at Paramount Studios, my half-hour commute enjoyably soundtracked by an AM country music station, which I was drawn to, one, because I am partial to country music, and two, because the “Drive Time” DJ at the time was Peter Tilden, whom I knew personally, having given him his first job in television, writing for Major Dad.
Paisley broke into my consciousness with “The Fishing Song” (also known as “I’m Gonna Miss Her.”) In typically Paisley fashion, the song chronicles an ultimatum a man is given by his girlfriend, requiring him to choose between her and his passion for fishing, and in the end he picks fishing. (Hence the line, “I’m Gonna Miss Her.”)
I loved “The Fishing Song.” And I admired the man with the sensibility to (as my research reveals) co-write it. I thought if the situation arose, I would like to be friends with that guy. That’s the way I am. I hear someone doing work I like, and my impulse is to want to hang out together – regular readers will recall my only-ever fan letter to Barbra Streisand – and sing duets.
And you know what? It almost happened.
But it didn’t. (That’s the payoff for those who don’t have time to read this whole thing. Go and be well. Nothing happened. I will see you next time.)
I am consulting one day a week on a show which turned on to be my final job in television, According To Jim, (which I worked on for two seasons and then was let go when they determined they could be mediocre without me.) One of the “regulars” on Jim was a dark-haired cutie named Kimberly Williams. As luck would have it, Kimberly’s new boyfriend (who ultimately became her husband) was…
There I am, sitting with members of the writing staff in the Rewrite Room, waiting for the showrunners to return from their “network notes” session, and there, standing in the doorway, quiet, slightly built and unassuming is…
I am not entirely sure it’s him, and, as my mind, by that time, is shedding brain cells like a sheepdog sheds hair, I am also not one hundred per cent certain he’s “The Fishing Song” guy. Still, why not talk to him? I mean, what the heck? What have I got to lose?
As it turns out, I am fully stocked with natural “in’s” to break the ice. I’m a big fan of his work. There’s the “Peter Tilden Connection” – he is undoubtedly familiar with L.A.’s most prominent country DJ – and I gave him his first job in television. Plus – and this ought to easily seal the deal – (Tilden had informed me) we lived two blocks away from each other, in the funky but cool Ocean Park district of lower Santa Monica.
It was a fat fastball right down the middle. I just have to say, “Did you write ‘The Fishing Song’?” And I am busting to do just that.
But, being me – which says all you need to know about the matter – I am unable pull the trigger.
Why is that? Let me count the ways. What if I’m wrong about “The Fishing Song”, my increasingly unreliable mind confusing “Brad Paisley” with the song’s actual performer, “Chad Beasley”? My co-workers have already tagged me as “over the hill.” A gaffe of that nature would put it irretrievably “beyond doubt.”
Not that it was clear sailing if I was right. For some inexplicable reason, I have this hesitation about being identified as “a guy who knows things.” This reticence over showing off is not new to my experience. I am reminded that, when I was seventeen, at camp, the staff was playing a “team version” of Jeopardy, and the answer was: “It is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony” and I knew the answer but refused to raise my hand for fear of being labeled a “classical music knower”, which I wasn’t, I just happened to know the answer to that question, or, it being Jeopardy, the question to that answer. When it comes to “knowing stuff”, I have had a life-long aversion to standing out.
Add that to the standard fear with a new person – they may not like me – and my lips remained buttoned, my one chance to connect with someone I would have liked to connect with forever out the window.
Like with everything, there has to be an “up-side” to being shy. (The avoidance of rejection comes to mind.) But when I hear Brad Paisley’s trademark voice twanging over the airwaves, I still wonder, years later, what might have happened, if I had only opened my mouth.
Note: I tried embedding "The Fishing Song" at the end of this post, but somehow it wouldn't play unless you did...I don't know what. I encourage you to check it on your own. And apologies, once again, for my ineptitude.