• Lillie Burke

Star alum Brad Paisley talks college days and COVID days in a night of songs and stories

In his time at Belmont, Brad Paisley skipped classes, pulled all-nighters in the studio and graduated with a 2.3 GPA — but that’s all you need, he said.

The country hitmaker and 1995 Belmont alumnus visited his alma mater Thursday for a night of conversation and acoustic interludes, hosted by Nashville news anchor Harry Chapman.

Paisley and Chapman dove deep on Paisley’s university years, his creative process during the COVID-19 pandemic, his philanthropic efforts with his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and his hopes for the years to come.

“Hope is what college is all about. When you are going to college, there’s no time in your life quite as full of potential,” Paisley said.

After transferring to Belmont as a junior, Paisley said Belmont set him up with unique opportunities in music business.

“This college, I couldn’t believe existed. With everything it had to offer, where it’s located, what you could get courses in.”

After graduating, Paisley went on to release 12 studio albums, tour the world, win over a dozen CMA Awards and have his name etched on three Grammys, marking him one of Belmont’s most high-profile alumni.

Through all their success, Paisley and his wife remain active members of the Belmont community. In 2020, they opened the doors of The Store, a non-profit grocery store on 12th Avenue that offers free food to families in need.

“That’s what got me mentally through the pandemic, is that we can help, we’re not helpless,” Paisley said on stage.

When the US went into lockdown in March 2020, Paisley was set to play a show in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Though LiveNation had recalled all the tours in the States by that time, Paisley was able to stay and savor one more show before going home.

It felt like he was still on the court while everybody else was already in the locker room, he said, and wrapped up the anecdote with his 2017 song “Last Time For Everything,” which he played at that final performance in Canada.

Paisley played a few other hits in his repertoire, commanding the stage with just his guitar. For the penultimate song of the set, Paisley and Chapman invited President Greg Jones on stage to sing a bar or two of his 2003 track, “Mud on the Tires.”

“You need to experience the perfectly tuned room that you built,” Paisley joked to Jones.

Through Paisley’s connection the Belmont, the singer and the university president have forged a friendship, which made him the perfect guest for Jones’ inaugural celebration.

“He’s become a friend and the partnership that we have with him and his wife, Kimberly, through The Store, and the kind of visibility he has as an alumnus of Belmont just made him a natural choice, and we were honored that he was willing and could fit it into his schedule to be able to perform,” Jones told the Vision in an interview.

The evening ended with Paisley playing his new song “The City of Music,” which is an ode to Nashville and a favorite of Jones and his wife, Susan.

“Tell the truth, play some chords,” the song goes. “Pay your dues and praise the Lord. Cadillacs, four by fours, it’s the City of Music.”

This article is part of the Vision’s continued coverage of the inauguration of President Greg Jones.

PHOTO: Brad Paisley and Harry Chapman onstage Thursday at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Belmont Vision / Sarah Maninger.

This article was written by Sarah Maninger.

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