In celebration of the upcoming release of his brand-new album WheelhouseBrad Paisley is our latest IMPACT artist. Wheelhouse is the country superstar’s ninth studio album, and it’s set to hit stores and digital outlets on Tuesday, April 9.

For the first time, Brad chose to produce the album himself, and to record it with his road band in a studio on his property in Tennessee.

And like the process, he wanted the songs themselves to be a challenge for him, too. “Every song was meant to incorporate something new for me, and to take some sort of twist you don’t expect,” Paisley explained in his press notes. “Whether that be the lyric or the loop or the guest, or a different format like rap, or getting a comedian like Eric Idle, it needed to spin your head around somewhere.”

“It’s like my dog when you say his name followed by a command he doesn’t understand. He’s like, ‘Huh?’ And he turns his head a little sideways. That’s what I wanted every song to do.”

The album’s first single was “Southern Comfort Zone,” which fans are well familiar with now, as the song made it all the way to Number One. But as Brad explains, he “never dreamed it would be a single.” The song was initially envisioned as simply the first track on the album. Brad describes it as a “mission statement” for the album that “basically says, ‘here’s where we’re going, here’s where we’re headed.’ Which is, ‘we’re going to see the world, we’re going to break down boundaries, we’re going to leave our comfort zones.'”

“Southern Comfort Zone” was obviously a special song for Brad. He held a live web chat when he released the music video for the song, which included footage from several countries around the world, including Africa (where last year had had a cow named after him).

And he even released a unique and really cool fan-focused video for the song, which compiled photos from fans of his around the world.

The second single off Wheelhouse is “Beat This Summer,” which is currently spinning at country radio. As Brad explains, the song “is meant to look at one of those love affairs that happens over the course of a summer. Where a guy and a girl fall in love and realize that this is going to be the best summer of their lives. I’ve thought that many a different summer in my lifetime that ‘I’m never going to beat this one.’ And as we go into this album and launch a tour this summer, it feels like a challenge.”

The song, Brad continues, “borrows from a lot of different formats,” including reggae and hip-hop, to “feel like the vibe of an outdoor concert.” They also did some unique work with steel guitar on the song, in one case manipulating it “to where it sounds a little bit like a turntable. That stutter-step loop that happens in the beginning, that’s actually a steel guitar.”

Brad wrote or cowrote all of the album’s 17 songs. And he aimed for each one to bring something new to the table, something outside his ‘comfort zone.’ “That was the point, really–for them to be vocally, musically, lyrically, thematically uncomfortable,” he explained in the press notes. “Or at least new enough to me that I think I had to stretch.”

Another of the challenges he encountered came during the recording of the song “Outstanding In Our Field,” which brings together elements of hip-hop (it was coproduced with Mike Dean, who works with Kanye West) and the music of country legend Roger Miller, whom Brad calls “one of my main influences.” For this song, Brad also recruited a couple friends of his, Dierks Bentley and Hunter Hayes.

But for all the challenges and all the world travel, Brad does more than ever appreciate his home. As he explains in his video about “Southern Comfort Zone,” he may be a regular world traveler now, but “the more I travel, the more I see of the world, the more I love the place I live, which is Tennessee. And the more I appreciate the people.”

Wheelhouse track list:

1. “Bon Voyage”
2. “Southern Comfort Zone” [Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Kelley Lovelace]
3. “Beat This Summer” [Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Luke Laird]
4. “Outstanding In Our Field” (Featuring Dierks Bentley and Roger Miller with Hunter Hayes on guitar) [Brad Paisley/Mike Dean/Chris DuBois/Lee Thomas Miller/Roger Miller]
5. “Pressing On A Bruise” (Featuring Mat Kearney) [Brad Paisley/Mat Kearney/Kelley
6. “I Can’t Change The World” [Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Kelley Lovelace]
7. “幽 女” [Brad Paisley/Justin Williamson/Randle Currie]
8. “Karate” (Featuring Charlie Daniels) [Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Kelley Lovelace]
9. “Death of a Married Man” (Featuring Eric Idle) [Brad Paisley]
10. “Harvey Bodine” [Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Kelley Lovelace]
11. “Tin Can On A String” [Brad Paisley/Ashley Gorley/Kelley Lovelace]
12. “Death Of A Single Man” [Brad Paisley/Kelley Lovelace/Lee Thomas Miller]
13. “The Mona Lisa” [Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois]
14. “Accidental Racist” (Featuring LL COOL J) [Brad Paisley/Lee Thomas Miller/LL
15. “Runaway Train” [Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Kelley Lovelace]
16. “Those Crazy Christians” [Brad Paisley/Kelley Lovelace]
17. “Officially Alive” [Brad Paisley]

Courtesy Arista Nashville

Courtesy Arista Nashville

 is available for preorder now on iTunes.

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