July 24, 2009 — Brad Paisley dabbed a tear from the corner of his eye in the concluding moments of his performance Tuesday at the White House, and you could certainly understand why.
It wasn't just because he was playing for the President of the United States. There was something much bigger at work. The song he was singing, "Welcome To The Future," has a verse about America electing its first African-American president, a monumental evolution juxtaposed against the history of the White House, which was built mostly by slave labor. The verse in question makes reference to the nation's once-powerful Ku Klux Klan, and to sing it directly to Barack Obama in his home was truly a full-circle moment for Brad.
"As I sang that, it was everything I could do not to lose it," Brad told CNN via e-mail. "I had to close my eyes, or I would completely break down. 'Cause in sound check at three in the afternoon, I started crying. I could n't sing it. The last words that I sang were, 'Glory, glory hallelujah/Welcome to the future,' and then I left and went offstage. I took my hat and tipped it to him and said, 'Thank you, sir.' And then I came off and just started bawling, because it was so emotional for me to sing those words."
Fortunately, they meant something to the guy that inspired them. President Obama sought Brad out after the performance to express his appreciation.
"He came to me and said, 'If I could sing like you,' which was really cool," Brad recalled. "And then he sort of looked me in the eye and he said, 'Wonderful, wonderful words.' And I said, 'Thank you, sir. I meant them.' Being able to deliver that message personally to one of the people who ushered in this new era is really one of the most completely, artistically satisfying moments I've ever had."
Brad was invited to play the White House only a few weeks ago. Ironically, he'll be back in the Washington, D.C., area this weekend, playing Bristow, Va., Saturday on his American Saturday Night Tour with Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne.