Monday, February 6, 2012

Play It Again, Brad

Brad Paisley: Diary of a Player

 Brad Paisley is many things — a superb musician, songwriter, singer, entertainer, host, and comedic actor — but he is apparently not a prose writer. The task of putting his life story into words has fallen to a ghost writer (in autobiographies indicated by the all-encompassing words “and” or “with” following the celebrity’s name) which is a mistake. It’s one thing to collaborate on songwriting with other songwriting professionals — but collaborating on a book with a writer is not the same thing. While David Wild in all likelihood handles the task admirably with what he’s been given, at the end of the day reading a ghost-written book is like hearing a story second-hand.

Paisley’s autobiography, Diary of a Player, attempts to showcase his well-known sense of humor when it comes to word-play. A “player” in this case means journeyman guitar player, rather than the less savory lothario. He can assume we will all get the pun because Paisley is known to be a clean-living happily married man. But the title’s pun is tanked by its inaccuracy: it is not a diary by any means.

We get taken on a journey through Paisley’s life in the usual fashion — starting with childhood and proceeding on accordingly. Because this autobiography uses his guitar prowess as its main theme, it begins with his getting his first guitar. Most other life events are culled in service to providing anecdotes about his career, except for those occasions when a bit of background info is appropriate.

The trouble is that what we end up with sounds like a transcription of Paisley talking into a tape recorder. The parts have just been arranged chronologically. This does not make for a gripping read. On paper, Paisley’s off-the-cuff humor flattens out. What he’s good at — what makes him such a good host — is that he is able to ad-lib well. Scripting his speech kills this.

The book is interspersed with hagiographic quotes from some of his famous collaborators, which comes across as a bit self-adoring (through no fault of his own), as well as tid-bits of advice about playing the guitar (which frankly I want to know far more of) — but they turn out to be standard things you’d take for granted.

What I’d like to read, as a fan and as a person who’d like to play guitar like him, is how HE plays guitar — what his difficulties were, and how he overcame them, and any tricks he has up his sleeve. How does he do that fast shuffle he is known for?

We often find premature autobiographies a bit tasteless. If you’re a celebrity, however, you can’t escape them. This book feels like it was an inescapable chore to produce. And to be honest, it’s a bit of a chore to read.

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