By Cher Guevara, Staff Writer
The quarantine has driven us all a little sideways, especially performers and musicians, who have lost an entire touring season due to nightclubs, coffeehouses and theaters being closed. While some have tried their best by doing at-home gigs live-streamed for their fans, others have worked in their garage studios, cutting new records. One, Paisley Fields, decided to revive an old concept for our dark times.
What inspired The Paisley Show?
According to Paisley, “I was talking with a friend about touring, and what we can do until it comes back. He suggested some sort of series to stay connected with my audience and community. I’ve always loved variety shows, and there is a rich history of variety shows in country music. I grew up watching and performing in them every year at my school. The idea of creating The Paisley Show got me enthused, so I knew it was the right thing to do. It’s a fun way to collaborate with friends I would normally see on tour.”
The Paisley Show went on the (digital) air last month. It’s a revival of the old variety show format from the 70s, down to the font used in the opening credits. If you don’t know what a variety show is, ask your parents or Google “Carol Burnett.” The show boils down to Paisley hosting various guests, playing songs, making cocktails and trying to smile and laugh during this hellride of a year.
The first episode, which went up in August, saw Paisley firing off with both barrels, playing a solo version of “Stay Away from My Man” (from their new album Electric Park Ballroom), having some friends over to show us how to make cheap, delicious summer cocktails, and then the main feature, an interview with the legend himself, Patrick Haggerty. Patrick got the last bow as a bunch of friends set up in the backyard for a rendition of the classic cowboy song “Don’t Fence Me In.”
How the hell do you do a follow-up to that? Paisley wanted to keep the fun going as the second episode followed two weeks later, following the same format, with Paisley telling some personal anecdotes, playing a song or two, having some friends over for recipes (sweets this time instead of drinks), and banjo picker Willie Houston talking about his horticulture hobbies and playing a special song for Paisley, which I, a bluegrass nut, particularly appreciated.
“The Paisley Show” is now up to four episodes, available on the Don Giovanni Records YouTube channel. Here’s Ep 4 for a little taste:
Paisley has their formula, and it works. The show started off with a bang and it’s been going great ever since, with new episodes every two weeks or so. The retro spin makes it all the more fun, from the glaring 70s font used in the opening, to the wild backdrop, to the canned laughter and applause. I wouldn’t call this a parody; rather, it’s a wonderful homage to the variety shows of the past.
I’m sure Paisley, like most musicians, is itching for the day they can get back on the stage and start slinging some live honky-tonk, but this show makes for a great project and I hope they keep it going even after they hit the road again. (Free advice: take “The Paisley Show” on tour!)
In this strange, completely fucked-up year, we all need something to make us smile and laugh and this little web show from one of the stars of queer country is a sure bet. The next episode will be out on Friday, October 9, and it will feature Cindy Emch and Dale Hollow.
I’ll just leave you with the nugget that Paisley uses to close each show: “Don’t be normal, ‘cause normal is boring.”