Brad Paisley: Textbook 21st century country star

Musician Brad Paisley. CBS

(CBS News) Fans are willing to travel a country mile - and then some - to hear Brad Paisley perform. Bob Schieffer leads off our series, A Summer Song:

This story was originally broadcast on December 11, 2011.

When Brad Paisley hits the road, it takes a small army to set the stage for a single night's performance.

"It's like the circus," he told Schieffer. "I mean, complete with freaks and farm animals and everything else. Elephants - we carry an elephant!"

Well, no elephants yet. But there IS a midway which is up and running and selling thousands of dollars worth of merchandise long before the tons of sophisticated electronic gear are in place and tested - and test it he does.

It takes two hours of sound checks for Paisley to get it just the way he wants it. And not just for the audience...

"There is a responsibility with it. There's a responsibility to make it worthwhile for these people to be away from their families," he said. "You know, most of these people have someone they love back in Nashville. Some of them have two, three ex-wives they gotta support!"

With all the lights and lasers and effects, it may look like rock and roll, but as PAISLEY lays it out, this is Country Music.

Country music, yes, but a long way from the old days when guys like Hank Williams sang melancholy songs in a honky tonk.

Thirty-nine-year-old Brad Paisley blends up-to-the-minute social satire and biting commentary with melodies that are unmistakably country.

He's taken pot-shots at reality TV in "Celebrity" ... cautioned us how much better people can appear "Online" than in-person.

Of course, there are old-fashioned themes in his store of songs, from the barroom-rouser "Alcohol," to "Ticks," where he makes an unusual proposition:

"'Ticks' is as probably close of a glimpse as to how my brain works as any," he chuckled.

"I'd like to sing you out in the moonlight,
I'd like to kiss you way back in the sticks.
I'd like to walk you through a field of wildflowers.
Then I'd like to check you for ticks."

"That would be the right thing to do," he explained. "It's a public service-type song," Paisley laughed.

He's had twenty number-one country hits along the way, but he's not afraid to fall back on one of country's favorite go-to's: a tug on the old heart strings.

His video "Waitin' on a Woman," featuring the late Andy Griffith, is as sentimental as they get.

Paisley is the textbook 21st century country star, bending old formulas to say something new.

"I'm not necessarily out to break the rules - I've never been that kind of guy," he said. "I'm more of the kid in class . . . I wasn't the outright, just defiant, break-the-rules kid. I was the kid that was like, 'How can I do this and not get caught?'

"Which is sort of what I do in music."

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