Back in April, award-winning country music recording artist Brad Paisley released a little ditty off his ninth studio album, Wheelhouse, entitled, "Accidental Racist".
If you haven't heard the song, you'll be surprised to learn that it's accidentally racist. The song is about a black Starbucks barista and a guy in a Confederate flag T-shirt talking out their differences. "Accidental Racist" features a verse of doo-doo rhymes from LL Cool J and pretty much trvializes all attempts to actually have a legitimate discussion about racial tension in America.
Recently, New York magazine's Jody Rosen had the opportunity to speak with Paisley about the song, its intended message, and the backlash he experienced once the Internet got a hold of it and went, "nope."
Let’s talk about the response to “Accidental Racist.” Did it take you by surprise? Did you expect that the song would generate the kind of controversy that it did?
The whole thing took me by surprise in this sense: This was a deep album cut on a country record. I didn’t know it was possible for an album cut to make the news, let alone to be headline news. It’s ironic because my publicist had reached out to NPR and said, “Brad has cut an album that takes a lot of risks and asks some really tough questions. Would you like an interview?” And they didn’t want one. Then, all of a sudden, I’m driving to go play Leno, listening to NPR. And they’re devoting Talk of the Nation to this subject, on the album release day.
The truth is, I mostly thought about “Accidental Racist” in terms of my fans. This song was meant to generate discussion among the people who listen to my albums. What I was most worried about is that my fan base would think that I was preaching to them. The last thing I ever want to do is be preachy. But I thought that my fans would get something out of hearing a point of view that they don’t hear very often — a perspective you really don’t hear in country music. Some Southerners got very mad it me: “I’m done with you. How dare you apologize for the Confederate flag.” But the majority of my fans said, “We know you, we love you — and we don’t understand the controversy, we don’t get why everyone is so mad.” Which tells you all you need to know, right there. There is a gulf of understanding that I was trying to address.
The most surprising and upsetting thing was being thought of by some as a racist. I have no interest in offending anyone — especially anyone in the African-American community. That song was absolutely, earnestly supposed to be a healing song. One hundred percent.