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Brad Paisley hopes something good will come from all of the controversy surround his new song “Accidental Racist.”
The tune — ostensibly about fostering understanding between the North and South, and whites and blacks –set the Internet abuzz Monday on the heels of its release, with critics blasting its use of Confederate-flag imagery and lyrics including: “I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the southland/Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be/I’m proud of where I’m from, but not everything we’ve done/And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history.”
Paisley tells Jay Leno on NBC’s The Tonight Show on Wednesday night that he learned of the controversy Monday morning — only 12 hours before the album was set to come out — through LL Cool J, whoprovides the perspective of a black northerner in a verse on the song.
“Racism has been on my mind,” he says of what inspired the song. “Last year, we had some really powerful movies deal with it really well. We had Django [Unchained] and Lincoln, and the media deals with it all the time, and I thought maybe it would be an interesting conversation between country music and rap music to deal with this subject between two individuals in a loving and understanding way.”
As for the video, which also has drawn a strong reaction, Paisley says the clip “was not mine.” While he hasn’t seen the video, he says that it was “sort of where a lot of the hate was coming from” and that whoever posted it didn’t accurately portray the meaning behind the song.
“In the song, really what we’re trying to do is explore what happens when two people have a dialogue,” he says. “The entire album wheelhouse is meant to touch on some themes that I think aren’t normally touched on in music. And in the context of this record, it makes a little more sense. But it feels like, when you take the song out of this record, it’s sort of like ‘What in the world? What got him on that?'”
But his hope is that something good comes out of all the discussion being generated around his song but that it makes him “sad” that the meaning behind it is being misconstrued.
“We don’t expect to get the answer in this song,” he says. “It’s not perfect, but it’s honest, and it comes from a good place.”
He adds: “Driving here, NPR had 30 minutes devoted to that song,” he says. “They’re talking about this, so maybe if something good comes about from it — my prayer is that it’ll make something good happen.”
Paisley has been making the publicity rounds this week, defending the song on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and in an interview with ABC News, among others, and on Twitter. LL Cool J, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear on Thursday’s Tonight Show.
Watch a clip from Paisley’s appearance below.
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