Early in the pandemic, Brad Paisley began surprising fans by jumping onto their Zoom calls, an activity he was inspired to start thanks to his friend Peyton Manning. In a virtual conversation during Country Radio Seminar this week, Paisley revealed that after he was invited to a celebrity Zoom call by Manning, he knew that something he could share with his fans.
"It all happened really innocently," he recalled. "It started with Peyton. Peyton Manning wrote me on a Saturday night, it was like the second week of the whole lockdown where everyone was at home, it was an end-of-March-type moment. He texted me a Zoom link and he's like, 'Hop on this.'" After receiving no further explanation, Paisley complied, finding himself on a call with other athletes and celebrities "all sitting around in their dens, most people drinking." "The University of Tennessee had challenged Peyton to see how many famous people we could all get on one big Zoom," he explained, revealing that his contribution to the call was texting Darius Rucker to have him join.
"The next thing you know, we were all on there having a blast, and I was like, 'We can do this with fans,'" Paisley said. The singer had previously given out a text number to fans, and some of the messages contained Zoom links, one of which was from a group of nurses Paisley decided to join. "It was the greatest... you can imagine, I was Elvis at that moment," he joked of the moment he joined the call. "They never thought for a second I'd do it. I jumped in and I'm like, 'What are y'all drinking?' They went nuts."
After that, he went on to join around 100 calls throughout the summer, "just looking for an excuse to pop in on people's birthdays and graduations and moments in life." Some of Paisley's personal favorite interactions were a call with three Episcopal preachers, one with a woman who had just finished chemo where he watched her ring the bell on the chemo floor and later watched her friends throw her a parade, a call with Wegmans employees from New York who dressed up in superhero costumes to lighten the mood at work and interaction with two best friends, one white and one Black, from upstate New York, who had invited their neighbors to have a beer with them in their driveway.
Paisley called that last call the one he will "never forget beyond anything." "I never left this studio for a while doing all this stuff," he mused of his home setup. "That's was what's crazy about it."