Groundbreaking artists come in all forms. From swoon-worthy crooners Rufus Wainwright to barrier-shattering country-rappers like Lil Nas X, musical artists have for decades, changed the game simply by being unapologetically, themselves. In that vein, Paisley Fields is turning quintessential country tropes on their ear with his new single and video ‘Stay Away From My Man’ featuring the sinfully handsome Boomer Banks) directed by Topher Cusumano. Fields fuses his Midwestern roots and Brooklyn music scene with his endless love for country music. I sat down with Fields to chat about his roots and initial passion for traditional country, his new album Electric Park Ballroom, & who some of his dream collaborators are; Lil Nas X and Miley Cyrus, are you listening?
Michael Cook: How did a Brooklyn boy with an affinity for Nashville country get into the music world?
Paisley Fields: I grew up in a small farming town in Iowa. There’s an event hall there called The Electric Park Ballroom, which is where the album title comes from. Every week when I was about ten or eleven years old, I’d go line-dancing with my family. It’s the place where I felt I could truly be myself, and it’s where I fell in love with country music. My first job was playing piano at the local church. After graduation and a move to New York City, I spent a year in Japan where I recorded an album and toured the country as part of the duo ‘Sora Ocean’. When I moved back to New York, I worked as a pianist in piano bars and discovered a growing queer country scene in Brooklyn. I started out playing local shows at small clubs around Brooklyn. From there I put together some regional, then eventually national tours.
MC: Music wise, who are some of your biggest inspirations? Any artists that you would love to work with that you would like to speak into existence?
PF: I could go on forever about what inspires me. Growing up, some of my biggest influences in country music were The Chicks, Dolly Parton & Gram Parsons. As a piano player, I’ve always been drawn to the pianists; Tom Waits, Nina Simone, Tori Amos, Rufus Wainwright. A dream collaboration of mine is Miley Cyrus. I love everything she does. Also, Lil Nas X. “Call Me By Your Name” is so iconic. He’s a genius.
MC: Tell me about “Stay Away From My Man”. What is the message your are delivering?
PF: When I was writing this song with Mya Byrne, we asked ourselves this question; If Loretta Lynn had been born a gay man, what song would she have written? This was the answer we came up with. I like to take classic country music themes and give them a queer spin. It’s time the jealous lover trope got an update. Working with Topher and the team on this video was so rewarding. We wanted to create a visual for the song that is modern, sex positive and very, very queer. I think we achieved that!
MC: What was it like working with a legend like Boomer Banks?
PF: Boomer is fantastic. We did a digital event together last year, but this was my first time on set with him. He’s been so supportive and enthusiastic throughout the whole production. It was an absolute joy working with him, and I hope we can work together again!
MC: Your album Electric Park Ballroom was highly acclaimed. What was it like releasing that and getting positive responses?
PF: I was fortunate to have an incredible team working with me to put this record out. 2020 was obviously a pretty weird year to release music. I’m glad people were able to connect with this music despite everything. ‘Gratitude’ is the word that comes to mind. I feel lucky; I’m able to write and release music for a living and people actually want to hear it!
MC: What do you think about the strides country music is making for being more inclusive with LGBT artists and artists of color?
PF: To say it’s overdue would be a gross understatement. Country music is about stories, and we all have compelling stories to tell. I see some changes being made, but they aren’t enough. I hope we can continue the conversation. Aside from doing the work ourselves, the “gatekeepers” in this industry have a responsibility to make country music a more inclusive and welcoming place.
MC: What is next for Paisley Fields?
PF: I’ve been writing a ton over this past year, so I’m heading down to Nashville in a few weeks to start work on a new album. I’m also slowly filling up the calendar with shows. I’ll be at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on October 1st this year. Hopefully, more shows will be happening once things open back up and it’s safe to play again. I miss it so much!
MC: How have you stayed inspired during the past year when finding inspiration and being around others was virtually impossible?
PF: I rediscovered my love of music and writing this past year. A lot was taken away from us, and I’ve been so grateful for the things I have. I truly enjoyed spending time at home writing music. I felt a bit like an archaeologist excavating all these new songs. When I was feeling helpless writing was the only way I could focus my energy and anxieties into something positive.
Order ‘Electric Park Ballroom’ here
Follow Paisley Fields on Instagram