Brad Paisley will be performing in front of over 300,000 live, in-person fans this Sunday night for the Fourth of July, as he headlines a free concert to celebrate the holiday. Ahead of the show, Paisley joined NBC's Sunday TODAY With Willie Geist for an episode airing July 4, during which he discussed his return to the stage and his post-pandemic musical plans.

"I think when you take something away for a year and a half, you could basically go down there, they could do a local community theater production of Yankee Doodle Dandy and they'd have 300,000 people there," Paisley joked of the enthusiasm artists and fans alike have for live entertainment, after such a long break from in-person shows.

"This is so amazing, to have the miracle of somehow getting the virus under control in this country. We're able to kinda get back together," the singer reflects.

It's been a difficult and painful year and a half everywhere in the world, and the country music community has been far from immune to this period of loss. Not only have many been financially impacted by COVID-19, but multiple legendary artists have lost their lives to the disease, Paisley points out, including Charley Pride, John Prine and Joe Diffie. Meanwhile, the industry has lost other icons -- Charlie Daniels and Kenny Rogers, for example -- and fans have not been able to gather and mourn them due to social distancing protocols.

"Country music was hit. It was hit hard," Paisley stresses. "...It's hard to properly process and mourn."

Now, with pandemic restrictions lifting and artists returning to the stage, Paisley says his newest song, "City of Music," is a celebration of what makes Nashville such an extraordinary place to live and work.

"I wrote that with Lee Miller and Ross Copperman on Zoom. We were never in the same room during writing," Paisley reveals. "The nightlife that's happening right through that wall, and the crazy, amazing mecca that [Nashville] is, this destination for pilgrims. I really wanted to celebrate it, and I wanted it to musically feel the way that feels."

After taking a year off due to the pandemic, this year's Nashville Fourth of July show will have the largest fireworks show in the event's 37-year history.

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