Brad Paisley has tried on many unexpected hats in his two decades as a country star: CMA Awards host; comedian; animator; actor; America's Got Talent judge — and most recently co-founder of a free grocery store. But until the world was turned upside down by the pandemic last year, the singer probably never thought he'd add "fish surgeon" to the list.
When quarantine shut down his tour last year, Paisley was suddenly more available for at-home crises big and small, so when Paisley, 48, noticed his 11-year-old son Jasper's pufferfish doing poorly, Paisley jumped into action. "My son had four pufferfish and was down to two — and this one was losing weight," he explains in the cover story of the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.
Puffers' teeth can sometimes grow so long they can't eat, and this one was in dire need of a tooth trim. "Brad was looking up YouTube videos to find out what to do," says wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley, 49. After Internet consultation, Paisley added drops of clove oil to a bucket of water ("to put the fish to sleep," Kimberly explains) and went to work with a set of clippers.
"I've never seen him nervous before, but his hand was shaking," the actress recalls. Adds Paisley, "I have a friend who's a brain surgeon, and I called him going, 'Is it normal for your hand to do this?'"
Paisley pressed on. "You put him in the bucket, and he started to drift and go sideways, so I grabbed him in the net and held him," he says. "They've got like a beak, and I clipped it and thought I killed him — but he made it!" It was, he admits, one of his stranger moments, but after all, "These are the things in a pandemic you do yourself."
The experiment in fish dentistry may be a little out of Paisley's wheelhouse, but it's completely in character, says Kimberly. "He cares about everything, great and small," she says. Paisley's TLC extends to the growing menagerie on the couple's farm outside Nashville, where they live with their boys, Jasper and 14-year-old Huck.
"We have two dogs [Hoot and Annie], snakes, a bearded dragon," Kimberley says, running through the list before her husband breaks in: "All of which belong to someone other than me, and who takes care of them?" "You," she agrees.
Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley on PeopleTV.com or on the PeopleTV app.
That extends even to a nest full of recently laid goose eggs. "He goes to great lengths to protect them," she says. When recent torrential rains flooded their land, "Brad ran out at two in the morning to see if the goose eggs were ok." They weren't — "but it's just so sweet how much you care," she tells him.
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