Brad Paisley Donating Royalties to Tornado Victims

By Kay West

Wednesday May 04, 2011 02:10 PM EDT

Brad Paisley has always had a soft spot for Alabama – both the band and the state – and now he's coming to the aid of people in the south who have had their lives turned upside down by the devastating tornados there.

Paisley, 38, has decided to donate all artist royalties of digital singles sales in the U.S. from his current hit song, "Old Alabama," to tornado relief via the American Red Cross.

When the country star wrote the record, he had no idea how timely it would be. In fact, he meant it as a tribute to the iconic superstar country-rock band Alabama.

"When I first started playing music, if you didn't cover an Alabama song in your set, you might as well go home," he tells PEOPLE.

Now, Paisley is doing what he can to help the band's home state get back on its feet. On Tuesday night, the band performed "Old Alabama" at the Grand Ole Opry with Paisley as part of the commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the Nashville flood.

Backstage, the singer and Alabama band member Randy Owen had an emotional conversation about the havoc that the tornados caused, and Paisley decided to help.

"We spent more than 12 hours in the basement," Owen told Paisley of trying to stay out of harm's way during the tornados. "We were so lucky, the tornados passed over top of us. But all around us, it's worse than a war zone."

"It's unrecognizable, everything is gone, entire towns are wiped out," adds Owen. "I've lived there my whole life, and I don't recognize it."

"Old Alabama" is the second single from Paisley's forthcoming album, This Is Country Music, to be released May 23.