They say things are bigger in Texas, and when you look at the talented artists that have originated in the Lone Star State you can see why. EMI Recording artist Eric Paslay is one of a long list of those artists who have moved from Texas to make it in Music City and while the journey is not always an easy one, Paslay’s talent has seen him celebrate five number one hits as a songwriter, release his own music and have a number one hit in the form of “Friday Night” from his debut album, as well as nominations at the ACM Awards and Grammy’s.
It has been a while since Paslay’s self-titled debut album was released back in 2014, but luckily for us the wait for new music is almost over! In the meantime, we caught up with the singer/songwriter ahead of his first trip to the UK for Country Music Week where he performed a number of shows alongside Randy Houser, Angeleena Presley and Michael Tyler for the CMA Songwriter’s Series.
CC: Your self-titled debut album was released back in 2014 which was the peak of what was called the Bro Country era. Your music was completely different to that trend, so was it frustrating that you maybe weren’t getting as airplay because you weren’t necessarily following the crowd or in some ways do you think it set you apart from the crowd in a positive way?
EP: I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a crowd so I’m just following the way that I am. I’ve always been an outsider I guess but I think we definitely had some success with that album, I’m grateful for that and I think music always changes. I’m just grateful we still get to make music, we had some great success with that; “She Don’t Love You” got nominated for Song of the Year at the ACM awards. I’m grateful that people are diggin’ what I’m doing and we’re in the studio right now recording some new music, so I’m trying to stay with what I love doing.
I definitely am guilty of always trying to entertain people so I don’t always do the exact same song, but I always try and make sure people are entertained and give them great music.
CC: You’ll be performing five times during your time here in the UK, including some shows during Country Music Week. Do you have anything touristy planned?
EP: I have never gone to the UK, I’ve been to Ireland but that’s it. I’ve been joking that ill be the giant cowboy walking around with a camera around my neck and a fanny pack. It’s a terrible image but I’ll definitely be a tourist.
Randy Houser is going to be over there with us, we just had a show together and all we talked about was coming over to the UK. So he’s looking forward to it, I am too and he’s never been to the UK either so he and I will just be walking around with funny country accents going “look at that man, that was in that 007 movie”.
It’ll be really fun, really looking forward to it so yes, definitely looking forward to being a tourist as much as I can and I’m grateful that we’re getting to play so many shows for all the country fans there.
CC: You have had success as both an artist and as a songwriter – I learned recently that you co-wrote one of my favourite songs “It Ain’t Pretty” with Nicolle Galyon. Starting out was it always the end goal to be an artist or did you originally set out for your career to be in song writing?
EP: Yeah it was always to be a singer. I was always told when you move to Nashville, if you wanted to get a record deal you should get a publishing deal first and start writing songs. So I did that and it worked out fabulously. I’m glad other people have recorded my songs and grateful that I’m getting to do what I came here to do and dreamt of doing. I’m just kinda double lucky that I get to write songs then other people record them then I get to record and release my own music as well.
I love that you love “It Ain’t Pretty”. I actually tried to re-write that song to put it on my own album but only a girl can really sing it. It just doesn’t work with a guy, I tried to kinda re-write it from a 3rd person perspective but it just doesn’t sound honest.
Lady Antebellum recorded it first then Martina McBride just recorded it. It’s just one of those songs that wants to be heard.
CC: I was disappointed it wasn’t a single for Lady Antebellum. As a fan listening to an album, there’s always one track that really stands out and for me it was “It Ain’t Pretty.” Then Martina McBride recorded it so that made me happy.
EP: I was thinking Lady Antebellum gifted me again because they recorded “Friday Night” and didn’t put it out and I thank them every time I see them, like thank you so much because that was my first hit as a singer, then I was like maybe I could just re- write “It Ain’t Pretty” because they haven’t put it out, but it just doesn’t quite work. One of these days another female artist will get it out there and more people will get to hear it but it is really a beautiful song. Nicolle Galyon is an incredible writer and singer, she’s just awesome and I’m glad we got that song and I’m glad that you love it.
CC: You’ve just led to my next question, I imagine song writing is a very complex process. So if you listen to a song back a year or two down the line, do you ever hear something you’ve had a hand in and think I was I could change that line, verse so the story goes in a different direction or are you a writer that tends to be happy with the completed project?
EP: Well if nobody has recorded it yet, you can keep changing it. It just always changes. I’ve got a song that we’ve recorded but it hasn’t come out yet and I’ve already started re-writing the first verse, it’s just not quite right so we’ll see where that one ends up – I’m still working on it. I think it’s harder to re-write a song that you’ve already written, it’s hard to erase the ink that’s been sitting on the page for a long time, but I think if you know you can try and make it better, then make it better before everyone hears it but don’t overthink it.
With songs a lot of times it is good to re-write something if you know it needs to be re-written but also you just learn from each one of ‘em on what you might do different next time. I haven’t really had any regrets so far, there hasn’t been anything where it was like ah I wish I’d have written that a little different. If anyone hears a song ever and they’re singing along, you don’t need to change anything – it’s good.
CC: Your wife is also in the music business and worked at the same publishing company as you when you met, and had a hand in getting some of your biggest hits cut. What is that dynamic like?
EP: It’s pretty amazing, I got to marry one of my best friends. She’s got such good ears and a great pulse of good music. She was the one that took “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” to Jake Owen and up to Sony Records for that, and really just wore out Cliff Aldridge – he worked with Eli Young Band for years – for “Even if it Breaks Your Heart” and finally he was like “fine, yeah you’re right! This song would be great for them”. I mean that was a two-year process of “are you sure Cliff, this would be great for them.”
It really is amazing. There are so many people behind the scenes, my wife is a great publisher, there are so many great publishers in Nashville that really become the champions of songwriters and they won’t take no for an answer. I mean they take no all the time, it’s their job to hear no, no, no but whenever you get the yes and it all works out, it’s even sweeter.
My wife’s as sweet as can be and I’m grateful for her being such a passionate music person, I’m grateful that we met through music and I’m grateful that we’ve had success through music too.
CC: Your latest project “The Worktapes” was released a little while ago and has material to wet fans taste buds if you like, until your second album is released. It is a small collection of songs from your massive catalogue of over 1500 songs, what was that process like? We hope to have it released in the UK soon!
EP: So basically, if you and I wrote a song together we write the verse, we write the chorus, we’ve got the song done and before we go to lunch we’re like “we should probably record this, so we don’t forget it”. That’s the Work tape, it’s the rawest version of a song with just a guitar, the piano or whatever you’re writing on and whoever’s singing it.
It’s literally that, just five songs that are as raw as can be. My wife and I have worked together for so long, it was her idea – she was like “Eric you need to let fans have music and what a cool way for them to hear you as a songwriter and singer and what is sounds like when you first catch a song. So that’s what we did, released five songs. Four of them I’ve never released at all and one of them “Less Than Whole” which was a song on my first album. They’re just very simple versions of those songs but there’s a magic in those recordings, I always think there’s so many great albums that were recorded as they were written and they’re some of the coolest recordings ever.
We didn’t have fancy mics set up and all that for these work tapes, I kinda wish I did but they’re pretty amazing versions.
CC: There was news of your sophomore album “Dressed in Black” being released, is that something we can still look forward to soon and what can fans expect from that or is it being tweaked slightly?
EP: I think the universe has decided that album is going to be tweaked slightly and I’m not even sure if it’ll be called that. I’ve been in the studio working on new music and new songs keep showing up that want to be recorded, so we’re going in and recording ‘em. I think a few songs from “Dressed in Black” will be on this next album and a bunch of other new songs, once we’re done with recording everything we’ll see which songs win and those will be the ones on the album. It just wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t supposed to come out this time but I’m sure all those songs will be heard eventually.
CC: You are about to open three shows for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw on their Soul2Soul tour, what was it like to be asked and what are you most looking forward to about it?
EP: We’re thrilled to death, we’ll be out this weekend with Tim and Faith for a couple of shows. I’ve always loved their music and they’ve both always had great songs. It’ll be good to hang out with them and soak up their good vibes this weekend.
CC: What was it like to get that call and be asked to be on the tour and what are you most looking forward to?
EP: I’m still smiling! There’s so many albums that influence you, a ton of Tim’s albums you can’t help but turn up and I’m sure I have driven into town many days listening to a lot of his albums thinking I hope I can write a song this good today. It’ll be awesome to go on the road and I’m just super grateful that we’re getting to play some shows with them. I’m glad we’re getting to play these shows with them this weekend and maybe we’ll get to hop on a big ole tour with them one day and I’m always grateful when you get to open for people that you love.
CC: If your current self could say anything to yourself as you were starting on this crazy journey that is the music business, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
EP: I think I would tell myself be serious but don’t be too serious. Soak up every day, every moment out on the road – don’t think of it as another stop, think of it as another story to remember. I tell that to every new kid going out on radio tour, it’s like they’re probably not going to play this song and I don’t tell them that to break their hearts but just to let them know that it’s a long journey, it’s not just one song. It’s not just one year of their life, it’s hopefully a whole career in music and I probably would have told myself that.
That being said though, people do tell you that but it’s one of those experiences where you have to go on your own. The wild thing about the music business is even if you tell someone your story, it’s hard to believe because it’s such a wild, trippy business and everyone has their own story which is kind of a beautiful thing. I think what people told me, I would have believed more but mainly I would have made sure any music I made wasn’t chasing radio or chasing anything else other than I love this and I think other people will love it if they get a chance to hear it.
You can learn more about Eric Paslay by visiting his official website or by following him on his social media pages;
Since our chat, Paslay has released his new single “Young Forever” and we can’t to hear more!