Interview: Eric Paslay talks Country Music Week, playing at Hyde Park, a live album and more

Eric Paslay was someone that I never thought we would see in the UK and now he is about to come back for the third time. The Texas native has completely won over the UK country fans and we are never going to tire of him. We at BOON saw him for the first time at British Summer Time in Hyde Park opening up for Eric Clapton and his set was outstanding. Eric Paslay’s music goes way beyond country music and being at BST Hyde Park proved that by the crowd he not only attracted but by the amount of people who raved about him after.

Paslay is a fantastic songwriter as well as a singer. One of his first ever cuts by another artist was Even If It Breaks Your Heart which Eli Young Band took to number one and he was also behind Jake Owen’s Barefoot Blue Jean NightLove and Theft’s Angel Eyes and many more.  Paslay released his debut album in 2014 and released his most recent single Young Forever earlier this year.

We caught up with Eric to discuss his up and coming UK trip as part of Country Music Week in October, his return in November alongside Walker Hayes opening for Old Dominion, playing his biggest UK gig and generally just getting to know him. Eric was So much fun to talk with and I really hope you enjoy our chat.

Hi Eric – How are you?

I am good. 

How has your week been?

It has been good. I got back in town from our last bus run of the year so am now back in town doing a project here and there out of our little farm. I am building a bookshelf for my wife for the farmhouse today and trying to get everything in order before I come over to the UK. Our first kid is due in December so we are definitely trying to get a whole bunch of projects done before the baby is born.

Well congratulations! Do you know if you are having a boy or girl yet?

Thank you! We have no idea, I call it the “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba” (Sings The Lion King intro) hahahah!

Hahahaha – Hold them up for the world to see.

Last time I saw you was at BST Hyde Park – how was that for you?

It was amazing haha. I mean I got to play in London at Hyde Park for Clapton, Santana, Gary Clark JR. It’s almost like a dream show. I didn’t even know those shows existed with all of those artists playing. There is so many good influencers all over the world because of those guys. It was really cool to play and I love playing in the UK – the fans are just awesome which is really cool. This will be my third trip in one year. The first time I came over was last October and I am really glad that I am getting to come back and play a lot. The fans seem to keep wanting me back which is exciting.

Oh definitely and speaking of fans – The crowds were great at BST Hyde Park. A lot of people were new to you and seemed to really enjoy your set. They weren’t your typical country fans so that must have been quite nice to win over a non country fan base?

No they weren’t. I am a country singer and songwriter but I have been influenced by so many different artists and so much different music. It all goes back to the song and if you believe what they are singing about and that’s kind of my approach and what country music is. You may have a different accent, you might have grown up down a different street that had a different drum playing in it but the bottom line is music is music and if you dig what someone is doing then you can be a fan of it, it doesn’t have to be the same t shirt that you are always wearing you know? I think people get caught up in what they think they are when it should be a case of “as long as you are loving people, that is all that matters.”

I agree!

How do you put a set list together for a non country crowd so that you can potentially win them over?

We just play all the hits I guess haha and hope that “you maybe have heard this? Maybe, somehow” haha. I think on this trip that I am coming over to you in October, I will play all kinds of different songs. It will be just me and my guitar so I don’t have to have the set list with the band. But occasionally with the band we can change it a little. I think with a set like that (BST) we had about 30/40 minutes so I have a few songs that have been hits over here and people tend to enjoy them.

I loved getting to hear you play Even If It Breaks Your Heart and I said this to Will Hoge the other week, that song has such a timeless sound and as I was watching Eric Clapton I was thinking how Even If It Breaks Your Heart wasn’t too far off a similar scale and is a song I can personally imagine being played and loved by crowds of that size. How do you feel about that song?

I am glad that it got heard. Will (Hoge) released it on his album first. He is such a great artist. We are both singers and songwriters and I am glad our roads connected and we got to write that song. Honestly Hannah, the songs we write together are really good and I have gone through my catalogue and thought “How have I not recorded any of these songs?”. I think I am going to start recording more of the songs that we have written together because he and I bring out the really good parts of each other. Even If It Breaks Your Heart – we got nominated for a bunch of awards so it was a really cool experience to do that. People connect with it. We somehow just got lucky enough and blessed enough that we got an idea that everyone can relate to. It is special when those stars line up and really special when you get to ride it with someone you respect and love like Will. I love that the Eli Young guys took it number one and it was amazing hearing it on country radio. Fans are always connecting to that song and it’s a genreless song and that is why I love it!

You have been over to the UK a few times now as you said and will be back during Country Music Week in October and then the Old Dominion tour in November . Tell us a bit about the Country Music Week shows and what we should expect? One is a songwriters round right?

It will be just me and my guitar. I call it “extra live and vulnerable” haha. Just me and my guitar which is how I started. I love playing like that. The first time that I came to the UK I played the Borderline and it was awesome. I have no clue what I will do but I think the set list will just change throughout the shows. My goal is to try to play a different set each night. I will play the hits that people are expecting but I might throw in a curve ball here and there – a new song, or an old song or just an old song that no one has heard before.

That will be really exciting. You said a moment ago that you have a lot of unrecorded songs that you have written with Will Hoge and hope to record them as you are very proud of them. Can you tell us about some of the songs that you are most proud of in general, whether we have heard them or not?

There are some songs on my first album that I love like Deep As It Is Wide and Less Than Whole. On the first album you have a long time to write it. Even If It Breaks Your Heart, I am proud of that song, not just because it did well but because of what it says. The sentiment of that song is where my heart usually is. The end result is a feeling like that and is where I want people to go. I have a whole lot of music that is yet to be heard. I have recorded a lot of music and with the record deal that I had it just never came out – not because it was a bad record but just because I didn’t have a top 20 hit on radio and I am like “ ok, well there is a record store in everyones pocket, we could just let fans have it!”. But anyway….that is a whole other thing. I have a whole lot of music that we are working on right now.

The coolest thing that we are working on and going back to talking about Even If It Breaks Your Heart – we just recorded a live version of that in Glasgow. We recorded a whole live album there in the UK that we are mastering right now. Hopefully it will be out by the end of the year. It was fun!

Oh now that is exciting. The Scottish Country Mafia are going to be very excited that it was recorded in Glasgow.

Oh they are very happy about that yes haha. I somehow remembered the pin that they gave me last October and I brought it back over. There are so many members now. I think I have got one of the first 20 or so pins that they gave out so it’s kind of fun. They are a hoot and it’s fun. I am really excited to put the live album out. Hopefully the English and Irish fans won’t be upset that it was recorded in Scotland haha. It just happened to work out that way.

They won’t be.

Can you remember your first big break?

The first huge milestone in my career was my first publishing deal which meant I got to make a living in the music biz. I got to pay for my Ramen Noodle soup, my really cheap soup by getting a publishing deal and that was 12 or 13 years ago. That led to a record deal and that was our hope. I met my wife there actually – we worked together and she was the one that got Even If It Breaks Your Heart recorded and all those songs, Blue Jean Night and all those. That is where we met. That first gig definitely landed me a bunch of big breaks and that was the first big break in Nashville for sure.

What jobs were you doing before that?

I have done all kinds of good stuff and I’d do it again. I have done jobs from Screen printing onto fanny packs, t shirts and stuff. Valeting cars in downtown Nashville to working at Starbucks for health insurance here in Nashville. I worked in a music shop back home when I was in Texas and now I also build random stuff and occasionally people buy it haha! I have actually started doing this thing at shows where I will go to a local antique shop, find something that hopefully relates to the town and try to make a light out of it or something and then we have it as an auction at the merch table.

Haha that is really cool!

Maybe we will do that when we are over there, we’ll see.

You have loads of things that will represent London.

Right? Except all the antiques over there are actually really old so I don’t know if I can drill a hole and put a light in it. “You just drilled a hole in a fifteen hundred year old lamp”. Hahaha!

On the topic of jobs. If you were not musically talented, what other career do you think you would have opted for?

What I do now is a lot of contractor type work so probably just wood working and all that. But who knows? Maybe I would have been a contractor and built houses or cool unique stuff. For a while I did think I was going to be a doctor. I have Juvenile Diabetes so I always thought I could help other kids with Juvenile Diabetes and encourage them to take care of themselves and live a full life. The cool thing with music is I get to do that still so it’s kinda fun. Both of those dreams lined up ha!

Well as you said music is a healer so you’re a doctor of words haha!

Haha well yeah there you go, music is a powerful medicine.

Name one thing you usually have on your ryder?

Orange juice. If my blood sugar level goes low on stage I get to keep playing. Ha! I feel like I should be shouting JACK DANIELS or something haha! If I could I would put some foreign whiskey from England or Scotch or something but it is very expensive haha.

Would you like to stay Young Forever or grow old gracefully?

I will just grow old gracefully haha! You’re thinking “No, your answer is Young Forever “ I don’t know they both mean the same thing.

Exactly! Grow old gracefully but with a young heart and mind.

You said you work on woodwork in your spare time but what else do you get up to?

Projects! I just like rebuilding things. I got some old lumber that I saved from another house that we had and I am going to build some shelves and put some old records on it, some books, some art on it and clean up some stuff in the house. Yesterday I tried to split them in two and it didn’t work out so I am just going to have giant pieces of board, it will be great.

As you have written for other artists, are you now a bit more selective on what songs you give away or do you know when a song isn’t perhaps right for you or the project you are working on?

Yeah. I think it all comes down to timing when I’m recording, when someone else is recording. I definitely hold on to songs a little more now because I don’t have as much time to write but there are certain times when the song isn’t for me but the song wants to be written this way or, this song is for me and we don’t need to put that verse/line in there because I wouldn’t sing that and I will make sure that I am going to re write it where I can sing it. From what I have learned with songs is if they wanna get heard they are gonna get heard however they get heard. Looking back at Even If It Breaks Your Heart and all that, sure! I would have loved to have been the one that released that. But the truth is, if I released it, you never know, maybe the world would have never of heard it. It might not have been the right time, you don’t know. I am glad that The Eli Young Band did it. Will Hoge put the song out first, it was on rock radio and it got heard a little but it didn’t become a worldwide hit. Then Eli Young Band cut it and there you go. It all comes down to timing. When a song becomes a hit there are all kinds of things that go into it.

You said you are working on a live album but are you working on a studio album as well?

I think I am always working on a studio album. I have recorded two that haven’t come out yet haha.

I hope they do soon.

We have got a lot of music. I will say I have gotten to write a lot over the last few weeks and I am really really liking what we are catching. It’s really exciting. The songs just work with me and the guitar, if you want to add drums then cool but it still stands alone with me and guitar.

There are even some British producers that I am thinking about working with, we will see. We will see where it wants to go and who wants to get involved. When I come back over I have got at least a few days to write in London, got some writers I am gonna get to hang with. That will be a lot of fun, maybe we can catch some more songs.

Can we know who you are writing with?

I have a few but nothing nailed down yet so I won’t say their names haha.

What is your bucket list venue in the UK?

I don’t know. We have gotten to play some pretty cool places. St Georges was really cool up in Liverpool and in Glasgow we have played a couple of fun places. I don’t know! I don’t really have a bucket list of places I wanna play. I just like playing places that people want me at haha. I think any room can become magical if the right people show up and you play the songs right. That sounds all philosophical but that’s the truth. You can play your favourite venue and it could be a really crappy show. I have learned that you always show up and give your best and hopefully it’s in a room that will capture some really cool memories.

Honestly, the Hyde Park show, I can’t believe we got to do that. If I had a bucket list then that would have been up there and we already got to do it, so it is pretty cool.

How did that come to be? I was so happy to see you on that line up.

I just have an awesome manager, that’s all I know. We were getting to go play for the military over in Abu Dhabi and when that got set up I was like “ Y’all we are also already over in the UK and the band is with us, let’s go play Europe” and they said “Yeah, that’s a frickin genius idea, let’s do it!” Three days later my manager was like “Hey, I’ve got you on a show in Hyde Park”.  So I have an awesome manager.

I am glad you do.

What tv show would you recommend?

This is so cliché that you are in the UK but Outlander. It is like watching Westerns in the UK and watching Scottish and British people in America, there is something intriguing about it. I like the old world about it.

Best concert you have ever been to?

Oh wow! Why do I have British answers? This is amazing. McCartney came to Bridgestone five years ago and it is probably one of the first big concerts that I have gone with Natalie to, which was cool because I am on a date with a really hot chick that I got to marry haha. It was the moment when Live and Let Die had played and the pyrotechnics went off and it was insane. That was amazing! I am heavily influenced by UK music. I remember I went to the Exit Inn here in Nashville and Imogen Heap was here opening for Butch Walker, she was the first slot. She played Hide and Seek and nobody had heard the song yet. So this whole bar of country singer/songwriters drinking Bud Light and all of a sudden you hear this “Where are we?” and we are like  “what the hell has just happened? Heaven just opened up, what is this?” That was, as far as moments go, that was insane to get to hear her in such a small venue.

I am a massive Imogen Heap/Frou Frou fan, seen her a few times.

She is great! Growing up I went to a lot of Dave Matthews shows, that is always a good hang. Tom Petty was great to see. The very very first big concert I got to see with lights on going everywhere and music that I really loved was when I was still in Texas at UT the University of Texas. There was a little colosseum there and Coldplay were coming out and this was like 17 or 18 years ago. That was pretty epic to see. It is crazy that I am a country musician and have been influenced by so much UK music. The first song I learned to play on the guitar was Tears In Heaven (Eric Clapton). I sat in front of my cd player for maybe six months trying to figure out how Eric Clapton is playing that ha. I still probably don’t play it right but it sounds like it.

And now you have opened for him.

I know, it’s amazing!

Thank you so much for chatting today. I cannot wait to see you when you come back.

Thanks so much for you time, hope to see you in person at one of the shows.

Absolutely!

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