To understand why Eric Paslay’s songs sound unique, flash back to that night last March, when a tornado ripped through his Nashville neighborhood.
Eric, his wife Natalie and their then 15-month-old daughter Piper Lily came cautiously from the closet where they had locked themselves for safety. Eric did not know at the time that they had been fortunate to have just had a giant tree land on the house with a window and a few doors blown out and the shed and fence destroyed. In the neighborhood, homes, businesses, and cars were destroyed and people lost their lives. So, he went to work clearing trees from sidewalks, roads, alleys, and the tops of cars. When the roads were accessible for emergency crews and the debris cleared, they could begin working on their own property.
“I started rebuilding our fences,” he remembers. “Luckily, I like building. I like things that are built well, which usually takes patience and time. To me, it’s like songwriting: You use what you’ve learned to get the job done.”
The good news is, with this mentality and approach, Eric is happy to report that much of their damage, including the fence, has been put right. More good news: he is ready with a fresh album on the horizon and a lot to say.
Nice Guy will drop August 14, though its tracks will issue singly before then, and began with “Heartbeat Higher” and the Heartbeat Higher EP released on July 3. Each of the tracks has that quality that distinguishes Paslay as a writer, that sense assembling a storyline like tiles in a mosaic, each piece brilliant on its own but most profound as parts of a compelling picture.
Every line glistens, especially as sung with the conviction that Paslay commands. The coalesces in “The Edge Of The Summer,” where “we whispered wishes into wine bottles, and we threw them into the ocean.” A magical line opens “On This Side Of Heaven,” short but irresistible: “I close my eyes and we’re dancing.” And it takes Paslay just five words — “Gonna stop using my manners” — to sweep us into the hilariously arrogant title-track, “Nice Guy.”
Though a few years have passed since his acclaimed self-titled debut album, these fresh tracks prove he’s put that time to good use. Paslay stayed busy. He expanded his catalog. He performed exhaustively, touring the U.S. and Europe, most recently as part of the C2C concerts in London and Berlin, released a live album last year, Live In Glasgow. A lifelong Type 1 diabetic, he performed at the 2020 Virtual JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Promise Gala to raise funds to battle juvenile diabetes and became a Board member.
A lot of history filters into Paslay’s music. Raised in Temple, Texas, he showed promise as first baseman of his high school team, but while singing and playing guitar with his church youth group he committed himself to music. He moved to the Nashville area for the music business program at Middle Tennessee State University in nearby Murfreesboro. He interned with music publisher Cal IV Entertainment with the ambition to write and perform.
“I had signed a deal with EMI after I had spent a few years writing several songs a day,” said Eric. And he wrote prolifically; songs for Lady A, Big & Rich, Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow, Hunter Hayes, Craig Morgan, Kenny Rogers, Steven Tyler, Dionne Warwick, and more were among the many who rushed to cut his tunes. Four of them hit Number One: Jake Owens’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” Love & Theft’s “Angel Eyes” and Rascal Flatts’ “Rewind.” He would earn ACM and CMA Song of the Year nominations as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. His “She Don’t Love You” was included among the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) list of “10 Songs I Wished I’d Written.” Paslay’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” was named the Number One song of the decade on Country Aircheck’s decade chart.
Once he had taken the plunge as a performer, Paslay would top the charts as well, with his “Friday Night” marking five Number one hits. The Grammys honored his recording of “The Driver” with Dierks Bentley and Charles Kelley with a “Best Country Duo/Group Performance” nomination. He would be picked to open shows on mega-tours by Garth Brooks and Tim & Faith.
As much as he has accomplished, Paslay takes a big step forward with this latest crop of songs and recordings. His world having grown richer through marriage and parenthood, his writing has expanded. He is putting to good use his gift for finding where his reflections and our realities meet.
In his words, “as a songwriter, a singer, and a storyteller, you soak up the stories that are all around you. That affects your telling the truth. If you write about something that is not your own, you need to know how to make sure that it’s somebody’s.”
And so, he builds … once fence, one song, at a time, toward a future that promises better days and much, much more unforgettable music.
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