Life isn’t fair and let me tell you, neither is Nashville.
Eric Paslay came back to us this past 4th of July weekend with his new EP Heartbeat Higher but before that, it had been six years since he released any music. Even harder to believe, that 2014 album went to #4 on Billboard’s Top Country Album chart.
Six years on the shelf with that kind of performance; how is that even possible?
The “Friday Night” singer not only wrote three Top 20 hits for that album, he’s also written three #1 songs for other artists as well: “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” for Jake Owen, Love and Theft’s “Angel Eyes” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” for the Eli Young Band. With all that success, why did it take six years and having to leave his record label for him to be able release another album?
It really doesn’t matter because he’s here now and he is pumped. Like a ballplayer with back-to-back jacks, only six weeks after releasing his Heartbeat Higher EP, Paslay is back with a full album in Nice Guy. Quite the unconventional move and when I asked Eric about this, he gave me quite the unconventional answer.
“I thought it would be cool to put the EP out in the middle of summer and honestly, we sped up putting the album out,” he says with a chuckle. “We didn’t initially plan on putting the album out so soon but then we thought heck, let’s put it out. Why not? There’s no reason not to.”
That’s the beauty of being an independent artist, you are your own boss. You call the shots. The power is yours but if things don’t go right, the blame is yours as well. Given that it’s taken so long for Paslay to be able to release new music, was he worried about his now lack of momentum?
“Worrying is not a good thing to do in life, that’s one thing I’ve learned. It’s not that I didn’t make albums and it’s not because I wasn’t writing and creating music. I love everyone at the label I worked with but for some reason it just never lined up to get more music out.
“It’s unfortunate there was a lull in albums coming out but it’s not because I didn’t make them or make great music. Half this album was already on an album on a Universal shelf. I literally went and recorded everything almost the same and used the same musicians because I loved it so much. The music that has been waiting to come out is finally coming out. I had to work my ass off and pay a lot of money to do it, but I’m glad that we’re doing it.”
They say you have your whole life to write your first album but only one year to write your second. Not in Eric’s case. Nice Guy is a collection of the best songs he’s written since the last album in 2014, so they’re literally the best of the best. In that time, he also married his wife Natalie and they had their daughter Piper, so he’s had more life experiences things to draw from.
“You go through life and whatever things you experience; you learn from it. Living life, you hopefully learn how to tell stories a little better, or maybe tell stories a little different. What I’ve learned over the years, the healthiest way to try to write a great song is write what wants to be written that day. You just throw out good seeds in the sky and see if they grow good things.”
As a result, there’s a wide variety of styles. There really isn’t one ‘go-to’ song because like a restaurant menu, they all have different appeals.
“There’s so many different flavors. It depends on who you are, what you like and what kind of day you had. It’s kind of like what kind of drink do you want tonight? Are you on the beach, are you hanging out with your lady eating a steak or are you eating fries and burgers? I always try to make sure I have enough songs to deal with any appetite.
“I’ve been saving these songs for so long. This isn’t just one year’s worth of songs; this is years of music that has been waiting to come out.”
One of the few new albums today deserving of a front to back listen, the crown jewel of the album is “Off the Edge of Summer.” Drifting along a Jackson Browne vibe with lyrics like ‘…we whispered wishes into wine bottles and we threw them into the ocean,’ this is the song most artists spend their entire careers searching for.
“Lucie Silvas is singing background on that. She’s a gem. We were on a Liz Rose writer retreat and someone brought up a story from the trip the year before. I wasn’t even in the group, heck maybe I was on the beach, I don’t know. But later in the night you have a few more drinks and maybe write a song and then we go hang out and see if the stars send you an idea for the next morning’s write. Apparently, people were literally whispering wishes into wine bottles and then throwing it into the ocean. That was a story that was told and Emily, one of the women I wrote with, was like ‘…how did no one write that song?’ So, we wrote it.
“There’s some good memories, even in heartbreak. Hopefully that song takes them back to the good times before the heartbreak. That song is magic. I love the feel of that song and I’m so glad we’re getting to share it.
Another go-to track is “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.” Originally written and performed by Mike Posner, while some know the song in its original acoustic version millions more know it as a dance club staple. Now why would a country guy want to tackle a club track?
“I think it’s one of the saddest songs ever written. I think everyone is distracted by what he’s even saying. I always think it’s funny that ravers have their glow sticks and soap suds falling on them and they’re not even listening to the singer crying out for help. There’s something beautifully, romantically awful and magical about that.
“Just think of all the people in all the clubs getting plastered to this song and they’re not even listening to the person that’s singing to them. There’s something amazing about that. I think that’s a lot of the world today. Everyone is so distracted by their own selfish ways that they’re not even listening to the voice of reason talking.”
Two more songs for his daughter Piper, one about his wife Natalie, co-writing with Kristian Bush of Sugarland and Charles Kelley of Lady A, it’s clear Nice Guy isn’t just a collection of music. These songs all mean something to Paslay.
“If people have been wondering where the songs have been,” he says rather emphatically, “…they’re on this album.”