Eric Paslay definitely knows how to craft a hit song. Jake Owen, Love and Theft and the Eli Young Band have all scored No. 1 singles thanks to Paslay’s songwriting prowess, but fans who have seen him on stage will testify there is so much more to the tall, Texas redhead than his excellent songwriting chops. Paslay is a charismatic performer and a potent vocalist who knows how to connect with an audience. As his single “Friday Night” reached the No. 1 spot, Paslay has arrived as an artist in his own right.
“Friday Night,” Paslay’s first No. 1 single as an artist, serves as an inviting preview to his EMI Records Nashville debut album, a vibrant collection of songs that cover a wide expanse of emotional territory from the aching ballad “She Don’t Love You” to the clever up tempo “Song About A Girl” and the poignant, uplifting “Deep As It Is Wide.” Working with producers Marshall Altman, Daniel Hill and Billy Lynn, Paslay has created a colorful sonic landscape. “Life isn’t always the same heartbeat so I don’t want to have an album of songs at the same tempo,” Paslay says of the musical and lyrical diversity displayed on his eponymous debut. “Every song has a shimmer of everyone’s life in it from the memories of falling in love to living with someone for the rest of your life and knowing that there’s something at the end of the tunnel to live for. Some of it is not too deep and some of it is.”
Therein lies Paslay’s charm. He is a deep thinker and soulful philosopher capable of shooting a lyric straight into your heart and making you catch your breath, but he is also witty, playful and equally skilled at getting the party started. He is the guy other men want to have a beer with and all the girls want to take home for Sunday dinner. His engaging, enigmatic personality shines through in all his songs from “Less Than Whole,” a powerful treatise on forgiveness and redemption that he penned with Big Kenny to the sultry, sexy romp “Good With Wine,” a great date song.
Paslay creates music that becomes part of the soundtrack of people’s lives, and in doing so he has helped shaped the sound of today’s country radio. Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which Paslay wrote with Dylan Altman and Terry Sawchuk, was named ASCAP’s 2012 Country Song of the Year. The Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” written by Paslay and Will Hoge, was nominated for a 2013 GRAMMY for Best Country Song and CMA Song Of The Year in 2012. He also co-wrote Love and Theft’s No. 1 hit “Angel Eyes,” as well as Rascal Flatt’s new single “Rewind.” He has also penned tunes for many other artists among them Amy Grant, Donny & Marie Osmond and Lady Antebellum. His distinctive voice has also earned him some pretty substantial fans. Dionne Warwick and Kenny Rogers have sought him out to record duets, and Amy Grant recruited Paslay to join her and Sheryl Crow when she covered Paslay’s “Deep As It Is Wide” on her latest album.
It all started for Paslay when he began playing guitar and writing songs at 15. “I wrote a poem for a girl,” he recalls with a grin. “I never gave it to her and then I discovered that most songs are poems, so I just put a melody and chords to the poem and there was my first song. By the time I was 16, I’d already made a CD on my home computer of about 10 or 11 songs that I played out around Texas. Those records will come back and haunt me someday, but I know there are little jewels in there. I’m glad that I wasn’t too afraid to put it out there, just to start creating music and sharing it with people.”
Born in Abilene, Texas and raised in Waco and Temple, Paslay has always loved music, but his original intent was to become a pediatric endocrinologist. “I have diabetes and I thought I could help kids with diabetes because I could relate to them and talk to them,” he says, but music has always been in his blood. “My granddad was a musician. He and his brothers had a band called Arnold Schiller and the Moonlight Serenaders. My grandfather was Arnold, and they played at dance halls. I was two and a half when he died. The first time I played the Grand Ole Opry, I closed my eyes and thought of him.”
When Paslay moved to Nashville to pursue a music career, his first stop was Middle Tennessee State University where he majored in music business. He became president of MTSU’s student chapter of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). He recruited top Music Row writers to speak at the university. He also volunteered for anything just to get his foot further in the door and did everything from help out at a charity golf tournament to change light bulbs in the NARAS office, a feat made easier because of his 6’4” height. “I’d just go help anywhere I could because I thought if you have a job to do and you do it well, then if they let you be creative and make a record, at least they know you’re going to do it well,” Paslay says. “They’ll know you are going to put all your mind, strength and skill into doing whatever job they give you.”
An internship at publishing company Cal IV Entertainment proved to be a valuable step for the budding songwriter. He not only learned about the publishing business, but the craft of songwriting, eventually landing his own deal with the Cal IV in 2006. His songwriting and his impressive voice began garnering attention from labels and he signed with EMI Records Nashville.
Though he is appreciative of his cuts by other artists, Paslay says the reason he began writing songs is because he wanted to sing them for people. “I turn it on when I get on stage. I love to entertain,” says Paslay, who has opened for Dierks Bentley, Clint Black, Eric Church, Blake Shelton and Little Big Town, among others. “The songs on this record are the ones that really connect when I play them live. When I write, I’d rather there be a little bit of hope in every song, even in the sad songs. There is still hope in there. With all the negativity everywhere these days, I’d like the positive to come out. A song can give you a little boost in confidence or make you fall in love deeper or dream higher. I’m not writing and singing this stuff to be cool. I was never the cool kid. I was the kid standing in the back of the room watching.”
These days Eric Paslay has moved from the back of the room to center stage. “It’s like someone flipped a switch on and people know what I do now,” he says with a smile, “but the coolest thing is there’s always that moment that you dream of when you have a hit song and you can stop singing and the audience keeps singing it. With ‘Friday Night,’ that’s started to happen. I’ll sing ‘I want to be your…’ and I’ll point to the crowd and they’ll go ‘Friday Night!’ That’s one of those moments that every kid dreams about – singing a song and the crowd knows it so well that they sing it back to you. You get to sing it together. I’m glad I’m getting to experience that as a performer. To have a hit that radio has played so much that people are singing back to you, it’s pretty cool.”