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Eric Paslay Talks Debut Album and Getting His Start in Country Music

Eric Paslay
Courtesy of EMI Records Nashville

Texas native Eric Paslay is well on his way to a long and steady career in the country music industry. The 28-year-old’s debut single, ‘Never Really Wanted,’ hit radio airwaves in April, but Paslay has been heard loud and clear for the past several months, as he is a co-writer on Jake Owen‘s Top 10 hit ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night.’

Paslay grew up listening to the likes of Johnny Cash, Rodney Crowell, Eric Clapton, Brooks and Dunn, Tom Petty and “any artist who is also a songwriter.” Those who inspired him early on in life helped guide the young star on the rise to Music City, where he inked a record deal with EMI Records Nashville. Over the past five years, Paslay has been chipping away at songs and material for his debut album, on which he co-wrote every track. Taste of Country recently sat down with the star on the rise, and we are excited to introduce you to Eric Paslay.

Tell us about your musical journey that has led you to this point in your career.
I grew up in central Texas — in Temple, Texas — and music was kind of floating around the household a little bit. My mom’s dad was in a band with his brothers, and they played the dances and the family reunions and all that type of stuff. They were called Arnold Schiller and the Moonlight Serenaders … I might have to name my band that someday, if they’ll let me [laughs]. I started playing music when I was about 15 and started writing music about the same time. My family just supported me because my grandfather and his brothers kind of paved the road for me and made it all right to play music.

When I was 18, I graduated high school and came up here to Nashville because I heard you could actually get a degree in music business … like the songwriting, the producing and all this crazy stuff. At the time, I didn’t even know what that degree meant. I came up to Belmont. It was a great school. It was awesome. I realized I was born into the wrong family [laughs]. I went back to Texas and went to community college for a couple of years. I found out about MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) just south of Nashville. They had a great recording industry program. I ended up going to school out there, learning about the publishing side of everything and the songwriting to management and promoting shows and marketing the records, all the crazy stuff that goes in and out of getting a song on the radio and into the hands of listeners. All that kind of led to internships and volunteering for people.

My senior year I got an internship at Cal4 Entertainment, where I actually signed my first publishing deal. I’ve been there about five years now. They saw me as an artist and as a writer. We just started going into the studio every time I had a handful of songs, and we’d go in and record it for me as an artist.

What kind of music can we expect to hear on your debut album?
Hopeful. There’s a lot of hope in my songs. I’m a sucker for writing love songs, but a lot of times they’re a little more rockin’ than laid back. I’m pretty laid back, though, but I love getting on a stage and having fun. I just love music that has melody that matches the lyric. When I’m writing a song, I think to myself, “If this was the soundtrack to the movie, what would they say?” I’m a very visual kind of person. I’m just excited about the record. I’ve been in Nashville for eight years and haven’t really been able to release any music to my fans yet. It will be nice to finally get music to them. We had a total of 33 [songs] mastered when we finally signed the record deal over at EMI Records Nashville. It was a little painful narrowing it down to the 11 songs, but I’m looking forward to people hearing it.

What was the inspiration behind your current single, ‘Never Really Wanted’?
‘Never Really Wanted’ I wrote with Walt Aldridge. The night before I wrote with him, I was sitting at my house, and I just had that melody and title in my head. Those words just flowed really well. I didn’t really have anything else but that. So I showed up the next morning and said, “Hey Walt … I really don’t know what this is. It sounds cool and it sings fun … it kind of gets stuck in your head. It’s fun to sing and listen to.” We just kind of took it from there. I think every chick would love a guy to tell her that … that there’s a handful of guys in the back of her mind that she’d love for him to say that to her, not because she wants him now, but just to say “I told you so,” I think. Every guy’s guilty of not having the guts to go flirt with the girl that he sees across the room.

Will you be doing a video for the song?
Yes! We’ve been talking about it, and I’m looking forward to it very much so, taking people somewhere with the song. I think it’s going to be a really, really cool video. I’m looking forward to it.

If you could shape your career after another superstar in this business, who would you love to follow in their footsteps?
I’d just like to stick around. Some of these guys have been around forever. They have always picked great songs and have stayed true to loving music, and letting the fame and the money be the side effect of doing a great job at what you’re doing. I’m not trying to live exactly like anybody else. There’s all kinds of ups and downs in every life, I think. I’m just trying to run the race good and finish strong.

Obviously you’re having your fair share of success with ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night.’ In what ways has that song helped prepare you for life as an artist?
Oh, it’s been great! It kind of started coming out and doing really well on radio right as I was going out and got to meet everybody in radio and let them know about me as an artist. Jake’s just been awesome to me, just kind of tweeting and Facebooking [about the song]. He even stole a copy of my sampler [CD] from one of the stations out in L.A. at Go Country. His radio guy called mine and said, “Hey, y’all need to bring him another CD … Jake just stole Eric’s record” [laughs]. He’s just been very kind to me. I’m grateful that he recorded ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night,’ and it’s doing well. Hopefully it’s giving me some radio cred and they’ll be playing my song, too.

Do you have any other outside cuts coming out with other artists?
I’ve got another song coming out on the new Lady Antebellum record called ‘Friday Night.’ I’m looking forward to that coming out. I’m excited that they recorded it. Eli Young Band recorded a song I wrote with another artist from Nashville named Will Hoge called ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart.’ And if you’re out in Vegas, go see the Donny and Marie Show. I’ve got their single right now called ‘The Good Life.’ It’s wild how all these songs I’ve written, some of them are finding other artists, and they’re all coming out as I’m coming out as an artist. It’s what I’ve been hoping for for a long, long time.

Listen to Eric Paslay’s ‘Never Really Wanted’

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