In the UK Country Music Week has presented itself, along with the Country 2 Country Festival, as another great opportunity for European fans to catch a glimpse of Nashville’s finest. This October Eric Paslay adds his name to the growing list of country stars visiting the UK when he heads out on a CMA Songwriters tour. We caught up with Eric before the tour kicked off for a chat…
Welcome to the UK Eric. How has your trip been so far?
It’s been good – I think I’m on the right clock now! I basically didn’t sleep for 48 hours and I finally slept last night so when I woke up I felt like I actually slept for a minute! That’s just life on the road! Where are we today?!
We should probably start by acknowledging the awful events that took place in Las Vegas last night. As a performer and part of the country music community how does it make you feel seeing things like this happen?
It’s insane. It’s incredibly disturbing, heartbreaking and completely crazy. Everyone that played the show last night I know all of them. I’m just thinking about the fans and I’m sure that I’ve shaken hands and taken pictures with people who were shot. It’s kind of like, as Obama said once, don’t become a monster to defeat a monster. If you want to be angry and upset I think to mourn and feel like that is OK but don’t become a monster to defeat a monster. That’s an interesting stance but that being said I wish bad guys didn’t have guns – I wish guns didn’t exist! The sad thing is that bad guys have guns and that’s the kind of world that we’re living in and it definitely hits home harder being that I am a country music fan and I could have very very easily been at that festival. I play a lot of those festivals every year. It’s just really sad. I’m heartbroken for everybody involved. Heartbroken for the world when anything like that happens.
Do these types of incidents affect your approach to performing or worry you at shows or is it more of a case of trying to carry on as normal and not let these people change our lives?
I think it’s… well like you say here in Europe ‘keep calm and carry on’. I think it’s just keep calm and move on.
Moving on to your trip. Is this your first time over here in the UK?
It is my first time in the UK! I’ve been to Ireland before so I’ve half been here – I’ve dipped my toe in the water! I was in Ireland a number of years a go with a buddy of mine who’s from Dublin so I got to kind of see it as an Irish guy – I just kind of didn’t talk a lot so everybody thought I was from there! I’m the giant leprechaun at six foot four with the giant red beard! I fit in just right in Ireland! The honest truth is that I never fit in anywhere and it’s great. I just hang out and have fun! I love it here so far. My wife and I kind of walked round the park yesterday evening and I got some food and all that good stuff. Getting to talk to you and meet everybody for the first time and play some shows is just great.
How excited are you to play your music to different crowds?
I’m always excited to play. Every show you really have to remember that it’s such a blessing and a cool gift to play these songs. I get to play shows almost every night that I want to in the States and to get to come here and play for die-hard country music fans in the UK is just awesome! Everyone keeps saying that people are going to be really quiet looking at me and asking how I’ll feel – I feel great! This is wonderful! I cut my teeth in Nashville playing these same shows where you’re playing new music so its not famous but people are all on the edge of their seats wanting to hear what the song is about. It’ll be really cool to be in these intimate cool shows with some of my friends and live and vulnerable.
The shows that you’re doing are part of a CMA songwriters tour. It seems like a great way to introduce yourself and your music to a new place…
It really is the perfect way to be introduced to the crowd because I’m a songwriter. I also thought all singers write songs so I’m grateful that other people sing and record them too! It really is the perfect way to be introduced. It’s better to get to know somebody over a quiet cup of tea or a pint as opposed to in a bar that’s blazing loud and you might not understand what they’re saying.
Do you have any expectations from crowds over here from what other artists have told you or is it all completely unknown?
My only expectation is that I know it’ll be a blast. For years in the States I’ve had a lot of people from the UK come up and ask when I’m going to come over so I’m thrilled that it’s finally here! I’ve done many interviews over in Nashville talking to people over here and they keep asking “when are you coming?!” and I’m thrilled to finally be over here. I hundred thousand per cent want to come back and keep playing over here!
Are you much of a fan of English music? The tour goes through Liverpool, which is, of course, the home of The Beatles. Will you be exploring a little?
Absolutely I will! It really is wild how much European music and UK music has influenced me. One of the first songs that I learned was ‘Tears in Heaven’ by Eric Clapton and that ‘Unplugged’ album is just mind-blowing. Coldplay, dear Lord, I know there’s certain artists who are so overplayed but it’s because they’re great like Coldplay, U2, even some Imogen Heap I’m like “heck yeah!”. My walk on music is actually Muse! This is just cool sounding music and great music is great music. There is so much great songwriting. The Stones were so influenced by the blues and all of that comes from Memphis and the south of America it’s just so cool. It’s really neat how we have this cool musical relationship where we feed each other and remind each other of great music! I’m really interested to see how I’m received over here because a lot of my roots are in country music but also influenced by UK music.
Moving on to your music a little. You’ve recently come back with the singles ‘High Class’ and ‘Angels in this Town’ which have been well received. Was it a daunting prospect following up your debut record that spawned a platinum and a gold single as well as an ACM nomination?
I think it’s just have fun making great music. I actually am still working on new music and just recorded the vocals the day before I flew over here so hopefully while I’m here I’ll start getting some mixes from the new music so hopefully early next year we’ll have a new song out and hopefully that means the album will follow soon.
We understand the next album will be titled ‘Dressed in Black’. Tell us a little bit about this record – what can we expect in comparison to the debut album?
I think it’s wanting to change its colour! I don’t know what it wants to be called now! What I’ve learned through this process is never ever title an album before it’s done! It just wasn’t quite done so we’re still working on it and I have no clue what it’s going to be titled yet I’m going to wait for the mixes to come in then figure out what it wants to be called. I think you kind of have to wait for the baby to be born before you I name it! It really confused people and upset everyone! It is funny though – I don’t even wear logo on my hat or a shirt because I don’t like people to judge me before they know me. It’s like what do I name this? Am I just generic and put a one at the bottom? Number two – actually that’s a bad name! “Number two? Smells like it too!”
Do you feel that these first two singles are a good flavour of what will be on the record?
It’s just kind of gone back to the roots from that. ‘High Class’ is kind of a fun record. I thought “you know what I’ve just broken everybody’s heart with ‘She Don’t Love You’ I’ll give them an entertaining song now and really freak everyone out!” and I think I did both of those. Hopefully all of my die hard fans know that I’m still very capable of writing a slow ballad and also a song that’ll get your feet tapping and girls dancing closer than they probably should!
Moving back to touring over here in Europe. Has it always been a place that you’ve wanted to visit?
Always! I can’t believe it’s taken so long to finally get here but I’m glad we’re here now and having a blast! I’m ready to finally share some music with everybody here!
How aware are artists in America at the moment about the growing country music scene over here in the UK?
For years and years I’ve had people from the UK come up and ask me when I’m coming to play so I’m really grateful that we’re finally here. I’ve known that the scene has been growing and growing like crazy for years so I’m grateful that we’re finally here! Sorry it took so long!
Obviously you’re playing a big part in the first ever ‘Country Music Week’ in the UK. It must be exciting to be an American act spearheading such a thing thousands of miles away from home?
Oh I love it! When the CMA asked me to do it I was thrilled to death so you can thank them for having me over and including me first!
Do you hope to keep coming back in the future and maybe play some solo shows?
I’d love to! It sounds like they already have C2C booked up dang it! I wanted to come this year so maybe we’ll have to wait – or maybe they’ll just sneak us in I don’t know!
Is there anything particularly British, it could be completely trivial, that you’re looking forward to experiencing?
This is not trivial at all! I just found out a couple of days a go that I’m actually going to get to write in Abbey Road studios! That will be amazing and I hope we catch some great songs in there! I don’t even know what to write. I almost don’t want to come up with ideas but then I do in case I completely suck that day! I’m super looking forward to that! I’m super looking forward to hanging out and playing all of the shows too though! Everything about this trip is just a first and awesome and fun and I can’t wait to come back!