By Annie Reuter
Eric Paslay moved to Nashville over a decade ago with the sole purpose to sing his own songs. While life didn’t exactly unfold the way he’d planned, he doesn’t regret a second of it.
Before recording on his own, Paslay initially found success writings songs for others. Big success — three No. 1 hits and even a GRAMMY nod. Among the songs Paslay has written or cowritten are Jake Owen‘s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Love and Theft‘s “Angel Eyes” and the Eli Young Band‘s GRAMMY- and ACM-nominated “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.”
Now Paslay has recorded an album of his songs entirely under his own name, and his self-titled debut is due in stores next Tuesday (Feb. 4). On top of that, one of the songs, “Friday Night,” has been steadily climbing the country charts for weeks, and it’s currently sitting comfortably in the Top 5.
“I wrote ‘Friday Night’ with Rob Crosby and Rose Falcon,” Paslay told Radio.com. “It came out pretty quick. I remember mumbling out ‘Friday night.’ We had the melody and everything going. When we finally figured out, ‘How cool would it be to be somebody’s Friday night?’ we were off to the races with lyrics. It was a lot of fun writing it.”
Country fans may recall that the track initially appeared on Lady Antebellum‘s 2011 release, Own the Night.
“The wild thing is,” Paslay continued, “the way we recorded the work tape, Rose in a way was singing Hillary Scott’s [of Lady Antebellum] part, I was singing Charles’ [Kelley] part and Rob was singing Dave’s [Haywood] part, so it just sounded perfect for Lady Antebellum.”
At the time, Lady A was recording their album Own the Night, so Paslay and his pals sent the song over to them. “Friday Night” wound up earning a spot on Own the Night, and it was even set to be a single, though in the end it was never released as such.
Paslay doesn’t take offense, though (“It just wasn’t meant to be”). Even better, he explained, “someone had the great idea for me to sing the song. I was already singing it live, but we recorded it, gave it to radio and now it’s a hit, so that’s pretty cool.”
When Paslay went into the studio to record his own version of the song, he and his producer, Marshall Altman, tried their best to forget Lady A’s version and put their own spin on the song, with banjo and unique beats. This is something Paslay, in fact, has done with several of the tracks on the album that were originally recorded by other artists, including “Deep As It Is Wide” by Amy Grant and “Less Than Whole,” which he wrote with Big Kenny of Big & Rich.
“A lot of times when people talk about the other No. 1s I’ve had, they’re always like, ‘Man, stop giving away all of your hits!'” he said. “‘Deep As It Is Wide’ was one of the songs that I kept very close to my chest. A lot of people in town wanted to record it, but I was like, ‘I’ve got to be a part of this.’
I had written it by myself, and Amy Grant came to me and said, ‘My album is coming out and I’d love to cut “Deep As It Is Wide.” How about if I and you and Sheryl Crow sing it together?’ There’s no way I’m going to turn that down. My life has been filled with their music for a long time.”
As for cutting his other No. 1 hits, including GRAMMY-nominated “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (which he wrote with Will Hoge), Paslay isn’t sure if they’ll ever be on his future releases. But, they will make their way into every live show he plays.
“There’s a famous producer,” said Paslay, who “told his daughter before she got in the business that this business can break your heart every day if you let it. Songs don’t always get heard just because they’re the best. That’s hard when you’re writing great songs and putting your soul into it. I didn’t have a record deal yet when we wrote ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart.’ I hadn’t had a song recorded by anybody yet. It was that thought, ‘Don’t give up on the dream, even if it breaks your heart.’ It’s good to sing that song and remind yourself why you’re doing it.”
“My goal is always to write a great song,” he added. “I’ve learned that a hit is not a hit unless people hear it. If you stop swinging the bat, you can’t hit a home run. Sometimes you hit a home run and people don’t see, and that’s alright. You just have to keep getting back up to the plate.”