Eric Paslay performed a killer set to record crowds at Cullman, Alabama’s Rock The South Festival this Friday. Through hits like “Friday Night” and “She Don’t Love You,” which was an overwhelming favorite with the crowd, and hits he’s had for other artists, such as Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Paslay’s set was engaging and commanding.
Paslay sat down with us before he took the stage to chat about having hits for other artists, his songwriting, and collaborating with Steven Tyler.
TSS: You’ve had hits both for other artists and with songs that you recorded yourself. Is it a different rush performing your own songs at a festival like Rock The South versus seeing another artist play your songs in this type of setting?
Paslay: It’s all exciting, you know? It’s kind of a miracle that anybody hears anybody’s songs ever. It’s so crazy how hard it can be. I don’t know really why it’s worked for some of my songs, and why there’s other songs that I know of that should be flying up charts but they’re not. But I’m very grateful every time I hear a song, regardless of it’s me or someone else singing it.
When you’re writing, do you have yourself in mind, or do you also write for other artists?
I just try to write a great song and then figure it out from there. Being that I’m gonna have albums coming out, I might think to myself, someone might sing that line but I wouldn’t, and I might just kind of change it without writers even knowing I’m changing it that thinking maybe I could record it. But for the most part, I just try to write great songs and the rest isn’t really up to us. I can choose what I want to sing, but [not what gets cut by other artists.]
Many writers believe that the “the song will find a way” – that the best songs will eventually get noticed. Have you found that to be true of your songs?
Not always. I’m grateful that the songs that have been hits I really do love. I definitely have a lot of great songs that no one probably will ever record, because it’s a little too deep or it might not fit exactly what doo-wops are going on right now. But the wild thing about songs is they have forever to be heard, and music goes in phases. We’re almost back to the 50’s right now, there’s a lot of doo-wops, there’s whistles on everything which is fun, I don’t mind whistles, but even guitar tones and things sound like The Temptations, and I love it. We go in these phases that are cool. I love all kinds of music so I’m glad country music accepts it all right now. I just try to keep up with the times and have fun doing it.
What are you listening to these days?
I’m listening to my album – we’re working on my album right now – listening to a bunch of different [things] to figure out what parts we want and what we don’t. I always love putting on a U2 album or a Tom Petty album or Fleetwood Mac… songs that last forever. Like, everyone’s younger brother or sister finally finds it and loves it. I always just try to remind myself to be human and the types of music that last forever in rock and roll and in country and all that to where you’re all going to the same well of what do people really want to listen to forever. I want to make sure that whenever you use those words that you feel or whatever you’re thinking of, it still has a sound that every heartbeat understands.
As country continues to change sonically, how would you define what makes a song ‘country’?
Country music’s never been country music if you look at it, I mean Hank Williams Sr. was not country, he was a straight rebel when he first came out, and his son Hank Jr. was not country, his dad was country. Willie Nelson was some hippie from Texas, he wore a suit, did a talk show. I always just try to remember that the sounds of country always change, the words and the lifestyle behind it usually don’t. I mean, even if you’re saying ‘yeah, boy’ or ‘what what’ or whatever you’re saying, the story behind it is always human, like heart and soul. Whenever people are like, this isn’t country, it’s just like well, there’s a lot of artists that are totally country that weren’t country when they were around. Everything becomes traditional. If it gets played a lot on country radio it’ll eventually be traditional country.
You wrote Steven Tyler’s debut single to country radio. How did he find the song and decide to record it?
It’s called “Love Is Your Name,” I wrote it with Lindsey Lee, I don’t know, probably three and a half, four years ago. She played it at the Bluebird Cafe – I mean, it sounds like a Hollywood story, this is crazy. He was there that night, randomly in town, through a person she works with who’s worked with Steven. So Steven was there, just a friend of a friend type of thing. He loved the song, like she called me and was like, ‘Steven Tyler loved it, he says he wants to record the song!’ Three years later he gets reminded about the song through his same buddy, and they recorded the song. I didn’t write that song with Steven, but Steven and Lindsey and I did write a song together at my place and it’s awesome too.
What is writing with Steven Tyler like?
It’s amazing. Steven’s awesome. He’s so talented, he’s so insanely good… it’s mind-blowing how great he is. It is wild, like the best singers, the older we get you understand how to use your instrument even better as long as you haven’t blown it out, and I’m grateful that Steven’s still rocking, he’s just so good. It was a good hang.