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Interview: Eric Paslay on new single Heartbeat Higher and touring the UK

The country singer-songwriter will release his latest single on Friday 8th May.

Eric Paslay
Credit: Rachel Deeb

Originally from Texas, Eric Paslay has become known as one of the most prolific singer-songwriters in Nashville.

As well as his own Top 15 songs including She Don’t Love You, Song About A Girl and Friday Night, he’s crafted hits for the likes of Jake Owen, Eli Young Band and Rascal Flatts. He’s also a regular visitor to the UK – most recently during Country Music Week last year – and is due to return this autumn for the fifth time, supporting The Shires on their upcoming tour.

As he prepares to release his brand new single, Heartbeat Higher featuring Sarah Buxton (who also co-wrote the track), I caught up with Eric to talk about the song, what to expect from his next trip to the UK and how he’s staying busy during lockdown.

The last time we spoke you were over in the UK for the Long Road Festival and then your Nice Guy Tour. What have you been up to since then?

Just working on new music, and sorting through what’s left over after the storm we had in Nashville last month. I’m not touring right now but getting to do a lot of shows online and writing online and all kinds of stuff. I think everyone’s figuring out a lot of new things, all the conference calls on your computer and everything. But it’s been a fun, interesting time. It’s been nice to just be home hanging out with the family. And yeah, rebuilding fences, replanting all kinds of trees that came down and trying to regrow good things.

Your new single Heartbeat Higher comes out this week – can you tell us more about it?

Yeah. It’s a song I wrote with Sarah Buxton. She is an incredible singer and writer, just a friend of mine, and it’s just a dream come true to put a song out with her. We wrote it with another guy here in Nashville named Zach Crowell, and wrote it a few years ago and ever since I’ve written it I’ve been trying to put it out and we cut a great recording of it. It’s the first song from this new project and it’s finally here. We’re finally getting to share it and I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled about it and I can’t wait for everybody to hear it.

Did you always know it would be a duet? Or was that something that came out of the process of writing and recording the song?

No, from the day we wrote it it just worked out as a duet really well. And it’s always been Sarah singing on it. It’s one of those songs where you get the demo back, you get the first recording of it back and drive round in your car. I probably listened to it 10 times in a row every day for a week [laughs] when we first wrote it, going, “This is really good, we should do something with this”. And nothing moves fast typically in the music business. But it’s perfect timing. We’re getting to put it out now and I’m thrilled about it. But yeah, when you hear Sarah sing you’ll go, ‘who is that? She is so good’.

One interesting fact about it, a lot of people don’t realise this, most of the time when you’re in the studio the band plays, the singer might be singing with them as a scratch vocal, just to make sure we know where we’re at. And then you go back in the studio weeks later, months later, whatever, record it five, six, seven times and then they cut it up into pieces and they take the best performance of each line and that’s what you get. Like that is 95 to 100 per cent of the time, that’s how the vocal is done in the studio in almost any genre. I do that a lot, and almost everyone that you love does. And it sounds like it’s live and it’s the first one take. I’m probably getting behind the curtain a little too much right now.

But the coolest thing about this recording, the vocal you hear of Sarah and I was done live with the band, while we recorded the track, and she and I loved it. It was just one of those moments of, “We just nailed that. Oh my God. We don’t have to sing it again, this is great!” [laughs] Like it should be done. But it was a really great feeling and I will never forget when we recorded this song and when we recorded the album. But it’s quite amazing and you’ll love Sarah on it and you can hear us having fun and having energy on it.

The song is a slight departure from some of your previous work. Is this the direction you’re looking to go in with your new music?

I don’t know. I’m a moody guy, I think. I don’t typically do the same song every time because not every day is the same, you know? [laughs] Hopefully not every date is the same either. When you go on a date with somebody you want it to be fun the first time, fun the second time and then you might tell them something deeper the third and fourth time. But you know, it definitely reflects a part of who I am. The whole album doesn’t sound exactly the same. I hate albums that all sound exactly the same [laughs]. I wanna be taken on an adventure. I wanna go on a road trip with you and hopefully I’ll take everybody on a great road trip and we’ll make some good memories together with this music.

You mentioned it’s been a while since you wrote Heartbeat Higher. Do you feel your approach to your songwriting has changed since then?

No, I think a songwriter phrase is ‘write what’s in the room’, and that means to show up with an open mind, an open heart. And if somebody says a line or starts playing music just go with that. You kind of see your other cowriter, or if it’s just yourself writing you feel yourself light up and you go, “what is this? I am intrigued to tell this story or even figure out what this story is, or what this melody is”. And I tend to always write like that. I might have an idea or I might have a melody showing up, but typically I just try to write what wants to be written that day. And that sounds so bizarre but I think it’s more proof that being able to write songs is a gift. That’s me not going, “Look at me, I can write songs”. It’s realising that it’s a gift and being able to use it well and have fun with it and share it with people.

But I think over the last few years of touring more and all that I haven’t had as much time to write, so I definitely pay attention to the lyrics a little more. If it’s a line I would never say, then I might rewrite it if I really love the song, or if I know that the song fits me. If it’s a line I wouldn’t say and realise that the song doesn’t fit me but would fit one of my buddies really well, then I’ll keep that line in there. But there was a time where ‘d just write the line if it was a cool line and wasn’t aware if I would actually sing it or not. That’s just what I’d do. But occasionally I’ll rewrite the line if I think I might record it.

You mentioned earlier about moving to online and live-streamed performances recently. Has that been a challenge for you to adapt to that compared to a ‘normal’ show?

You know, it’s kind of amazing. You don’t have to wear any pants, no-one can see your pants ’cause you’re on a phone call on the computer. It’s great [laughs]. But no, it’s been fun. I’ve been writing a bunch of songs online and playing the shows, and I’ve got a whole bunch of shows lined up. It really is amazing to think people can just sit wherever they wanna sit and watch a live show from their phone or computer. It is kind of amazing. I think we have a whole new way of creating music.

And thinking about when I’m over there in the UK, there’s some writers I love writing with. It’s always like, “man, I’ll be there in a year, we’ll write then”, and now it’s worth realising, “oh, we can write right now”. There’s something cool with that. Some of the people I’ve talked to think it’s a little odd if you don’t know the person and you’re writing with them on Zoom, but I love making new friends [laughs]. It’s fun. But yeah, I think everyone’s adapting to the whole new world of working online. It’s cool, but it’ll be nice to sit back down at a desk and a chair and hang out with people and actually share some coffee together.

You’re hopefully going to be coming back to the UK to tour with The Shires in the autumn. What can people coming to those shows expect?

I think if we’re allowed to do The Shires tour in October which hopefully that’ll happen – hopefully everybody’ll do the right thing and this pandemic will die down. But yeah, it’s so cliché. “It’s gonna be a fun great time, great music!” But I know inside of me I am just waiting to come out and tour. Especially having all this new music. I can’t wait. And hopefully by that tour my whole project will be out, so I’ll have however many – I won’t tell you yet. “There’s 38 songs!” [laughs] But we’ll have a whole lot of new songs and everyone will have time to actually learn them, so we’ll get to sing them together.

But I am thrilled about that. And Chrissie and Ben are just amazingly nice, kind people. And they’re so good. The Shires are just so good. It’s been a dream of mine to tour that many shows, just in the UK alone. It’s amazing. I mean the pandemic, it’s happening to everyone but the biggest bummer to me was that The Shires tour got moved and I was afraid it was just gonna be cancelled all the way. So I’m glad that we got it rescheduled and I’m still able to do it.

And I cannot wait to come back over. I love it over there. I love it here in the States too but man, I love y’all and I really love touring over there. I’m really looking forward to travelling to cities I’ve never seen before for the first time, and hopefully the first of many shows through the rest of my career.

Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing on that tour?

Like every town is Disneyworld to me. Disneyworld just tries to look old, so it’s just copying what you already have [laughs]. I just love all the old buildings and the architecture and that you didn’t tear it down. You think of all the souls and the cool memories made, and the venues that we’re going to be playing. And then the towns, just all the history. There’s darkness but there’s also a lot of light. And every town we’re playing, I can’t wait to go walk the streets and hang out and eat some food and have a pint and some coffee and play some music. I just love everything about touring over in the UK. I soak it up and try to remember it as best I can [laughs].

You’ve mentioned the new project a couple of times – can you give us any more clues about that? When might it be coming out?

Hey, you’ve guessed well! There might be an EP, there might be an album. But yeah, we’ll be releasing songs throughout the summer. They’re in the queue, they’re waiting to be heard. We’ve been working on a lot of things with this music. And on Friday also the song comes out and the music video comes out. So if you’ve travelled round Europe you might see a little bit of Europe in there. Just really, really excited that music is coming out and excited that Heartbeat Higher is the first song to come out. I have family members that have known my music for forever who are just like, “we love your song so much! My gosh, when that choir thing hits, that’s amazing!” [laughs] It’s fun when people that know your music for forever get excited, which they’re always excited, but it’s exciting.

Eric Paslay’s new song, Heartbeat Higher (featuring Sarah Buxton), will be released on Friday 8th May.

See Eric live on tour in the UK this autumn with The Shires:

October 21 – Corn Exchange, Bedford, England
October 26 – Academy, Bristol, England
October 27 – Princess Theatre, Torquay, England
October 29 – Brighton Dome, Brighton, England
October 30 – Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, England
November 1 – Barbican, York, England
November 2 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England
November 3 – Sands Centre, Carlisle, England
November 4 – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England
November 6 – St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Wales
November 9 – Regent Theatre, Ipswich, England
November 10 – Aberyswyth Arts Centre, Aberyswyth, Wales
November 12 – Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone, England
November 13 – Royal Centre, Nottingham, England
November 15 – The Palladium, London, England
November 16 – Pavilion, Weymouth, England
November 17 – The Anvil, Basingstoke, England
November 19 – Engine Shed, Lincoln, England
November 21 – G Live, Guildford, England
November 24 – New Theatre, Oxford, England
November 25 – Victoria Hall, Stoke, England
November 30 – Sage, Gateshead, England
December 1 – Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, Scotland
December 2 – Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Scotland
December 7 – Corn Exchange, Cambridge, England

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