Eric Burgett Brings His Classical Training to Country Music

Caitlin Marie Pope
Eric Burgett

In this week's 615 Spotlight, we take a look at a singer who we found simply perfecting his art in one of the most prestigious clubs in Nashville: Eric Burgett, one of the most unique talents  you will find in Music City. His writing and performing definitely fit in with what is out there on the radio, but with his piano base, he definitely sets himself apart.

Classically trained, Burgett tells Billboard that his background and study of music have definitely played a part in shaping his musical style. "For one thing, there is the theory part of it," he says. "I've gotten more of a well-rounded sense of that, which ties in with my songwriting. I love coming up with the ideas of using some cool chord progressions to make it sound different. That has also helped me to develop my technique. Phil Vassar is one of my big inspirations," he said. "Phil is a man of many words. I love his phrasing and his melodies. I think the first tune that I heard of his was 'Little Red Rodeo,' and then 'Carlene.' I love the way he uses the storytelling aspect of what he does along with the piano." Burgett recently got a chance to open for his hero in his home base of central Illinois, at Boondock's in Springfield.

T.G. Sheppard on the Evolution of Music, Tricking Elvis & More

Musically, Burgett loves pitching a few curveballs the way of the audience. "Throwing in a solo here and there, I might break into a little bit of Beethoven-type piano in the middle of a Florida Georgia Line cover or something like that. You go from the classical stage, which is so nerve-racking, but also so rewarding, and then to the country stage, which allows you to be a little more loose."

In addition to Vassar, Burgett also cites Bruce Hornsby and Billy Joel as key influences. "I love the piano men," he admits. "Billy Joel is a mastermind of music. He actually wrote a book of classical piano pieces. I read through some of them, and they are very reminiscent of the romantic style of music, like Chopin. I respect him so much as a musician because he does everything."

One aspect of Burgett's stage show that is appealing is the weathered feel of songs such as "One Hell of a Ride." He has two of his own songs, "Nothin' Better" and "Half a Beer," available on iTunes, with more to come in 2015. Songwriting is something that is very important to him.

"I usually start with some kind of catchy riff rhythm. I might enunciate it with random syllables or something catchy. Then, I will throw a piano accompaniment underneath it, and if my co-writer is playing guitar, I might start with what he's doing, and we'll bounce ideas off each other. Melody-wise, I usually start with the chorus, and go from there. I always try to have a clear idea at the end of the first verse to lead into the chorus. I've really been inspired by some of the stuff that Cole Swindell has been writing. I love the flow of the lyrics, and want them to be meaningful, like what he has been doing."

Moving to Nashville post-graduation allowed the artist to further himself creatively. "I had graduated from a small school in Illinois, and I really wanted to further my playing. So I thought the most opportune thing would be to get a master's degree and transfer what I was doing up there to Nashville to make a living. I could also learn more about songwriting too." He graduated last week from college with his master's and plans to continue to hone his skills around town, in addition to continuing to give musical lessons. "I teach through Belmont Academy, which is the school's pre-college program. I have about 20 students through there, and I also will work as a hired-on accompanist for some of the vocal students. I also play part-time for Nashville Ballet. I started that as an undergrad, doing musical theater."

Playing the world-famous Bluebird was a big boost to his career, he says. "I auditioned there in March, and got a call back to perform in October. That was really exciting and allowed me to meet people from all over the globe. They heard my stuff, hit me up on Facebook, and wanted to share my music with their friends. That has been really cool. It's been unbelievable to see how it's developed."

One thing is for sure, according to Burgett: "You do have to be present to win. I firmly believe that in as many ways as possible. Nashville has a very deep classical scene, and then you have all the songwriting venues. I love it all," he exclaims. "I just want a life full of music."