Watch Debut Solo Video From Foxy Shazam Singer Eric Nally: Exclusive 'Ruby' Premiere

Courtesy Photo
Eric Nally, "Ruby"

Nally, who sang the hook to Macklemore's "Downtown," also talks lessons learned & hanging with Justin Bieber.

Eric Nally knows this isn't how it's supposed to work. The typical career path in rock doesn't start by fronting a high-energy Cincinnati emo/glam group best known for a singer who sometimes eats lit cigarettes onstage while telling bizarre short stories. And that round-the-way course doesn't then typically graduate to singing the instantly anthemic hook to a pop radio hit ("Downtown") by Grammy-winning hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and then touring the globe singing said hook every night during the big finish of their show.

"It's been very fun to be a part of that experience, and we’ve toured this past year all over Europe and I really experienced firsthand how things come together," Nally told Billboard about the big-time lessons he's absorbed from the multi-platinum duo. The global tour gave the singer from on-hiatus Cincy rockers Foxy Shazam lots of ideas for his upcoming debut solo EP, Madville (due later this year), as he popped up out of the stage to help the duo cap each night's extravaganza with his forceful, soulful hook.

"They close with ['Downtown'] every night, so they were able to make me feel even more special, because it’s this moment at end of show that blows it all out. During Foxy shows, I would have 90 minutes to get my energy out, but for this, I conserved it all for this one moment, which was pretty awesome," he said. 

When he wasn't onstage, Nally has been hard at work on his first solo effort after a decade of fronting Foxy, building a mysterious campaign leading up to the reveal of what he promises is an eclectic, surprising collection of songs. Billboard is debuting his first video from the project now: the film noir-ish clip for "Ruby." 

Check out the video (co-directed by the singer and Jaakko Manninen) and read our Q&A with Nally below:

The "Ruby" video definitely feels like it has your hands all over it. How involved were you in the making of the clip?

I basically do all the creative visionary. ... I write the treatment, I work hand-in-hand with the director, and both the videos we've done so far, for "Ruby" and the second one for "Believe," they were both done in a similar way.

Where did you film it and what's the concept behind "Ruby"? It feels like it has a kind of 1980s Hall & Oates/early MTV vibe with the throwback graphic and overly dramatic storyline, but it also has your signature dramatic flair.

We did "Ruby" in Los Angeles three months ago, and on the day I got there it was the storm of the century and it never really rains in L.A. The video has a dark vibe, so that added to the production value. It was a blessing in disguise. Sinkholes were happening, it felt pretty creepy. The Easter egg is that the girl in the video is my partner who I wrote the song with, Pom Pom, who is a new producer from New York who I met through my publishing team.

Is this a video where we can take the lyrics to be pretty tightly connected to the kind of cloak-and-dagger drama on the screen, or is it more abstract?

The way the lyrics come across to me is she’s struggling with this... whatever it might be in her life, it’s haunting her. In my head, I was playing the role of the song, like I was playing the song itself, which kind of haunts your mind as you're writing it. If you think about it as your career, it's always looming around until you finally get control at the end and defeat it and you're either able to control it and nail it or, in this case, she wins.

Is Pom Pom the only producer on the EP?

No, for each song we're using a different producer... but she plays most of the instruments on that song. I’m the consistent thing throughout the music, and I bring what I do and coming off the Foxy stuff -- where it was always just six guys -- it's been really fun for me to branch off and do my own thing and take from other people.

Were you intentionally going for that 1980s synth-pop vibe on the song? And does the rest of the EP have a similar feel?

I did like that synth-pop vibe for this song. But this is a very different song from every other song on the record. That's why I like how it comes together. All the songs are so different, and that's what ties them all together. I'm aiming for eight to 10 songs.

You mentioned that you've bankrolled this all yourself so far. Do you have a label deal lined up yet? It sounds like you're definitely taking some inspiration from Macklemore in putting it together on that score.

Macklemore is really inspiring in the way that they are still completely independent. To do things on that level and still have creative freedom and everything under their control is super inspiring. Spending time with them, being inside of that and how it all comes together and works, has been a really valuable thing for me, especially in taking this step in my career. We haven't decided on a label yet.

After so many years in bands, what has going solo taught you?

Sometimes when you work with a group of people, you have to make compromises. With this, I've been able to embrace my confidence more in terms of what I like and get behind myself, have faith in a way where I don't have to compromise with anyone. 

What's your favorite memory from being on tour with Macklemore?

We had just played the MTV EMAs, and I was walking through the hallways [backstage], and Justin Bieber comes up and hugs me and says, "Dude, I'm a huge fan!" It was a quick passing thing, and I thought, "That was weird." But then later that night, we went to Ed Sheeran's penthouse room at the hotel for a party, and Bieber was there and we hung out and he was super nice. I realized you just never know. I'm a big fan of his newer stuff and it would definitely be a cool thing to collaborate. He definitely seemed to know who I was and recognized me right off the bat. Ed Sheeran was really awesome too. I was trying to figure out how to open a beer, and he just grabbed a pool stick and popped off the top with the end of it.