In recalling his first radio tour from 2011, Eric Paslay admitted that he was just a little bit nervous. “I would go in and play at what I would call the cubicles. I always thought that if the song sounded great in here, it would sound even better on the radio. Everyone told me that you get to go out and meet a lot of people at radio that are going to be your friends for a long time, but [radio adding your record] might not happen right away. I knew that, but I was in it for the long haul. I remember going out and having so much excitement and butterflies — thinking, ‘I hope I play my song right so they will add my record.’ But, being in the industry, you realize that it’s not just the one time, it’s the many times.”
As it has turned out, radio has played Paslay numerous times since then. His past three singles have all made the top 40 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, with 2013’s “Friday Night” making it all the way to No. 2. Success with that single, as well as follow-ups “Song About a Girl” and “She Don’t Love You,” have made him a favorite of programmers, who voted him onto the New Faces Show, held Friday night at the Country Radio Seminar.
The native Texan says he is grateful for the support. “I’m totally honored that they wanted me to come and play it this year. It seems like there’s always an artist that has come out of nowhere that is getting to play it, but Sam‘s been in Nashville a good while writing, Maddie and Tae have been in town a while, and Cole, Frankie and I have been out rocking for awhile. I think that it’s a giant step for all of us — getting to play it, knowing that radio might want you to stick around. There are so many great artists and talented people out there with really great songs and there is no exact rhyme or reason as to why they either did or didn’t make it. But I’m glad I’m out on the road tonight playing a gig because of radio playing my songs,” he said.
Paslay has fond memories of the first time he heard his song on the radio. “We were in Tampa, Florida, going over the long bridge there, and Jay Roberts at WQYK played it — right after a Kenny Chesney song. That’s a memory I’ll never forget.” There were others who were a huge part of Eric’s story. “Travis Moon was the very first person to add my record at KAJA in San Antonio, and that meant a lot, being from there. He and Bree Wagner believed in me from the start. There have been so many, and I’m simply grateful for each of them.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Paslay had several other hits to talk about. As a writer, he has scored with such chart-toppers as “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” from the Eli Young Band and “Angel Eyes” by Love and Theft. “I think it broke the ice, for sure,” he says. “I signed the record deal with EMI Nashville in February, and it was March or April when Jake Owen released ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night.’ A lot of people think I had hits as a writer and then I signed a record deal. Actually, I had a deal before radio played any of my songs. I was just grateful that radio was playing my songs so I could upgrade to Kroger soup — and get off the ramen for a while,” he said, smiling.
He admits that having the early success as a songwriter, but not as an artist, was a bit stifling. “It was frustrating at the beginning because I had all these hits and I had a record deal, but they weren’t playing me. Then I began to understand that there’s a lot of people who have been there before you, and there’s a slot that isn’t available — but there’s a lot of people who would love to have it. I think the songwriting success has been amazing, because I get to go out and play four other No. 1s a night, thanks to country radio. I’m glad it happened the way it did, because I’m still getting to make music.”
And he hopes to make some musical memories at Friday night’s gala — beginning with a pre-performance video that pokes a little fun at his career climb. “The video is quite entertaining,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to going out and seeing all the faces that gave me my start. It’s an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve been up tp the last 15 years of my life, and because of radio, I’ve gotten to do it the last four years as a professional.’ I’m just grateful that for some reason, people in radio love the songs, and I’ve gotten to know them as friends, and we get to catch up every time I go to play in their town. I appreciate their friendship so much.”