If one word sums up how rising country music artist and songwriter, Eric Paslay feels these days it’s “grateful.”
After 13 years in Nashville, Paslay’s dreams are coming true. His self-titled album ERIC PASLAY has produced three hits: “Friday Night,” “Song about a Girl,” and “She Don’t Love You.” Rolling Stone magazine named “She Don’t Love You” as one of 2014’s best country songs. He has songwriting credits for number one hits performed by artists like Jake Owen (“Barefoot Blue Jean Night”), Eli Young Band (“Even If It Breaks Your Heart”) and Love and Theft (“Angel Eyes”). This month, Paslay is opening for Brad Paisley at the Virginia Tech “Country Nation College Tour” and then joining Chris Young’s “I’m Coming Over Tour.”
But this 32 year old Texas native’s attitude isn’t just from the success of his music career. His marriage to music publisher Natalie Harker earlier this year is another blessing. I recently caught up with him at Concert for a Cause, sponsored by Chattanooga radio station WUSY. Paslay performed to a sold out house to raise money for JDRF.
Why JDRF? It’s personal. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 10, Paslay jokingly said “I feel a little selfish raising money for JDRF” because he will benefit personally from the research. But all kidding aside, “If you are going to be influential, be a good influence.” He especially likes meeting kids with Type 1 and letting those who are having a hard time knowthat he has highs and lows too, but works to manage his diabetes. He hopes they trust someone who has been there. Like lyrics from a song, regarding life experience, he said, “You don’t how beautiful it was, if you weren’t there in person.” He encourages others with Type 1 to check their blood sugar. He emphasized, “you really will feel better if you test.”
Reflecting back on his diagnosis, he remembered a tee shirt he got that said “Kiss a Diabetic, It’s the only Sugar they get.” Back in the days of regular insulin and NPH, those with Type 1 were discouraged from eating things with sugar, but thankfully, better insulin and better ways to manage the disease mean that those with Type 1 diabetes can choose a more flexible diet. He said he learned early on that he could hide his “head under the pillow and think I’m fine and I’m young” and not take care of himself or “I can feel good, test my sugar and go ‘O.K., I’m going to give myself some insulin…that doesn’t suck.'”
Paslay points to his years at Texas Lions Camp and as a patient of Drs. Steven Ponder and Don Wilson as the key to his positive attitude. In fact, he hoped to follow in their footsteps: “They were such good doctors that I planned on being an endocrinologist myself up until I was about 18, when I realized I wasn’t too bad at making music. Honestly, until I realized I was crazy enough to want to do this for a living.” Paslay gave back to Texas Lions Camp this summer with a concert for campers.
At age 18, he went to college in Nashville. His advice to young adults with Type 1 diabetes heading off into the world on their own? “If you’re going to be a grown up, be grown up. Whatever that age is. Some kids have to grow up earlier than others.” He added that parents put too much blame on themselves. He said it is important for young people to take responsibility for their own actions. Personally, “I’d rather not be irritated with a high blood sugar level (when I can) test my blood and feel normalish.”
Yes, having Type 1 made Paslay grow up a bit quicker than other kids, but he keep things in perspective: “We all were given the cards we’re dealt…That’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just ‘What are you going to do with it?’ So many people blame this and they blame that. Well, we all have our burdens.”
Paslay always checks his blood sugar before going on stage. His ideal pre-show range? “I like to be 150ish before a concert. And we always have a glass of orange juice on the drum riser in case I start to get loopy.” If he is below range before the concert, he has orange juice and a granola bar or other protein.
He is amazingly grounded and offers sage advice to aspiring musicians. “Be who you are, learn from good songs and bad songs, go play writers’ rounds where the only people in the room are song writers waiting to play. You will learn from that.”
“Pop culture is hard. People are told what’s cool.” Determination and perseverance are key. “If you want to get on the radio, just never go away… and get lucky. Be prepared for things not to go as planned.”
Even though Paslay became known as a songwriter before gaining airplay as a singer, he sees that as a positive because now every night he gets “to sing 4 other #1 songs because I was a songwriter.”
Finally, don’t stop pursuing your dreams. “They call them dreams because they are hard to catch. I fish, and they don’t call it ‘catching,’ they call it ‘fishing.'”
Check Eric Paslay out at www.ericpaslay.com
*Photo provided by Ashley Weimer from WUSY radio.