Eric Paslay returns with his long awaited sophomore album Nice Guy. Released independently on his own Paso Fino Records; the former EMI Records Nashville recording artist re-recorded several songs previously turned in to the label for the 12-track project. A versatile collection of songs that spans fan favorites like the nostalgic “Wild and Young,” penned over eight years ago, to more recent ballad “Fingertips,” written for his young daughter Piper, Nice Guy offers a breadth of emotions in vivid detail that reflects on life’s everyday moments.
“I’ve been waiting for these songs to be heard for a long time,” Paslay tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone. “It feels awesome that it’s finally here. There’s been many phases of this album and now this version of it is finally coming out and it’s definitely the best version of all the songs.”
Paslay has lived a lot of life since his 2014 self-titled debut. Now a married man and a father, the songs featured on Nice Guy represent the past six years of his life. The album also provides some much needed hope for Paslay as 2020 has been a difficult year for the Nashville transplant. In March, his home was hit by a tornado that ravaged through Tennessee while all his gigs have also been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been holding up,” Paslay says. “Everybody’s figuring out the new world of all of this, but I’m glad we have music to put out and have something to look forward to. It’s been quite a year for everybody. We’re not touring, but we still can put out music and write songs for hope and for fun.”
Nice Guy was produced by Paslay, F. Reid Shippen and Tofer Brown. The standout 12-song collection features Paslay’s revered songwriting and emotion-fused vocals as he sings of the beginnings of a relationship, past love, fatherhood and loss.
“My goal as a songwriter is to write as timeless as possible where any heart and soul can relate to it,” he says of his music. “I’ve always gone in to write the best song. Becoming a dad, I’m allowed to write certain songs with an actual opinion. I don’t have to make it up anymore. I think experiences allow you to write better.”
Nice Guy spans all that life has to offer — “from the cradle to the grave,” Paslay says. The stunning “Fingertips” serves as a prayer for his one-year-old daughter while the poignant “On This Side of Heaven” has Paslay reflecting on the loss of a loved one. “Fingertips” is just one of several songs Paslay has penned for his daughter and he promises he has “a few more songs in me to write for her to let her know I love her to death.”
“Baby don’t be afraid to chase the great unknown/ Between love and God and me, you’ll never be out there alone,” he croons on “Fingertips,” which features backing vocals from his wife, Natalie. The song closes with one of his favorite lines that he wrote for his daughter when she was six months old: “Let your faith be a child in a radio flyer/ Let the light in your heart set the darkness on fire.”
“That is probably the newest song,” he says of “Fingertips,” which he penned with Rodney Clawson and Mark Holman. “We were just thinking about our kids when we were writing. It was a special song and we wrote it really quick … We have probably eight dance parties a day where she’s asking Alexa to play something. She’s amazing. Little kids are a gift and it’s fun that she likes music and can keep rhythm right now.”
While “Woman Like Her” is dedicated to his wife so is “On This Side of Heaven,” which is written from the perspective of losing a loved one. “I miss your love/ I miss your light/ Shining in the kitchen,” he sings on the latter. “It’s the thought of, ‘If I ever lost her’ or when people lose people, you just miss everyday life with somebody,” he explains.
Paslay says “Woman Like Her” is his “little kiss” to wife Natalie. “The longer I get to live life with Natalie, the more I realize how much I need her,” he says of the song which he penned with Lady A’s Charles Kelley and Laura Veltz. “The last verse says, ‘She won’t ever say it, but it ain’t hard to see/ I know I need her more than she needs me.’ That line means more every day.”
Paslay penned 11 of the 12 tracks on Nice Guy. He says his producer, Shippen, urged him to add a cover song to the project so he decided to include Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill In Ibiza.” Struck by Posner pouring his heart out on the track, Paslay says “I Took a Pill In Ibiza” is one of the saddest songs he’s ever heard.
On Paslay’s version, the singer-songwriter strips down the infectious club beat for a more acoustic vibe. Paslay’s vocals soar on “I Took a Pill In Ibiza” while delicate strings, sweeping guitars and a soft beat flesh out the confessional tune.
“It’s so much a picture of the world these days where someone is saying help and the world is partying,” Paslay reflects. “Heck, even with the pandemic, there are people dying and people are holding up their middle finger saying, ‘I’m fine. I don’t care about you.’ It’s heartbreaking to see people be so selfish. Mike Posner wrote an incredible song and a very truthful song that, I think, we all can relate to at one point or another.”
Paslay says every song featured on Nice Guy describes a different point in his life and each track is important to him in a distinct way. Having waited six years to release the project, some of the songs hold even more meaning to him now than when he first wrote them.
“All of these songs are incredibly important to me. I’ve been waiting for every single one to come out for so long. I wouldn’t have spent my own money to put these out if I didn’t really like them. There’s no filler on here,” he says. “I believe in all of these songs and [there are] all kinds of emotions and memories wrapped around [Nice Guy].”