This week, Sunday becomes “Friday Night” at Rochester’s Down by the Riverside concert.
The free outdoor show Sunday night is headlined by country music artist Eric Paslay, whose first No. 1 hit was “Friday Night.”
He’s the kind of up-and-coming country artist the Down by the Riverside series has successfully pulled in over its 24 years, going back to the Dixie Chicks in 1995. Also playing here just as they were getting hot were Eric Church in 2006, Jamey Johnson in 2009 and Josh Thompson in 2010.
It could be argued, of course, that Paslay is no longer on his way up — he’s already at the top. The Texas native moved to Tennessee when he enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University (where he majored in music business), had an internship at a Nashville music publishing company and, in 2006, signed his own publishing deal as a songwriter.
By then, Paslay had dozens of songs in his back pocket. He had recorded his first CD of original material at age 16 on his home computer.
“Those records will come back and haunt me someday,” he said, “but I know there are little jewels in there.”
As a Nashville songwriter, Paslay polished a few more jewels. He co-wrote “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” for Jake Owen, “Angel Eyes” for Love & Theft and “Even if it Breaks Your Heart” for the Eli Young Band. All went to No. 1 on the country charts. “Even if it Breaks Your Heart” was nominated for a Grammy.
After turning out those hits for others, Paslay decided to do the same for himself. “Friday Night,” the first single from his debut album, went straight to No. 1. “Song About a Girl,” a catchy, upbeat, tongue-in-cheek swipe at country songs, was a Top 10 hit.
And, halfway through 2015, his ballad “She Don’t Love You,” was picked by Scotty McCreery and Dustin Lynch in a Rolling Stone magazine article as one of the 10 best country songs of the year so far. “Dude can write,” Lynch said of Paslay.
Turns out he also can perform. “I turn it on when I get on stage,” Paslay said. “I love to entertain.”
Come Sunday night, he’ll do just that at Rochester’s Down by the Riverside.