He released his debut studio album, Sinners Like Me, in 2006, and the rest, as they say, history.
But even back then, he made sure that the music he put out was as high quality, and as country, as it could be in terms of mainstream appeal.
And a few years after Sinners was released, in the 2010’s, we saw the onset of bro-country take over the airwaves with songs that we all know (and hate) about beer, trucks and girls.
Now, the problem wasn’t necessarily the subject matter itself (though it did eventually completely overtake country radio and leave little room for anyone with a different experience or perspective)… it was that the lack of quality and effort that was so apparent in basically every song to the point it was almost nauseating.
But in an interview I dug up from way back in 2007, Eric was light-years ahead of his time, saying that the problem wasn’t songs about guys who like cold beer and driving a truck. He didn’t think there was enough of the right perspective on how guys like this really feel about life:
“My first album was written from a male perspective, and frankly, I think there’s not enough of that in music anymore.
There’s strong emotions, too, in the lives of guys who like cold beer and driving a truck.”
And I have to say, he was totally right.
A lot of the real, complex emotions that most men feel got watered down and translated to lyrics about backroads and staying out all night drinking, and he was one of the few who brought heavier, more meaningful concepts to his songs.
The problem is, that whole sentiment got completely twisted and distorted and morphed into bands like Florida Georgia Line (who are thankfully going through a breakup now). Which is probably why Eric didn’t get played on the radio much back then, either, but I digress…
He went on to say that he didn’t always appreciate how “neat and tidy” the genre can be at times, making cookie cutter songs that will all play well on radio and end up sounding the same:
“The downside of the format is that it’s too neat and too tidy…
You hear some of these people saying they were influenced by Kenny Chesney. Now I’ve got nothing against him, but I think songwriters ought to be curious enough to ask themselves who influenced Kenny.”
Perhaps that same line of thinking helped inspire songs like “How ‘Bout You” on his debut album, too.
Eric also noted that, no matter how imperfect the genre is or how backwards the thinking can get in terms of what music people really want to hear, he wouldn’t want to be doing anything else:
“Country is just the best format for what I like to do. I wouldn’t make it doing any other kind of music.”
You can file his whole take under the “things that aged really well” file…