written by: Claire Ratliff-Sears
Having a job you love is a darned good thing. Just a few moments chatting with Eric Durrance and there’s no doubt; this is a guy who feels blessed to go to work every day.The singer has been on the road as part of CMT On Tour with chart toppers, Lady Antebellum and Jason Aldean. He is riding high on the success of two singles from his debut Wind-up Records album, Angels Fly Away. “It’s been amazing,” Durrance says effusively. “Just being able to make a living doing what you love to do. It’s pretty great.” On touring with, and getting to know the other CMT On Tour artists, Durrance says, “We get to hang out, bond a little bit. They’re good people.” His admiration for his fellow artists is genuine, calling Lady Antebellum “one of the hottest bands around” and Jason Aldean “a force to be reckoned with.” About life on the road, Durrance admits that it’s fun, but staying healthy and getting enough rest is challenge. "The fans are great people. Country fans are truly the greatest fans. My band comes out to meet them with me and we try to stay until the last one leaves,” he says.“You have to nap when you can and for me, avoid the every day temptation of pepperoni pizza. That’s tough!” He starts each day with a dose of Emergen-C, a vitamin drink, calling it, “the traveling musician’s best friend.” Although Angels Fly Away marks Durrance’s Country debut, the singer/songwriter is a seasoned entertainer. He spent several years on the Wind-up Records label as part of the Christian Rock quartet, Big Dismal, which was named among “Five Christian Bands on the Rise” by Rolling Stone Magazine. Through a variety of industry connections, Durrance caught the ear of entertainment veterans, Bernard Porter and Teddy Gentry, who together head up the Nashville-based artist development firm, Porter-Gentry Productions. Porter’s resume reads like a history of entertainment and Gentry is a solid hit-maker best known as the co-founding member and bass player for super group, Alabama.
According to Porter, “Teddy Gentry does not fly, so we took the Alabama bus all the way up to New York. We listened and realized that Eric really is a Country artist.” Porter laughs as he recalls Durrance saying, “Yeah, I been telling people that all my life.”
The transition for Durrance was a natural one. Like a lot of artists before him, including the legendary Conway Twitty, Durrance started out a rocker and then found his way back to his roots. Working in the studio with producers Teddy Gentry and Mark Bright was a magic combination that produced a diverse album with, as Durrance puts it, “a lot of flavors and influences.” He refers to Gentry as “my angel” and admits to initially being intimidated by the man he so clearly admires and respects. “I needed to establish myself as a country artist and Teddy really helped me dig down in my soul to find those roots.”
Eric Durrance’s songs are lyric-driven gems bolstered by powerful acoustic melodies and delivered with the artist’s sometimes edgy, and at other times soulful, voice. He writes, as all the best do, from personal experience; stories of love and loss, joy and hope, pain and deliverance. Durrance grew up in Florida, a Southern Baptist whose parents who divorced when he was young. Eric spent a great deal of time with his grandparents, avid Country music fans. “Not a day went by,” he says with boyish charm, “when the record player wasn’t playing that good ol’ country music. I guess it gets in your blood.”
Durance is the only artist on Wind-up Nashville, (a subsidiary of Wind-up Entertainment, NYC) which has entered into a partnership with Porter-Gentry Productions. “We want sure footing with Eric before we expand the roster,” says Porter, who is enthusiastic about his flagship artist. “Eric is the epitome of a well rounded artist. He’s a songwriter, a singer and a musician. He loves it. He breathes it. He lives it. He’s what this industry is all about.”
Angels Fly Away was two years in the making. “We had to find just the right songs,” says Durrance, who has writing credits on five of the album’s cuts. He tips his hat to Bright and Gentry for their ability to recognize hit songs and for an album that is diverse, with “something for everyone.” The title cut, a heartfelt ballad delivered with Durrance’s signature passion, was the artist’s introduction to Country fans. The song has special meaning for Durrance, who lost his close friend and former manager, Dan Godwin, in a motorcycle accident in late 2007. “That song,” Durrance claims, “felt like it was heaven sent direct from Dan.”
The latest release is the rhythm driven party tune, “Turn It Off” for which the artist had a great time shooting his first music video as a solo artist. Under the creative direction of producer Ryan Smith, the video was shot in Cleveland, Tennessee. Many locals came out to participate and watch the shoot. It includes mud-bogging and tractor races at speeds of up to 70 mph, which impresses Durrance, who laughingly says, “George Jones would’ve gotten to the store a lot faster on one of those babies!”
“Turn It Off” is upbeat and fun but carries a hidden message. “It’s about not getting wrapped up in this computer, cell phone, texting age,” says Durrance. “It’s about getting back to what’s important in life, spending time with family and those we love. Turn it off and let’s hang out!”
His own favorite cut on the album?
“That would have to be ‘Letting Go,’” Durrance explains, “I was in a relationship with a girl I thought would be my wife. We’ve now split up but that song, word for word, is the story of what I was going through.” After a moment, he adds somewhat wistfully, “Sometimes, a song tells the future.” The cut is a brilliantly produced ballad with soaring vocals.
Asked about his definition of success, Durrance says, “Just keeping a job in this competitive business is my idea of success, but I’d love to have ten years of records and then maybe ease into producing. It would be nice to help others some day the way Teddy has helped me.”