Education: Ooltewah High School, Chattanooga State.
Children: Christiana, 9.
Movies: “Fast Times At Ridgemont High,” “Back To the Future,” “Braveheart.”
Book: “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Play: “Les Miserables.”
Performer: Robert De Niro.
Musicians: Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, Frank Sinatra.
Eric Heatherly has always had a special relationship with his fans. Even before the advent of social media, his fans spread the word on their favorite country/rockabilly artist.
Heatherly, who headlines Saturday night's free Riverfront Nights concert at the 21st Century Waterfront, has been performing mostly in Europe these days. He appears at clubs and festivals, attracting large crowds who appreciate seeing a Nashville musician live.
Every now and then, those crowds also include American fans.
"You'd be surprised at the people that fly over from the States," he said. "I hesitate to even put the schedule up sometimes because they will come on over. It seems a lot to ask, or expect, but they love to come."
Heatherly signed with Mercury Nashville Records in 2000 and had a Top 10 single with a remake of the Statler Brothers' hit "Flowers on the Wall." Two other songs from his debut album, "Swimming in Champagne," were Top 50 hits as well.
A casualty of some restructuring at the label, Heatherly has been touring and recording ever since.
Q: I saw where your song "Old Enough To Be Your Daddy" made it to No. 3 on the European Country Music Association charts. Are you over there much performing?
A: Oh man. That has been my bread and butter lately. I'm back over there a month after playing in Chattanooga. They wish I would locate there, but I hate to be away from my little girl.
Q: How often are you there?
A: I go three or four times a year and stay two or three weeks max. I hit as many European territories as possible. I will fly into Zurich and play in Switzerland and then go to Germany and do the big festivals there and then go to France. I try to get them to book a vacation in Italy. I do play in Italy, but I'd rather have the time off there. I love Italy.
Q: I know several local or area acts do well in Ireland, but I wasn't aware country artists did well in Switzerland or Germany.
A: One of the big reasons is the label. It's Universal, or AGR, the European side of it. All of the big country artists are on that. They do things right. When my feet hit the ground over there, I'm taken care of from that point on. It's red carpet and limos the whole time. They make life easy.
Q: It sounds like AGR does things differently than the way things are here. Are they operating under the old model or have they found something new?
A: A little of both though it's mostly the old model that still works. Radio here is so messed up. I've been putting out new music this whole time, but I can't get it played here. It's not like I haven't had new material. It's especially frustrating on the local level. They just disregard all the things you've done over the decades. The charity shows, stopping by the radio station and doing whatever is asked. Everything is done on the corporate level.
The European model is a completely different model. They may play a bluegrass song, followed by a blues song, followed by Katy Perry and then one of mine. They play whatever they want and they listen to the request line. If they play a song and the phones get blown up, they say, 'OK, we will put that into heavy rotation.' Fans can call until they are blue in the face here and it won't matter.
Q: Are you still living in Nashville?
A: I have a place in Nashville and one in California where my daughter is.
Q: Taking the business side out of the equation, has playing music changed much for you?
A: The organic part to this whole business is the instant gratification that you get from an audience right at that moment when you perform. That is the one element that the corporate people or the labels or the radio people can't take away. That is mine and always will be.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...