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Making Small Talk with country up and comer Eric Gress

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

“Making small talk in line about the weather outside, I’ll be glad when it starts to cools down. Seems like the world lost its damn mind. Makes you feel proud to be a part of this town.”

So begins the title track of the album Small Talk, produced by up and coming country music star and Pulaski native, Eric Gress. There are seven original songs on Small Talk, which was released in January 2017.

To make Small Talk, Gress took the money he made working his day job and recorded his album at Warrior Sound in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“I would never go to Nashville to record because they know people will pay whatever it takes to get a single cut in a Nashville studio,” Gress explained. Thanks to his versatility, Gress, himself, was able to provide all the instrumentation and vocals on his debut country album.

Gress, graduated from Pulaski County High School in 2005 and was likely inspired to get into music by his parents, Tim and Tamara Gress.

“They both played music and my grandparents played music, so it was destiny,” said Gress. “Dad used to travel around and play. Mom did less but they were always playing somewhere.”

Though he never took music in school, Gress began playing guitar and writing his own songs by age 13. Sometime in his teens, he formed a band called, Without a Fight, which played what Gress describes as a mix of pop and punk rock.

“We wrote about what we knew at the time, which was absolutely nothing but school, skating and pizza,” Gress admitted. “In Without a Fight, we played a little bit of everywhere. We played North Carolina a lot. That was a big deal for us. It was fun, I guess I kind of just grew out of it.”

In 2002, Gress began attending New River Community College and eventually graduated with a degree in Alternative Energy, which landed him a job working in natural gas. Today he is a general foreman for the New River Valley for Mastec, a natural gas company. He’s one of the guys who installs gas lines to houses. Of his day job, Gress says, “I like it. I enjoy it. I would much rather be playing music but who wouldn’t say that? ”

Gress stays busy, working four 10 hour shifts from Monday to Thursday. After work, he takes his band on the road to play gigs Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The next week, he starts all over again. Though he seeks country super stardom, Gress seems content with his current situation. “I’ve traveled all over, forever, and just always lived here because it’s a good place to live. I never really wanted to live in Nashville. I play more shows, not being in Nashville, than I ever would if I was stuck in Nashville trying to do this. I played over 90 shows last year. I’m fine with traveling and taking those all places in small doses. I’ve never really wanted to live anywhere else.”

Since forming his new band, which is called the Eric Gress band, he’s played in Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia and, of course, Virginia. Starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, Gress will be playing at New River Community College’s Edwards Hall.

“I’ve watched so many bands play there,” he said. “I saw Vince Gill play there the year before last. It’s a cool place and it’s an honor to play there.”

This coming Thursday, Sept. 13, Gress and his band will shoot a music video at Sinkland Farms Brewery while performing a concert. “The public is invited,” offers Gress. “Be in it. Hang out. Tell your friends.”

Many of Gress’ songs can be found in You Tube videos, simply by typing in his name. “I have friends that have great cameras,” Gress said. “What these guys do is sometimes they’ll record a video of me and they’ll edit it themselves but a lot of times they’ll just give me the raw footage and I’ll take it and turn it into stuff. I really enjoy that. I’m very hands on with everything I do. I do a lot of my booking. I do a lot of…most everything honestly.”

Gress says the most challenging part of what he does involves the internet. “You know how the world is now with social media. If you haven’t posted about it, you haven’t done it. I think that’s the hardest part is keeping your fans and friends on their toes about stuff you’re going to do.”

These days Gress lives in a house in town with a studio in back, where practices with his band and sometimes records music. Not all of his neighbors love this arrangement. “Some neighbors you’re never going to please, no matter what you do,” Gress confided.

He’s already written several songs for his new album. When asked what his songs are about, Gress answered, “Everything. Girls, dogs…just life. I write some stuff that may bring a tear to your eye but I also write songs that are positive and happy with a good groove and all that stuff.”

In ‘Another Song About Whiskey,’ Gress sings, “Heartbreak songs and sing alongs, nothing ever pulls me through- I know exactly what I don’t need and that’s another song about whiskey.”

Of course, lost love is a common theme for country music but so is found love. In his rollicking good time song, We Were On, Gress sings the chorus, “Higher than a satellite, brighter than city lights, hotter than the Georgia sun–Long as the county line, red as the summer skies, fast as that truck would run, we were gone, gone we were on!”

These songs are definitely catchy, something Gress puts a high value on. “If it’s catchy, then people are going to get it stuck in their heads and that’s the goal at the end of the day, to have your song stuck in someone’s head.”

The Eric Gress band consists of two guitar players, (one is Gress), a slide guitar player, bass and drums. The venues may differ in size but Gress still very much enjoys what he does.

“The best part about doing what we do is when you go to an area where you may have played once and it’s four or five hours from home and you see people singing words to your songs. That’s pretty sweet. You can take that 30 seconds where you see somebody singing something that you’ve written and that will carry you throughout the rest of the night or to that Monday. It’s the best feeling in the world”

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