Eric Nally recently enjoyed a day off as he relaxed in his Cincinnati home. He would pack his bags and leave the next day for the first night of rapper Macklemore’s U.S. tour in Portland, Ore., in support of the artist’s new album Gemini.
Nally, a Toledo native known for his time as lead vocalist of Cincinnati band Foxy Shazam, had just arrived in Ohio from Australia the day before his interview with The Blade, where he and Macklemore and various other musicians performed in front of more than 80,000 people at the National Rugby League grand final’s halftime show. The performance caused controversy before the performance because Macklemore said the crowd should expect to hear his 2013 hit “Same Love,” a song about the acceptance of gay and lesbian rights, during a time when Australia is voting in a survey on the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Despite petitions against the performance and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s disapproval, Macklemore and his team performed the song anyway.
“To be able to play something and be a part of a movement and potentially effect a change throughout a whole country or continent ...” Nally said as he paused to find words. “It's a big deal over there right now with that issue and to be able to come in and do something artistically and stand for such a powerful thing ... I think I was telling Macklemore on the field while rehearsing, I was like, ‘This is literally the stuff dreams are made of. I dreamed about this when I was a kid, and here we are.’”
Nally, 31, and a father of two boys, 11 and 13, is seen riding a chariot and dancing in the streets in Macklemore’s 2015 single, “Downtown,” which peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard charts. The collaboration continues on Gemini, with Nally appearing on “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight.”
He said the song came together during the tour cycle in support of Macklemore’s This Unruly Mess I’ve Made album. Nally and Macklemore, along with the rapper’s producer and touring musician, called an Uber in Budapest and drove to a studio through “a Texas chainsaw massacre area,” joking along the way asking each other if they were going to die that night.
Jokes aside, they kept that mentality for the single, which sees Nally singing its chorus, “I ain’t gonna die tonight, you can’t kill me, not my spirit, history is ours tonight, the people are chanting, can’t you hear it?”
“There’s nothing that’s going to stop you from doing what you know you were put here on this Earth to do, and that’s the feeling I get,” Nally said. “Nothing is going to stop me; even if I die, the spirit lives on. It's something that’s so powerful it's universal, it's invincible, and that’s what fuels me when I’m alive, and that’s what’s going to keep me alive even when I’m gone.”
He’s already finished a nine-song solo album he’s calling Madville, which has no immediate release date.
He said he worked with a different producer on every song, some on the West Coast, the East Coast, and even as far as Switzerland for the album. Two songs, “Ruby” and “Believe,” see Nally chiming out his inner pop sensibility.
“I just want to make it the best I can,” he said.
But his music career started with his glam pop rock band Foxy Shazam in Cincinnati when Nally was 17 years old in high school, and “it was all I was thinking about.” As soon as he graduated the band hit the road, sharing stages with bands like The Darkness, Portugal. The Man, and Panic! At the Disco. Before its hiatus in 2014, the band existed for 10 years and made five full-length albums. It was also during that time when Nally was known to eat lit cigarettes on stage, sometimes one and other times as many as four at a time.
These days, the vocalist said it just wouldn’t be appropriate during Macklemore’s shows.
“That all came from just one night randomly on a Foxy show; someone was smoking a cigarette in the front row and I took it out of their mouth and ate it, and that was the beginning of it all,” he said. “After that people started throwing cigarettes on stage. When the adrenaline is there it's fine and great, but afterward it definitively sucks.”
Nally said he’s proud of what Foxy Shazam accomplished and it’s made him the performer he is today.
“I don’t regret anything we did,” he said. “We took all the right steps, and we built ourselves from the ground up and didn’t skip any steps or try to get what we didn’t really deserve; we took it as it came. We always tried to beat ourselves from record to record. Foxy is still a big part of my life, and I still talk to the guys all the time; we’re not by any means broken up. I still feel there’s another chapter to be told with Foxy or chapters in my life with the band.”
Nally answered an immediate “no” when asked if it scared him as a musician to perform in front of thousands of people on a daily basis after a tragedy like the recent Las Vegas shooting during country star Jason Aldean’s set.
“I can’t let fear control me like that,” he said. “I’m not gonna let that kill the one thing I feel like I can contribute to the world that would change it for the better. The beautiful thing about what I do and what I’m doing is this is what I would die for.”
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