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Eric Church Looks Inside The Outsiders

Eric Church Looks Inside
The Outsiders


Photo Credit: John Peets

By David Scarlett
© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
Eric Church has spent nearly two hours in an old church-turned-recording
studio in East Nashville, playing his new album, The Outsiders, for a
group of Nashville media reps gathered to hear his latest offering. And when the
listening session ends, the sense of satisfaction and, yes, pride that Church
exudes as he answers questions about the project is undeniable. And justified.
The album, Church’s fifth (four studio and one live), is ambitious in
its musical and lyrical scope and fearless in continuing the mission of Church
and his producer Jay Joyce to push the boundaries of Country Music. Whether by
adding a 90-second instrumental section to the end of the title cut and first
single (written by Church and Casey Beathard), cleverly reflecting the lyrics
in the melody of “Roller Coaster Ride” (Church, Jeff Hyde and Ryan Tyndell),
pulling no punches in describing a passionate reunion with his wife after a long
road trip in “Like A Wrecking Ball” (Church and Beathard) or including a powerful
three-and-a-half-minute spoken word section during what he describes as “the
trilogy” near the end of the record, the album is unpredictable.
“For this record, we did ‘A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young’ (Church
and Jeremy Spillman) first,” said Church, speaking later during a quiet moment
on his bus. “Then we did ‘The Outsiders.’ And I’m looking at these two
very different things, thinking, ‘What is this? Where are we going?’ I hate
to use the word ‘artistic,’ but it was just so damn artistic, I couldn’t
wait to see where it was going from there.”
“(The project)
is a whole entity,” producer Joyce explained. “But we’ll sit back and think,
‘What is this little family (of songs) missing?’ And we’re smart enough
to stand back and let the record reveal itself. Sure, you’ve got to show up
and do the work. But Eric came into the studio with three new tunes this time,
so you’ve got to allow for a great song at the last minute. On the last record,
I think it was ‘Springsteen’ (Church, Jeff Hyde and Ryan Tyndell) that came
in at the last minute. This time it was ‘Wrecking Ball.’”
Joyce knows to expect these last-minute arrivals because he understands
Church’s work ethic. The man and his co-writers wrote an astonishing 121 songs
in preparation for The Outsiders. Other than family time spent with his
wife Katherine and their 2-year-old son Boone, or cutting and splitting wood on
the 800 acres they own west of Nashville, writing and otherwise making music is
Church’s life — so much so that while he’s involved in suggesting and approving
marketing strategies to promote the music, he abstains from another key marketing activity: social media.
“I’ve always kept it about the music,” he said. “I’ve always
kept it about ‘this is what I’m good at.’ But it’s allowed our fans to
empower themselves. Instead of me tweeting or me getting on
Facebook, they do it. Then the next person does it and it spiderwebs. Some people
have dogged me for not being on Twitter or Facebook, but we have the same impact.
The people are doing that for us. They have a sense of ownership.”
Church’s manager, John Peets, couldn’t agree more. “We have always
come from the perspective that music is for people,” he said. “Eric has always
written and played for the people in the room. Once you release a record, the
music is theirs. We respect them and count on them to spread the word.”
Church even made consideration of his Church Choir fan base a factor in
releasing the title cut as the album’s debut single. “Could we have come first
with another song off this record that might have been a big hit? Sure. But we
didn’t, because I wanted to make a statement that that’s not what this is
about. It’s about making sure that we’re pushing boundaries and honoring where
we come from. I wanted to make sure that the people who built this foundation
hear this record and go, ‘This is the one we’ve been waiting on. This is when
they were fully in the screws,’” Church noted, using the golf term that means
hitting in the sweet spot of the club.
“I believe with any artist, there’s
that moment when you’re writing your best, singing your best and playing your
best,” he continued. “The producer’s producing his best and playing his
best. There’s that ‘in the screws’ moment. I think we started to hit it
with Chief. And I think we hit it on this one.”
“When I make
albums, I want to lay my head on the pillow 20 years from now and not regret one
thing,” he noted. “I want to have stayed true to my musical and moral compass,
because that’s what I trust, regardless of what’s popular or whether you get
rich or famous. It’s about looking back and being proud of the work you’ve left behind.
“I may be the most rock ‘n’ roll-influenced artist in the format,”
Church concluded. “I’ll admit I love to listen to Pantera. But I revere
Country Music. I don’t just do it. I revere it. And I want to make albums
to put up on the Country Music shelf with all the Country records I revere and
go, ‘This is what we did.’”

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