Eric Church at Home in ‘Carolina’
It took a long time for Eric Church to get to 'Carolina.' Three years long, in fact. Despite industry pressure for quick success, the country singer was more focused on taking time to make the music he wanted to make for his sophomore CD. Church sat down with The Boot to talk about his new album, his new marriage and the advice that's helped mold his career.
Fans have been waiting a while for 'Carolina'! Why so much time in between projects?
I had my whole entire life to write [my first album] 'Sinners Like Me.' This record took about three years to make, so I feel like we dotted the i's and crossed the t's on this one. I wasn't ready three years ago. I probably wasn't ready a year ago. When you write every song, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to make sure the quality is where it needs to be. I can't sit down in a month and write everything on the record. It just won't be as good as it needs to be. I may not make many records in my career, but I promise when they finally get out there, it will be worth it.
'Carolina' pushes the envelope a bit in terms of style, mixing country with a little blues and rock. Did you set out to give this album a different sound?
It's really hard to pinpoint the main influence of it ... other than I'm the theme that runs through it, because I wrote all the songs. I think every record should be like that. Unless you make a concept record, it should be a glimpse of the different sides of an artist. I grew up in a very musical family, with lots of different styles of music ... and really, it's just what's in my soul.
Was it important to you to fill the album with only songs that you wrote yourself?
I've always gravitated to the singer/songwriter, and I think the fans get a little better glimpse of who you are. And it's a lot easier for me to sell it on stage. We put so much into our live show, it's just really important to me that I'm the one that writes those things.
One of the new songs, 'Lotta Boot Left to Fill,' is a pretty hard slam against singers who find fame on reality TV. Is that something you personally feel strongly against?
I'm such a fan and have such a reverence for country music -- for albums, records and for the history of it. I get a little irritated when people don't take it seriously and don't have the reverence that I have for it. Whether it's a reality show or whatever, they come by fame a different way. They have a chance to make a record, and they don't make a good record. They don't tour, and they don't treat the industry with the respect I think it needs to be treated. I've got no problem with anybody, if they make a great record. That's all I'm asking. Make a good record and be a part of what we do. And if you're not, I think it's my job as a songwriter to call you out on that.
What is the biggest difference between your new album and your first, 'Sinners Like Me'?
Part of the reason we called this record 'Carolina' is I'm from there, and I wanted this record to feel more like home. Yeah, it's got some punchier songs, some aggression and some stuff you wouldn't expect from us. It's just a more comfortable record than 'Sinners' ever was, and I think that's directly related to my wife and being married, and the chances I've had in my life.
You've been married a little over a year. How has marriage changed you?
It gives me an anchor. There's a place that's home now. Being on the road and traveling, I think that was really lacking in my life.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I got to open 30 shows with Bob Seger. I learned so much in those 30 shows. To be able to talk to him, hang out with him and to see what making great music does. Every time a Bob Seger record came out, it was truly a record. And Bob didn't have a lot of hits, but when we opened for him there were 20,000 people out there -- 40 years after some of these songs were released -- singing every line to every song. I learned that if you make great music and you're true to yourself, then everything will take care of itself.
What's the next thing you want to accomplish in your career?
It's all about growth. We're one record in, and we do really great business on the road. I'm very proud of that. Moving forward for us would be to continue to show growth across the board. Everyone will tell you they want platinum [sales] and all that stuff. I don't think about that.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Kenny Rogers said that your path to the top exactly marries your path to the bottom. That's so true. The rocket ships up, but most people ride the rocket ship down just as fast. For me it's about building it. I would be OK if we don't get what we consider the top of our career for four or five more records, because that means we get to enjoy the way down just the same way. I'm gonna do this anyway, whether you pay me or not. We are lifers and I think as long as we continue to show growth, I'll be happy no matter what that is.