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Eric Church Will ‘Grab You by the Neck’ at His Live Shows

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Known best for taking the stage in his hat and sunglasses while energizing audiences everywhere, Eric Church revealed a more serious, songwriter side when The Boot sat down with him after his CMA Songwriters Series performance in New York.

Currently on the road as part of CMT on Tour with Miranda Lambert and Josh Kelley, Eric plans to hit the studio for a follow up to his 2009 album, ‘Carolina,’ and also has a tour with Jason Aldean and Toby Keith filling up his 2011 calender. And although many songs have been written for his next project, fans shouldn’t hold their breath for an album release next year.

“It’s hard to write on the road all the time,” says Eric “I usually write down a bunch of ideas or a bunch of melodies and then I’ll take a month to write, which I just finished doing in North Carolina. I spent a month there and wrote the next record so sometime late this year or early next year we’ll start recording. I get really obsessive and probably unhealthy about the recording process just because it really gets in my head. The biggest fear of my career is releasing a record to the public that’s not the way I intended. I don’t know how long the process is going to take, but we’ll probably start next year.”

For now, he’s taking his music to the concert stage but Eric took time out to talk with The Boot about the performers who inspire him, where his mind takes him while he’s playing certain songs, and the backstage encounter with an iconic performer that interrupted a songwriting session.

What can you tell us about the new songs you’ve written? Any titles you want to share with us?

I can’t tell you the titles of them yet. I’m fearful at this point in time because there are a lot of songwriters around. There are a couple that are as good as anything that I’ve ever done, or better. There’s one that’s better than anything I’ve ever done. I’m excited about the next record to see where it goes.

Your songs are so honest. Are you ever afraid to put yourself out there?

Yeah, I’ve always been drawn to the song that everybody’s scared to write. I call it the gorilla in the room. ‘Two Pink Lines’ is that one. If you sit in a writing session and you start to think of that song, most writers would go, ‘Yeah, I know the story. I know a lot of people it’s happened to, but I don’t want to write that.’ That’s the one I want to write. It’s a little uncomfortable; it’s a little bit personal. I think that’s what moves people and that’s what most people relate to.

Is there a song that means more to you now then when it was first written?

I think ‘Carolina,’ which I loved when I wrote it. Just going out there and being on the road every night and never going home, never being there anymore, it’s very rare that every night in my mind I can go somewhere. Every night when I sing ‘Carolina,’ I am on the banks of Oak River in North Carolina where I used to hang out with my grandpa all the time. I’m there every night and I’m there every time. That’s a song that when you’re on the road, it’s somewhat of a grounding thing. For that four or five minutes I get to go be home for a little bit. That’s a cool thing that a song can do that, even after all this time.

What keeps you writing after all these years?

I just can’t get away from it. There may be people out there that can turn it off, but I cannot turn it off. I write or think about writing all the time. I see something or hear something. I heard three things tonight that I think would be a great song. When you have that, you just can’t turn that off. Even if I weren’t doing this, I’d be writing songs. I firmly believe that when I’m dead and gone, in the drawer beside my bed there will be five or six songs laying there half-written. I just think I’ll do it that long. I’ll always be working on the next song.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve come up with a song?

On stage is always weird because you see people in the crowd and something will give you an idea. Even though you’re supposed to be on stage and trying to remember lyrics, there have been times where I started writing a song. Even between songs. It’s funny when stuff like that hits you. Two times, I left the stage and went directly to get anything to record into.

Another cool place … I was on tour with Bob Seger and I was in my dressing room working on a song by myself. I was sitting there and I heard through the walls this singing. I didn’t know that Bob was next door. I walked out of my dressing room door and his door is cracked open and he’s singing ‘Night Moves’ by himself, just him and guitar. I don’t know if I ever cut the song I was working on, but every time I think about that song, I think about seeing Bob Seger sitting there playing ‘Night Moves’ by himself and I’m the only person in the world who’s looking at him. Pretty cool moment. It’s just another instance of you never know where a song’s going to happen and you never know what story you’ll relate to a song.

You’re halfway through your tour with Miranda. How’s it going?

I love Miranda. I love what she does. I’ve known her a long time. She’s like a female version of me. I’m the male version of her. We have a lot of musical interests in common. She’s somebody that believes in making records first and letting everything else revolve around that. Whereas a lot of people worry about a song, a video or an image. It’s all about music for her; the same thing for me. It’s been fun to get that kind of crowd in the room; a commonality. It’s been fun. We’ve sold out a bunch of them. I hate it’s going to end.

How do you prepare for a show?

When I go on stage for my own show, its hat and sunglasses and there’s a different edge to me. That’s just how I do it. The glasses thing is funny because I have a contact issue. When I used to play clubs, they used to bake my contacts and they’d pop out, so I started to wear sunglasses. Then it became my thing. It became something that I enjoyed and the crowd enjoyed.

What do you think about while you’re performing?

I think I’m just trying to get in the moment. The best performers, the ones I love which are Bruce Springsteen, who I think is incredible live, AC/DC, people who just feel like they’re in the moment, lost in the moment. It’s just them and the crowd. That’s what I try to find every night. Regardless of the crowd, you can always find somebody or something and then it gets going from there. For me, I always try to be involved in the song and try to get people going. I’m not a very passive artist. I don’t believe you should come here and sit … you should put your fist in the air or your beer in the air, or I’ll come out there and make you. I’ll grab you by the neck if I have to, I’ll get you up! That’s just the kind of shows that I enjoy going to and the kind of shows I enjoy playing. I don’t give them a choice.

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