Eric Church has become an expert at walking the fine line between country music and rock and roll. With his new album, 'The Outsiders,' Church isn't holding back -- he's pushing those boundaries as far as he can.

Church debuted the title track and first single at the 2013 CMA Awards and received a standing ovation from the crowd, despite that he was unsure how the CMA audience would react to the song. The single has since sold over 260,000 downloads.

"'The Outsiders,' the first single, is a great taste of what this album is going to be," Church tells Billboard. "We were pushing the envelope and doing things that we hadn't done, creatively and artistically."

Despite Church's wish to be an outsider, the singer is anything but. His 2011 album, 'Chief,' hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and it took home Album of the Year honors at the CMA Awards and the ACMs that year.

"It meant more to me than I thought it would," he says of the awards. "To people in rock, we were country. To people in country, we were rock. We didn't have a place that we belonged, and that was the first night I really felt like we belonged. I was proud of that and proud to be a part of the format at a really cool time."

'Chief' changed the game for Church with singles like 'Homeboy' and 'Drink in My Hand,' which was the singer's first No. 1.

"The first time I heard 'Drink in My Hand,' it was like my hair was on fire," Don Gosselin of WNOE in New Orleans tells Billboard. "I started texting everyone at EMI that it needed to be the next single. I described the song as 'the Rolling Stones meets Willie Nelson.' Eric Church has so much crazy talent that it is hard to contain him to just one format. And why should we? Great music is great music."

But Church does maintain a bad-boy rep, which may be where his feeling as an outsider stems from. In 2006, he was fired from a Rascal Flatts tour for playing too long as the opening act at Madison Square Garden. He was famously replaced with a relatively unknown Taylor Swift, a fact Swift mentioned during her acceptance of the Pinnacle Award at this year's CMAs -- the subject matter for a cryptic video released by Church earlier this week.

"He's a tough guy, but he gets a lot of his energy from that," his producer Jay Joyce says. "He's not hard to deal with. He's not an a--hole. He's just opinionated. He believes in things being a certain way and that drives him to do it the way he wants to do it. That's where he gets a lot of his creative energy from -- that 'I'll show them' [attitude]." 

'The Outsiders' is set for release on Feb. 11, 2014. It is currently available for pre-order at his website.