“Springsteen” singer and songwriter Eric Church has fashioned a career from the ground up, spitting out raw, unruly country songs to a new generation of country music fans, even before his in-your-face brand of country was hip.
Church is proud of his painstaking climb to the top: “I like to think that throughout our entire career, we’ve tried to keep everything authentic,” he told Gibson.com.
I recently had the chance to swap stories with Church, who talked about breaking out of the Nashville country-pop scene, scoring two #1 country hits and why his entire band plays Gibson guitars and bass guitars. Check out the chat, below!
For more information on Church, includes dates for his “Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour,” visit www.EricChurch.com.
When did you first pick up the guitar?
I was around 15.
What was the first guitar you ever owned?
I’m not even sure! I think it was an old Yamaha; whatever I could afford at the time. I went to a little pawnshop, and I think paid $75 for the guitar and just started trying to figure out chords. I also got a chord book! [Laughs] It was about just trying to figure it out. At the time, I was playing some songs and hearing melodies, but I had no avenue to get songs out. I just started tip-toeing into it.
When did you get your hands on your first Gibson?
My first Gibson was an older blues model Gibson I used for songwriting. It was more of a little songwriting guitar. And then, when I got my record deal, it was the first time I had ever spent a lot of time with Gibsons. I’ve never really been a loyal guitar guy. I just like guitars. I like cheap, expensive and all of them. The reason I’m now a Gibson guy and the reason I like them is the consistency. That’s why our whole band plays Gibsons. We play every night, and I’ve found a consistency with Gibson guitars that I don’t get with other guitars.
It’s cool that your whole band plays Gibsons! Was that a coincidence or planned out?
Coincidence! We all came from different areas, and those guys have been playing forever, and that’s what they’ve always played! It’s funny, when we first started playing together, we looked around and thought it was funny that we all played Gibsons. It turned out being a good thing with Gibson, too, and I’m glad we all played them already. I would never want to play something I didn’t want to play. It had to do with the fact we liked to play this thing.
You’ve played sold-out arena tours, scored two consecutive #1 country hits in “Springsteen” and “Drink in My Hand” and become one of modern country music’s biggest names. Why do you think people relate to your songs?
I like to think that throughout our entire career, we’ve tried to keep everything authentic. Sometime it’s worked, and sometimes it hasn’t, but we haven’t changed what we’ve done. We’ve had different songs at different stages, and not just regular, run-of-the-mill songs-- something different. I think being that way takes time to resonate, and people know what we do now. I think our building period took longer than other bands because we tried to do something different.
What was life like breaking out of the Nashville country scene?
It was tough, because the way Nashville is set up -- and not just Nashville, all music -- whatever is working at the time, they would rather duplicate it than try something else. When I came out, soccer moms were in, and I always joked that my mom and wife aren’t soccer moms. That isn’t what we do or write. That was first challenge. Then, the format changed and became younger and more male-driven, and we happened to be in the right place at the right time. The second generation of country has changed the demo a little bit, and I think we benefited from that.
I’ve heard the fall leg of the “Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour” features some big production elements.
Yeah, I’m old school. I try to keep that feel on our arena tours, and we never use a video screen, because one of my pet peeves is when people come to concerts and watch the screen the whole time as opposed to watching the stage. In order to keep the attention, we have to add little tricks, especially with an arena tour, so we have a multiple backdrop system. It’s not a screen; it’s actual art. It keeps it interesting and adds emotion. It’s a lot of fun to play with the production aspect of a tour, but the bottom line is the music. It still comes down to how the crown relates to the music.
Do you have any songwriting tips for our readers?
I think for being a singer-songwriter, I would say to simply be authentic. Don’t be afraid of whatever that song becomes. Let that song be the song. The true voice of a singer-songwriter has soul, heart and authenticity, and too many people rely on someone else and don’t rely on that voice. Let that voice ring true and come out, and trust it.
Photo credit: Anne Erickson