“Fame was the least fun I ever had.” So what's Eric Church's problem?
He’s sold millions of records and filled arenas, but teenage Metallica fan-turned-country rock outsider Eric Church is spurning the mainstream
You meet all sorts of people on the road to Nashville nowadays. There’s Bret Michaels, in regulation jeans and Stetson, plugging roadhouse-ready single Girls On Bars. There’s Sebastian Bach, wheat stalk in his mouth, winning the US reality show Gone Country. Even Steven Tyler is angling for his slice of the pie, decorating new solo tracks such as Love Is Your Name with fiddle and lap steel, and declaring country “the new rock ‘n’ roll”.
It’s certainly the new money-spinner, with such heavy hitters as Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney banking north of $50 million a year. But if there are no prizes for guessing why so many rockers are moving in on Nashville, it’s harder to fathom why Eric Church is headed in the opposite direction. After 2011’s two-million-selling Chief, the 39-year-old could have capitalised with a run of albums aimed squarely at the yee-haw dollar. Instead, he’s put out two albums – 2014’s metal-tinged The Outsiders and 2015’s soul rocking Mr Misunderstood – that, if not quite burning his bridges, certainly flick a Zippo in their general direction.
“We’ve always been on the edges of country,” considers Church. “But it’s funny, because when Chief happened, we became arguably one of the biggest acts in the format. And I think we kinda pulled to the middle. I’m real uncomfortable there. To me, it’s always been about trying to get out on the edges. And to stay out there.”