Eric Church has heartache to thank for his latest Number One song. "Give Me Back My Hometown" waxes nostalgic on a city where every landmark is tarnished by memories of an ex.
"I can always find that dark spot," Church tells Rolling Stone of the real-life inspiration for the lyrics. "You can always go back to that place and pull that pain back up."
The country star co-wrote the standout track from his latest album, The Outsiders, with Luke Laird, who now has 15 chart-topping tunes to his name. The keys to the country chart's penthouse for "Hometown" came at the perfect time for the lauded songwriter, as he needed to pay off a more literal set of keys.
"Eric has a cabin in North Carolina, and he has different writers from Nashville come out for a few days at a time to write with him there," Laird recalls. "So I was going out there in my old truck, and I got to Cookeville and my transmission started breaking down. I called my wife Beth and said, 'It's time for a new truck! Will you call the dealerships in Knoxville? I want a black F150.' So I drove right into a dealership and bought a truck. And I'm not an impulsive buyer, but I went in there and bought the truck and drove it to North Carolina. As soon as I got there, I told Eric, 'We have to write a single. I just bought a new truck!'"
That they did. After Church suggested writing a song about a soldier in the Civil War, the two somehow transitioned into talking about how certain places become territorial after a breakup. "I felt like when we wrote it, it was pretty unique and clever enough to be a really good country song, yet it's pretty simple and easy to grasp," says Laird.
The co-writers were honored Tuesday afternoon with a party at Nashville's BMI offices, where they were given plaques in the shapes of their own home states (North Carolina for Church, Pennsylvania for Laird) with engraved stars marking their hometowns. Church's proud parents, wife Katherine and 2-year-old son Boone were among the partygoers who listened to the songwriters' heartfelt (and humorous) speeches. Other speakers included Beth Laird (Creative Nation), Mike Dungan (UMG Nashville), Troy Tomlinson (Sony/ATV Music Publishing), Kent Earls (Universal Music Publishing) and Arturo Buenohora, Jr. (Little Louder Music).