Eric Church will launch his Holdin’ My Own Tour in January, a sprawling trek that will take him from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and consume much of the CMA Award winner’s time. Earlier this fall, with his signature shades dangling around his neck, Church joined Rolling Stone Country at midtown Manhattan’s Warwick Hotel bar for a rare bit of time off to talk about his poignant single “Kill a Word,” the challenges of making it in Nashville and his preferred way to get stoned. Here’s 10 things we learned from our time with the Chief, who just released the EP Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks Live & (Mostly) Unplugged.
Church views “Kill a Word” as his most socially resonant song.
“I listen to all the rhetoric, regardless of what your views are, and it always surprises me that we haven’t figured out that we have to all live with each other – we can’t kill each other. We just have to tone it down with all of these things. That’s where the ‘Kill a Word’ part comes in that’s in the song too, the ‘sticks and stones’ [bit]. I happen to believe that over time, words are as hurtful and more hurtful than anything physically. From a life lesson standpoint, that’s important to me. And one I wished I learned as a younger, rowdier guy.”
When it comes to Nashville success, there’s no such thing as “making it.”
“In Nashville, there’s people everyday getting off a bus and trying to make it. I think for me it’s always been this way: I very easily could have never had any success at this and I’d still be doing this. Whatever job I worked, I’d come home and grab a guitar and write a song or play a song or play a gig at night. If you’re doing it for the love of it, who cares about the rest? And I think the one thing too many people get caught up on is, ‘Did I make it?’’ or ‘How do I make it?’ I would question, ‘Well, what’s making it?’ If you do what you love everyday, that’s making it.”
The “I’m Gettin’ Stoned” singer prefers edibles to smoking pot, which is too harsh on his voice. Still, he draws the line at getting high before a show.
“I gotta remember the lyrics! I don’t have a teleprompter. I’m worse on a teleprompter, because I end up reading and if I look away because I’m trying to interact [with the crowd], it’s over. One of the hardest songs lyrically I’ve ever had is ‘Kill a Word’ – it’s not linear, it’s not a story thing, it’s a lot of wordplay. It’s hard to go out there and do it, and I just refuse [to read] the lyrics.”
The Man in Black would be his ideal drinking partner.
“Musically, it would be Johnny Cash. I never got to meet him and I have a number of things I’d love to talk to him about. And then my grandfather. He died when I was 14, 15, so I think he would be interesting now at this point of my career and life to go back and have a beer with.”
Church isn’t wild about the explosive growth of Nashville as a city.
“It makes me sad. We have to be sure to take care of the culture. What made Nashville ‘Music City’ and makes it a cool place is the music and the history. And I think one thing we’re doing now, at least the growth and the money part of it, is tearing down a lot of those things that are what brought people to Nashville in the first place. My favorite bar was the Fiddle and Steel Guitar Bar in Printer’s Alley. It was a little dive and where I started out in Nashville; and they just tore it down and put up a hotel.”
The husband and father of two boys will saddle up to spend time with his wife, Katherine.
“My wife loves horses, so sometimes I’ll get on a horse and go riding with her. I am not a horse person, but I’ll do it just to be with her for a little bit … She stays with me on the road. With kids, it’s hard, but we just try to find a quiet spot together, somewhere, sometime, and that’s usually enough.”
Church’s new knife has some serious bite.
“I just went gator hunting in Louisiana. The guy I went with made an alligator jawbone knife out of the alligator’s jaw and it uses teeth for the handle. It’s serious.”
He thinks the sexiest drink a woman can order in a bar is…
“Beer. [But it] has to be in a bottle.”
If you’re making him a Bloody Mary, leave the garden out of the glass.
“Just make a Bloody Mary hot. I don’t get into all that [toppings stuff]. I just want it really, really, really spicy.”
And never, ever talk about three specific things when at the bar.
“Politics, religion or ex-boyfriends. Or ex-husbands. Any one of those things are bad.”