Earlier this month, Eric Church released his own furniture line, the Highway to Home collection. For an artist who has made a career out of playing the badass – thumping his chest to the point of bruising onstage; releasing metal-leaning albums like 2014’s The Outsiders – the new venture felt a little. . . Martha Stewart?
Church laughs, acknowledging the WTF component to him entering the home-furnishings market.
“One of the first things that appealed to me was it was out of left field. And I love left field,” Church tells Rolling Stone Country. But the singer, who released a live video for his timely new single “Kill a Word” earlier this week, also grew up in the furniture trade. His father worked in the business and Church saw this opportunity as a way to build on that legacy.
“My dad was in furniture for 35 years. He got run out of furniture when everything went to China, went overseas. Manufacturing in the country broke down. Everything left. But this was a way to work with my dad again. It was a way to look back at where I came from,” he says. “If I didn’t do music, I’d have taken a furniture job.”
Although the Highway to Home line celebrates Church’s roots in North Carolina – once the epicenter of American furniture building – he doesn’t hide the fact that the pieces aren’t manufactured in the U.S. He says it’s reflective of such high-paying craftsman jobs leaving the country.
“You can make it here, but your dresser is going to be $5,000 and not $800. When we looked at it, with our fans, I’m not into selling high-priced furniture. It was about, ‘Can we give them great quality at the right value?'” he says. “I grew up in my dad’s company, the place he worked; I packed boxes, packed furniture. I worked there for many, many summers and the people I met were blue-collar, small-town. When you listen to [Church’s debut album Sinners Like Me], you hear about those people.”
Church prides himself on being fan-first, whether it’s putting his face on an affordable line of furniture or, more importantly, overhauling the way tickets are sold to his upcoming Holdin’ My Own Tour. In short, he has it out for scalpers and has eliminated all presales, except for one overseen by his Church Choir fan club. Members of the club – standard membership begins at $19.95 – will go through a verification process and then receive a texted link to buy pre-sale tickets. Using a new data-searching technology, scalpers will be weeded out and their orders canceled.
To Church and his team, it reinforces his commitment to the audience and the music. Which was a primary concern when meeting with furniture companies to launch Highway to Home.
“I was very honest with them. I said, ‘I’m still going to focus on music, and you guys have to do this.’ I can’t do three things,” he says, wincing at the mention of the TV spots in which the notoriously private Church appears. “But it’s been interesting to see the growth of it – and the damn commercials.”