“I never release something going, ‘It’s going to be a big hit,'” says Eric Church of how he chooses his singles. “I try to release it for a different reason, and this is one that I think is relevant right now.”
He’s talking about “Kill a Word,” the anti-hate ballad he wrote with his guitarist Jeff Hyde and Luke Dick that appears on last year’s surprise release Mr. Misunderstood. It’s an earnest song, one that tempers Church’s badass image, as he fantasizes about excising painful remarks from life’s dictionary.
Church recently filmed a performance of his new single during his sold-out two-night stand at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. (Watch the premiere above.) But while the aim of the lyrics is to rob words like “heartbreak,” “regret” and “fear” of their power, Church’s onstage delivery is anything but meek. Instead, he spits out lines like “I’d hang ‘hate’ so that it can’t be heard” and “I’d knock out ‘temptation’s’ teeth” with aggression, juxtaposing the song’s sentiment with his own set of intimidating active words.
While not an overtly political artist, the North Carolina native and father of two boys says he was moved by the vitriolic messages of the presidential election, as well as the unrest and intolerance throughout the U.S., to release “Kill a Word” to radio.
“I would have regretted not putting out ‘Kill a Word,’ and let this season pass, not knowing if I would get a chance again where it was this relevant, this timely,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “With this song, it’s a good time to bring it to the forefront. And whatever happens with it, happens. I just think it’s time for the world to hear it.”
Last year, Church performed the song for A&E’s Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America special with Smokey Robinson, rapper-singer Aloe Blacc and vocalist Rhiannon Giddens, who also appears on the album track. Here, Church gets an assist from his touring vocalist Joanna Cotten, as his mostly acoustic band provides subdued but no less powerful accompaniment.
Prior to the Red Rocks performances, Church announced his 2017 Holdin’ My Own Tour. Kicking off in Lincoln, Nebraska, on January 13th – a Friday – the trek will hit more than 60 cities, with Church delivering two full sets of music.