Eric Church Interview: Star Talks Loyalty of Country Fans, Next Album + More at Lollapalooza
There are many different types of people to be found at Lollapalooza in Chicago. The music festival attendees range from hipsters to hippies, hip-hop heads to EDM fans. One genre that’s never had a strong presence? Country music.
Granite Falls, N.C. native Eric Church is one of the few country acts to have graced the stage at the three-day event. Taste of Country caught up with the ‘Springsteen’ singer to chat about country fans, the progress of his new record and more.
Church’s third studio album, ‘Chief,’ has had a long shelf life since its 2011 release, winning the ACM Album of the Year award back in April. Despite his bad boy image, the singer always appears humble, but never complacent. He seemed more grateful meeting award presenter and country legend John Fogerty than getting his actual award. That low-key attitude was beyond evident when we talked to Church at Lolla.
ToC: This is the second time in four years that you’ve been invited to play at Lollapalooza. Describe the experience of playing at a non-country music festival.
Eric Church: I dig it, man. We played at Orion Music and More too, Metallica’s thing last year. I love the multi-genre thing. There’s a lot of stuff here today that I’m even going to discover. I love the fact you can come to something like this and remove the barriers to what genres are. I think that’s where music is going, anyway. In the digital age we’re in now, with satellite radio and Pandora and stuff like that, it’s not about, “I listen to this kind of music.” It’s about, “I listen to good music and bad music.”
You’re also scheduled to perform at the Austin City Limits festival in October, another event not always known for big country acts. Can you tell looking at the crowd that some people are seeing you for the very first time?
Oh, most of them, yeah. Today is a little different. We play Chicago. We do pretty well up here. We played at the Metro last night. We stayed up until 5AM, so I’m still trying to recover. At the same time, we’ll have a lot of people that walk up that have no clue what we do. I love that. That’s when the music has a chance to win. There’s no preconceived notions and you just listen and see what you think.
‘Chief’ has obviously been such a huge record for you. How do you follow that up?
Well, I don’t know. What are the parameters that say this record tops that record? I don’t look at the next record and go, “It’s got to sell more than ‘Chief.’ It’s got to have more number ones than ‘Chief.’” What we do do, creatively, is there’s a bar that we set pretty high and we’re going to get over that bar for the next record. Now that’s my side. I’ll judge it better, because creatively it’s going to be a better record. But I don’t know as far as the industry and fans, that’s up to them to decide.
Are you already working on the next album?
We’re about halfway into it.
Are you working with [producer] Jay Joyce again?
Yeah. We just speak the same language and worked together long enough now. We’ve also been on both sides of the spectrum where when we started out, we didn’t do real well, but we stuck to it. It’s good to work with somebody who’s been on that side of it.
We don’t know if you’re already aware, but you’re one of the 50 best live acts in the world today, according to Rolling Stone.
[Laughs] I did not know that.
You were number 40, beating out Taylor Swift. How much planning goes into your live shows?
We plan the first couple of songs. And then after that we kind of see what the crowd is doing. Last night was a great example. We only planned the first song, and after that, I just started to call them out. I think that at any live show, you have to find that energy exchange with the crowd. You have to find what makes that show special. It’s the fans and the way they react to it. For us, coming from the club and bar days, we keep it pretty loose up there.
Now that you’ve reached this new level of success, have you received any advice on how to continue the momentum?
The biggest thing is to continue to do what you do. A lot of people, when they get to a certain level, start thinking about it too much and they change what they do. The best advice I’ve been given is kind of the “dance with the one who brought you” thing. You got here on what you do so don’t change that.
Country music fans seem to be less fickle compared to pop and rock fans. What makes them more loyal compared to other audiences?
I think a lot of it is the fanbase. Where they’re from, what they’re about, what the music is about. I think it really speaks to their life. They’re not constantly out there looking for the next thing. They find what they like and they stick with it, and I’m okay with both. I’m a straight up music snob [laughs]. Country fans are the best fans out there because of the loyalty, and the way that they apply your music to every aspect of their life. That’s a rare thing these days.