Over the past several weeks, Eric Church has been playing coast-to-coast on Toby Keith's Locked and Loaded tour, also featuring newcomer JT Hodges. Church is no stranger to paying his dues when it comes to touring and knowing what his fans have come to expect from him over the years. However, Church admits he has been soaking up as much as possible from watching the ways Keith runs his organization, to use as an example for his own headlining trek set to launch in January.

"We hadn't really done any support slots until this past year," Church tells Taste of Country of his time spent on the Locked and Loaded tour, as well as dates with Miranda Lambert. "We'd been out there playing clubs and bars, so it's been an experience to go out there and learn some things and be able to use that stuff and apply it to our own show. [With Toby, I've learned] a lot of what it takes being the headliner and having to handle a tour a certain way ... handling the people on the tour and making sure that everybody is enjoying themselves. He makes sure people are enjoying being out there and what they are doing."

"I've been on other tours, and sometimes they can be a grind," he continues. "So I think it's about learning as you go along. For me, next year it's going to be all about creating an environment, just like we did with the ['Chief'] record. It's about creating an environment that lets creativity and music dictate our lifestyle, and going up and down the road making it about the music. I hate when it feels like a job and you're like, 'OK ... I've got to go out there for 60 minutes, and I've got to play these same 12 songs.' I just don't like that. I think it gets stagnant. As long as we can make it fun, musically, and do some things out there, whether we're jamming after shows or doing some collaborations and things like that, it just makes it fun and unique for the fans."

Church has not only been enjoying learning about the business side of things on the road with Keith, but also getting to know him on a personal level.

"I really respect Toby, and I love what he does," Church says. "We've had a chance to write a couple songs together, and it's been fun to do that and get to know him a little better. I've always been a fan, and it's just fun to sit there and pick each others brains a little bit. I hope to get to do that some more. He's a legendary artist, and I love the way he handles himself and his tour. I've learned a lot from being around that. It's going to be fun next year when we're doing our own thing."

For a complete list of current tour dates where Church will be throughout the remainder of the year, visit his website by clicking here.