If you're Eric Church, what can you put on your Christmas list that tops the things you got in 2011? First there was the No. 1 album 'Chief,' which not only debuted at No. 1, but sold more copies in its first week than any other male country artist not named Scotty McCreery.

Then, in October, he became a first time daddy to Boone McCoy Church. Now, as Church finds himself mentioned on year-end Top Album lists, the western North Carolina born singer says he's proud and shocked by the year he's had. In an interview with Billboard, he points out that he hasn't had much help from radio. If his current single 'Drink in My Hand' cracks the Top 5 (it seems likely), it'll be his first to do so.

"That's the real anomaly there," Church said in comparing his success to artists like Brad Paisley and George Strait. "That restored my faith in the music, and what I got into this for." He added, "I wasn't sure that you could still have success and do it the old school way, so if you keep it about the music -- and you do it the right way, you can still sell a lot of records and not have to use the new model."

In addition to being nominated for a Taste of Country Award for Album of the Year, 'Chief' was on Rolling Stone, Spin and NPR's lists of the top albums of 2011. He tells Billboard that getting exposure from non-country outlets is good for him, but also good for the country music genre.

"I love country music, and think it's the coolest format," Church said. "That's why I'm in it. I think if we can land that record on some of those lists and radars, we can make some more people aware of what we're doing."

After taking some time to rest during the holidays, Church will return to the road in January with Brantley Gilbert.