As the year gets ready to wind down, Eric Church can certainly look back on 2012 and smile. While he has been at the music game for quite some time, this year was essentially the first 'break' he got in the industry -- finally embraced by the community for his incredible work as a singer, songwriter and entertainer.

Earlier this month, the CMA announced their final nominees for the 2012 CMA Awards, and not only was Church nominated, but he led the pack with a total of five nods: Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year for 'Chief,' plus Single of the Year, Song of the Year and Video of the Year, all for his recent chart-topping hit, 'Springsteen.'

Taste of Country spoke to Church just hours after he learned of his nominations, and to put it mildly, he was on cloud nine!

ToC: Has it sunk in yet that you are the leader in nominations for the CMA Awards?
Eric Church: I’m not even sure what to say, to be honest. I was surprised on a couple of different levels. I was telling people, 'I’ve been on vacation, and my phone is somewhere on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.' I lost it [while I was down there], so I had no contact or clue that there was even announcements to be made. Nothing. When I got back from vacation, some members of my management office picked me up and they took me to the office. I didn’t know why. I thought I was in trouble, because we were supposed to go home, but we were going to the office. I walked in, and everybody was in there. They had it up on the board: 'Church Leads CMA Nominations With Five.' It was one of those things where I hoped it wasn’t a really cruel joke. It just hasn’t sunk in yet.

I said earlier and I mean this, I think it’s the coolest thing in the world because there have been a lot of times when I wasn’t sure that we were ever going to get noticed, really. We were out there -- not that long ago -- playing bars and clubs for 200 or 300 people. I just wasn’t sure that anybody was ever going to really pay attention. At times, I was told we were too rock for country and too country for rock. We were really trying to find a home. If you were to have asked me three years ago, I probably would have said that the last thing we would have been is the most nominated at the CMAs. It’s really a cool thing in that regard. I also can honestly say that if we had gotten zero nominations, it wouldn’t have changed what we did musically or what we do onstage. It’s one of those things where it’s great, but I still try to focus on the records we make and the shows we play.

If you could take home just one of the awards, which would it be?
That's easy for me: album. And again, it’s not something that I’ll focus on either way because I’m going to go make the next record and the kind of record that I want to make regardless if we win or lose. As far as if I have to pick one and you’re putting me on the spot, I would say that one means more to me because of what we put into the record. We try to make actual records. We never focus on a song or a download. I’ve never gone into the studio and said, 'I think this is the single' or 'I think this is Song of the Year.' I’ve always went in and said, 'What does the record feel like?' Then if we have singles, great; if we don’t, I still love the record. Making records that way, it would mean a lot to get that nod.

The more success you gain, have you noticed any fellow artists kind of opening their arms more to you now than ever before?
[Bruce] Springsteen [laughs]! If that’s not the coolest thing that has ever happened to me, it’s like real close. I haven’t really heard from him, but to have a hand-written note show up that came out of Bruce's briefcase from a set list that he was carrying around, where he wrote a pretty lengthy note on the back of it and signed it 'Bruce Springsteen' ... telling his people, 'Make sure he gets this.' It's... damn, it's awesome! It was a pretty neat thing.

You recently had the opportunity to go into the studio and record a song with Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean for Jason's forthcoming album. How did that duet come about?
Jason actually called me about doing it. We had just got off tour, I think late last year in November or December -- somewhere in that area. He said, 'Hey man, we’re making a record, and I’ve got this song that I think you would be great to sing on.' I said I would love to hear the song, and he sent me the song. I loved the song. I think it’s a great song. I know David Lee Murphy pretty well, and David Lee co-wrote the song with Ben [Hayslip]. I just love what it says and it fit who we are. I said, 'Yeah, I’ll come by and sing on it.'

At the time, I didn’t even know Luke was going to be on the song yet. That happened right after when I found out Luke was going to be on it, too. I’ve only heard it once. I think it sounds great, and I think it’s a hit song. I think it fits Jason’s thing, I think it fits Luke’s thing and I think it fits something that’s true to all three artists. It’s something that I’m looking forward to seeing how it does. Both of those guys are buddies of mine, so that’s kind of a cool thing. Those are two of the guys who I would count as friends in the industry, that I don’t have many of [laughs]! So I think it is cool that we would all three be on a track, and also, all three be very different artists with the three different things going on.

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