Thursday 21 November 2019

Q&A: Country rocker Eric Church answers the questions

Eric Church
Eric Church

Bad boy country rocker Eric Church on scaring Metallica fans, channelling his teenage love for heavy metal and refusing to play the music industry game

Hello Eric. We can't hear any Budweiser cans popping or horses whinnying in the background so we're going to leap in and assume you aren't taking it easy at your ranch in West Virginia ...

I'm in Hanover, Germany. We've been touring Europe three weeks. I have a two-year-old kid in the States, so it's hard. I can't wait to get back and see my family. Everything else about success is fine – I never thought it would come. Now that it has happened, it's okay.

You've just played Dublin. Where you aware we are a nation of foaming-at-the-chops Garth Brooks fanatics?

My only awareness of it came from Garth selling about 40 million tickets. I saw him selling out show after show. What I found is that the people who came to my concert were not judgmental. It was more a case of 'let's see what this is about'. And that's all I ask for.

Back in the US, you are regarded as straddling country and rock. How's that going?

I love country music – revere it. At the same time, I grew up in the 80s around AC/DC, Metallica, Pantera. When I go to make an album, there are so many influences whirring around. That's part of who I am. I would hate for anyone to think it's contrived – that I'm trying to sound a certain way. It is very authentic for me to make an record that has rock elements.

You've played Metallica's Orion festival and Lollapalooza. Did you feel like a rodeo rider at a polo match?

At a couple of those big festivals we were rocking harder than anyone else. It was an interesting dichotomy. It didn't seem foreign at all. I like it that people who had never heard of us were impressed. There is a stigma about country which is quite unfair – people think it's the same country that was around 20, 30 years ago. If they would only listen, they'll find some stuff that they like.

What about all these frat-boy fans you're rumoured to have ...

There are people who have massive radio success and the first time they go on tour they are playing to a vast audience. For them, it can be a struggle to work out who the core fanbase is. For us, the 'core' came from small rooms – rock clubs, really. Early on a lot of the country clubs wouldn't book us in the States because we were considered too rock and roll. We were playing places no country act would. And, sure, the folks watching us liked to cut loose. That's the kind of show it was. It has carried on, even into the arenas and stadiums we now headline in the US. I like that little bit of uncertainty as to what's going to happen. The danger makes it fun.

There's a song on your new album, A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young, in which you talk about growing older and settling down. And yet you have this reputation as country's resident bad-boy. How are we supposed to square the two?

I'm 36-years-old. In my industry, there are a lot of 36-year-olds who want to look 25, 24 even 20. I've been doing this a little while. I'm approaching middle age. I want people to know I've slowed down. Mind you, I still think I'm faster than everyone else. I've just taken the foot off the pedal compared to who I used to be.

Well, you did once get thrown off a Rascal Flatts support tour...

That tour wasn't a good fit. It wasn't simply about going out and playing a show. There were places we couldn't stand – The whole thing was just a struggle. A lot of new artists would have put their heads down and followed the rules. I'm not made that way.

  • Eric Church's latest album is The Outsiders

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