The Evolution of Mr. Eric Church
Quick Admission of a guilty pleasure: During my childhood, I would listen to the year-end countdown on the local radio station and jot down every title and artist. I would then record my favorites on my boombox. I did this for 7 consecutive years from 1981-1988. If you want to know what #38 was in 1983, there’s a good chance I have some audio somewhere on cassette tape.
Therefore (it’s no surprise), my favorite day of the KSUX programming year is on New Year’s Eve as we remember the year that was. What will be the lasting impression of 2012? For me, it was the emergence of “the rowdy country trio” - Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Eric Church. Perhaps it’s symbolic one of the last new radio releases of the year we received on KSUX had all 3 featured on one track - “The Only Way I Know”.
It’s always fun to see which artists are really gaining momentum and becoming a core artist on the station. Core artists seem to ebb and flow from year to year and that’s part of the fun of the process. Classic Rock stations will have their Mt. Rushmore of acts. It’s always the same. Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and The Who etc… At KSUX, the faces change all the time. As Faith and Shania fade to Vegas shows, new blood is introduced into the mix.
This year Eric Church became a star!
(Eric Church on September 28 with Jackson and his fiance' Jessica)
His concert at the Tyson Events Center was unbelievable! I can’t remember the last country show I attended where (it seemed like) 80 percent of the patrons where under 30. There was such energy to the show and the passion level was high with every anthem.
How did Eric Church get here? Did it help he was booted off the Rascal Flatts show for playing too loud and too long? You get some rebel cred with that move. Was it cranking out relatable lyrics and infectious melodies? Can’t hurt. Perhaps it was the sunglasses and trucker hat? Nope.
Eric Church became comfortable in his own skin.
This is just a theory, so go with me for a minute.
Six years ago at the Country Radio Seminar, Eric Church put on a memorable set stirring up buzz from jaded industry pros not easily impressed. His first cd “Sinners Like Me” was critically acclaimed by many, but on a recent listen it was disjointed. He had some tracks that embodied his spirit and signature swagger like “How Bout You”, “These Boots”, and “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” – all songs he performed in concert at the TEC. Some of the other tracks watered down his attitude and made him sound like every other singer in Nashville. Hear the tracks “Can’t Take it With You” and “The Hard Way”. His individuality was muted. I don’t believe he knew at this time what type of artist he wanted to be. I think he was open to feedback.
His second release “Carolina” was as if someone in the record industry told him “We can’t have this rowdy Eric Church. You need to sound more mainstream." Even the photo art on the cover transitions from a guy shooting whiskey in a bar on “Sinners Like Me” to an Altar Boy waiting to serve Midnight Mass on this cd cover. Aside from “Smoke a Little Smoke”, the rest of the album was vanilla by EC standards. “Hell on the Heart” and “Love Your Love the Most” were enough to keep him relevant in the country format, but nothing to move him into stardom. Call it a sophomore slump.
Then, it happened.
It is reported Eric Church locked himself in a cabin for 6 months to write “Chief”. We should all be as creatively inspired. Church found his true voice and all the individuality to resonate with sold out venues like the one at the TEC. There are very few cd’s I can listen to every track. “Chief” is one of a handful. “Springsteen”, “Creepin”, “Drink in my Hand”, “Country Music Jesus”, and ” Keep On” are just the tracks needed in the format right now.
The one piece of advice I give aspiring artists is this… Find your voice. Be Different. Turn some heads. I can remember where I was the moment I heard Eric Church, The Dixie Chicks, Big & Rich, and Garth Brooks. They were so different and original. That’s what makes this country format great. Country listeners are open to quality music it feels genuine….but they can spot a phony a mile away.
Eric Church is the real deal.
Can’t wait to see who breaks out in 2013.
KSUX Program Director
Sioux City, IA
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