On Thursday (Feb. 20), one of country music’s most beloved stars, Eric Church, gave the keynote address at this year’s Country Radio Seminar (CRS 2020). The affair, called “Chasing Creativity,” was hosted by journalist and syndicated countdown host Lon Helton.
The sit-down interview, delivered to a packed house at one of the bigger ballrooms inside Nashville’s Omni Hotel, focused on doing things your own way, following your heart and not veering off your own path even when you’re asked to.
A video from Church’s performance at CRS’ New Faces Show in 2007 launched the festivities. The clip featured a younger Church delivering a soulful version of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.”
For the uninitiated, the New Faces Show features several acts who managed to break through during the previous year. On the bill with Church that evening was Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram and Rodney Atkins.
Making 20 Minutes Count
With five artists performing on the bill, each one gets about 20-25 minutes. “I try to do more than just playing a few songs during that shorter set,” Church said. “I use that time to weave in a story or two about myself along with the music, allow fans to get to know me a little.”
Being True to Your Art Means Being Patient
Helton mentioned that several of the artists who broke through around the same time as Church (Luke Bryan, for /example), were having chart success before him, and he asked if that rattles him or made him think about changing directions. It sure seemed that Church has always been confident, because he simply relayed that you have to inspire yourself before you can inspire others. So he essentially said that there was never a backup plan.
Success Isn’t Always Measured by Chart Achievements
Church’s first of 14 Country Airplay top 10s (which includes eight No. 1s) came with his sixth appearance on the ranking, “Love Your Love the Most,” which peaked at No. 10 in 2009. Church and his band were playing non-traditional venues for a country artist back then, mainly rock clubs and the already loyal crowds were singing songs back to him — tracks that weren’t top 10s or even singles. “Smoke a Little Smoke,” was one example that he gave.
You Need a Boss That Gets You
Helton asked Church about pressure to make hits. The singer admittedly said that his individuality probably would not have gone over at another company that might not have been so patient. Church gave Universal Music Group’s Mike Dungan a lot of credit for allowing him to make his own brand of country music.
Creativity Is Elusive
Even a great songwriter like Church admits that he goes through periods that can be dry spells. “You can’t force it,” Church said. “It’s like squeezing a lemon, the harder you try, the harder it gets.”
Church ended his keynote with a song, a new track that came out of a retreat to the mountains of North Carolina, in which he and his band have just wrapped up. The song, called “Jenny,” will be on an upcoming album.
When is the album coming?
Well, when stopped in the men’s room after the keynote, an executive from UMG simply quipped: “Hell if I know, he’ll give it to us when he’s good and ready, but that’s why we love him.”