This country rocker has toured with Hank Williams, Jr., Jamey Johnson, and Bob Seger. He’s learned his lessons well.
Eric Church states his approach clearly in “How ’Bout You,” a song from his first album.
“I like my country rockin’, how ’bout you?”
We’re somewhat unique for a country act,” says Church, the North Carolina native who will play in the Country Throw Down today at Riverbend. “We step on the throat now; we used to let people breathe a little bit.”
He laughs when he describes his band, especially since it’s the opposite of what folks will see today. Church says he’s scheduled to play “before the sun goes down on a stage in the parking lot” to make time for headliners Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Johnson and Little Big Town.
In this format, Church decided to go unplugged.
“This is my harebrained idea,” he says. “I just decided to do something completely different. I didn’t want to give folks a 35-minute snippet.
“We have not rehearsed one iota. It could be a complete and total train wreck.”Don’t count on it. Church is modest and self-deprecating, but clear-minded about his career. His set might not rival Eric Clapton’s MTV classic, but it’s a good bet that both fans and those who have never heard of him will remember more than a snippet of his songs.
Church has released two albums: “Sinners Like Me” in 2006 and “Carolina” last year. Although he doesn’t spend much at the top of the country charts, a few listens can have you humming along with tunes such as “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag,” which Merle Haggard himself joined in, “What I Almost Was,” his version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” and “Two Pink Lines,” an upbeat rocker about sweating out a teenage girlfriend’s pregnancy test.
“I’ve never had anything above a No. 8 hit,” Church says of his radio success (or lack thereof). “But I’m making albums, not just singles. I love albums. I’m looking at the overall project. I think you have to build the catalog.
“Look at people like Springsteen, he really did it the right way. (‘Greetings from) Asbury Park’ (his first album) just blew people away, but he’s obviously in it for the long haul, and that’s the way I want to do it too.”
To that end, Church takes his time recording, and pours much of his energy into touring. Before the Throw Down, he was out with Hank Williams Jr. and Jamey Johnson. Before that, he opened for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bob Seger. Lessons were learned from both experiences.
“Bob took us outside the country crowd, and (his audience) was open to new music. I admire Bob, he’s built his career again. He doesn’t just rely on the old songs.
“And people who listen to Hank Jr. also listen to AC/DC, so there’s a crowd we can connect with.
From unplugged to AC/DC fans: That’s how to build a solid fan base.