Okay, this might be a stretch, but please hear me out.
Eric Church should make his Heart & Soul albums into a musical, or screenplay, or some type of Broadway-type production.
Would it be out of the ordinary? Absolutely. But if there’s one country artist that can pull it off, it’s The Chief. I mean he’s got his own furniture line, not typical is his typical.
Both albums have a Broadway, rock opera feel to a lot of the music that would translates almost directly from studio to stage and the themes that tie the albums together as one piece of art can be used to write a pretty cohesive plot.
A number of characters were introduced throughout and the two main characters (Sammy and Jenny) were directly named in two of the songs. Not every song fits the theme and some will have to be excluded, but the ones that do can absolutely be used to makes something magical.
And Eric, if you happen to see this and like the idea, have your people contact my people and let’s do the dang thing…
Here’s the list of characters directly introduced to us in the albums.
Song Named: “Bunch Of Nothing”
Role: Main Character
Description: A big dreaming, small town guy who thought he’d leave after high school but stuck around and is frustrated with how his life is turning out and is inadvertently taking it out on his longtime girlfriend, Jenny.
Notes: The character role and description were derived from a generalized main character of most of the songs on the album.
Song Named: “Jenny”
Role: Sammy’s longtime girlfriend
Description: Like Sammy, has some big dreams, but understands that just leaving town isn’t chasing dreams. Has been with Sammy since high school, where she fell in love with his fire toward wanting more in life and saying he was going to do it. Recently their relationship has been rough, due to Sammy being out of it and down.
Note: Character role derived from a good partner to Sammy that would also create a conflict to be resolved throughout. While the song “Jenny” will not be used, it’s the only song that names the female sung about in a lot of the songs.
Song named: Crazyland
Role: De facto leader of the group of regulars at the local bar. Finds his purpose by being “The Guy” at that bar.
Note: Character separated from Other Bar Regulars for purposes of a solo performance.
Other Bar Regulars: Sad, Regret, Fool, Lost, Blue, Sorrows, I Told You So, Out Of His Mind, Ole Insane
Song Named: Crazyland
Role: Regulars at the bar Sammy goes to. They’re all sad for their own reasons, but came together in this place.
Bartender: All My Fault
Song Named: Crazyland
Role: The “wise” bartender who talks with the regulars. He always seems to know a little bit about everything when it comes to someone else, but it hasn’t translated into his personal life, as he’s the same as all the regulars, down and out.
Note: His nickname is Al for short. Character separated from Bar Regulars for purposes of a solo performance.
Miscellaneous Friends of Sammy and Jenny
Song Named: Heart On Fire
Role: The long time friends of Sammy and Jenny. All from the same town, all have generally the same story. As a whole, the group is good with their lives, happy to live in the same town they grew up, go to work, drink at the bar and go home to their wives/husbands.
Now, with those characters in mind and the themes of the songs burning in my head, here’s my plot idea…
Major Characters: Sammy, Jenny, Miscellaneous Friends
Opening Song: Heart On Fire (Singers: Sammy, Jenny, Friends in background)
Curtains open with a party, post-college age kids, all grew up in the same town they’re in, telling stories about the good old days and talking about how their life is now. Most wake up, work, then go to the bar to shoot the shit with friends, some go home to their wife or husband.
Everyone is enjoying their lives, except for Sammy. He’s always been a little different, and his friends know that. He always did things his way and told everyone all the time he’d be leaving after high school to chase his big city dreams, but that never happened.
They, and him, know he still has some of the thoughts about getting away, but each day he just goes to work then to the bar to hang out with them or Jenny, his high school sweetheart now long-time girlfriend.
No one knows more than Jenny how disappointed Sammy is with how his life is turning out, and his lack of passion and drive is wearing on their relationship, since that was one of the major things that attracted her to him.
When the friends start teasing Sammy for pointing out the big game he used to talk that he never followed up on, he tells them he’s still that kind of guy inside…
Song 2: Break It Kinda Guy (Solo by Sammy)
Major Characters: Sammy and Jenny
Jenny is glad to see the fire back in Sammy eyes, even if it was just for the few moments when he was telling their friends through the song.
They get away from the crowd, and reminisce on how they used to talk about running away, just the two of them and taking on the world together. They feed off each other and the conversations builds until they break into a duet…
Song 3: Heart Of The Night (Duet with Sammy and Jenny)
After the song, Sammy says “Jenny, we can still do that. Let’s go, right now.” But Jenny turns away. She acknowledges how great it was to see that passion in him again and how great it is to hear him say all those things again, but she just can’t drop everything and go, especially with a guy who’s been so off lately. She says she’s even been thinking a lot recently if it’s worth it, her and him.
They’re both getting older and she doesn’t want to commit to life with a guy who doesn’t back up what he says and has been living a life of silent desperation.
Sammy does not take this well. He gets mad and starts yelling, but most of it doesn’t really make sense, because inside he knows she’s right. But he stays hardheaded and yells “Well if you are so unsure about us, why are you still here?”
She responds “You know, that’s a good question, Sammy. I think I’m done. I need time to think this over.” and she leaves. Sammy realizes he screwed up and is immediately sad, but doesn’t follow her.
He stands around quietly for a little bit, then gets in his car, turns the radio up and starts driving. Where to? Not even he knows. He just needs the night, the road and some music…
Major Character: Sammy
Closing Song: Russian Roulette (Sammy)
Curtains close at the end of the song.
Major Characters: Sammy and Jenny. All My Fault (Called Al), Sad, Regret, Fool, Lost, Blue, Sorrows, I Told You So, Out Of His Mind, Ole Insane
Opening Song: People Break (Duet by Sammy and Jenny, from their separate living spaces)
Opens to Sammy and Jenny alone, but separate, in their own places. Days pass by after the fight. They’ve gone about their lives the best they can, but are both very torn up. Sammy gives her a few days to think before starting to text her again.
There is a narration of texts he sends her and messages he leaves, all to no answer. “Hi, it’s me. You said to give you some time to think, and it’s been a few days since the fight… I’m here when you want to talk” … “Hi, me again. I’m at home so you can call me whenever” etc…
Throughout this, they both do some thinking, her about if he could change and what their future would look like and him about how he would change if he gets the second chance.
One Friday night, about 2 weeks after their fight, both of them are ready to get out of the house and blow off some steam. Jenny’s friends call her and tell her there’s a great band playing in town tonight, they’re going and want her to join.
She says yes, gets ready and leaves to go pregame at one of their houses. Sammy decides to go to a local bar by himself. Curtains close.
Major Characters: Sammy, Musician/Band, All My Fault (Called Al), Sad, Regret, Fool, Lost, Blue, Sorrows, I Told You So, Out Of His Mind, Ole Insane
Sammy walks inside and looks for a seat. The bartender, Al, says “Hey kid, you look down, lady problems?” When Sammy answers yes, a guy at the bar, Madhatter, butts into the conversation, saying if he’s down he’s in the right place, then introduces him to everyone else in the bar.
Song 2: Crazyland (Solo by Madhatter)
In the background, a band comes in and starts setting up to play. Sammy orders a drink and keeps talking to the guys at the bar.
He tells them all about his lady problems, and soon people are going around and giving him some generally bad advice on how to get her back. Then someone goes, “Well, why don’t we ask Al (The bartender)?
He always knows a little bit about everything we’re talking about.” Al says he might know a little bit about a lot of things, but knows nothing about how to do that…
Song 3: Bunch Of Nothing (Solo by Bartender Al)
Sammy thanks everyone for trying to help, but pretty much throws up his hand and says it’s probably a useless cause. She sounded pretty done that night and hasn’t answered any of his texts or calls.
The lead singer and guitarist of the band (Eric Church) has been watching this all play out and finally chimes in, saying he has a song that might make it better.
Song 4: Never Break Heart (Performance by Band)
After hearing the song, Sammy feels a little better and goes over to talk to the singer. The singer helps him realize that chasing dreams doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone.
Sometimes a dream can be living forever with a girl you love, it’s not always going out on the road and living a wild life. But the main thing he makes Sammy realize is he has to step up and be the best man he can be for Jenny, no matter where they are or what they do.
That’s what she needs in him and what he deep down knows he needs to do. Sammy thanks him to no end, then goes back with the guys at the bar and the band starts playing.
The bar is filling up. Word got around that the band is pretty good, they’ve been causing quite a stir around town.
People say they might even make it big one day. The singer talks to the crowd, thanking them for coming out and then introduces a new song, this being the first time they’re playing it live. As the song starts, Jenny and her friends walk in…
Song 5: Look Good And You Know It (Performance by Band)
As the song is playing, Sammy hides and runs away from her, suddenly nervous to see her again. Eventually, they see each other, and after making some small talk over drinks, go outside to talk and smoke a cigarette.
She asks how he’s been and what he’s been thinking about. He says he was frustrated because he was confused. His entire life he though chasing his dreams meant leaving town, and that made him not realize that his most important dream was the girl that had been in front of him all along…
Song 6: Where I Wanna Be (Solo by Sammy)
Jenny says that’s what she needed to hear and what she was hoping he was thinking of. She again says that recently he’s been off and that hurts her too see, but really hurts her even more because she doesn’t get much attention when he’s down in the dumps and it’s been a long time since they talked like they used too.
She says she’d been thinking of the Sammy she saw that the night of their fight, who had the fire back in his eyes, and how that’s the same guy she sees tonight. That’s the man she loves. She doesn’t care if it’s here or anywhere, if he’s back to the old him, that’s who she wants to be with and who she loves. They make up and make out.
After, they go back inside to catch the last song the band is playing for the night, together, in it for the long haul and ready to chase their dreams, no matter where those dreams are going to be, because being together is the dream they’ve both been looking for.
Closing Song: Love Shine Down (Starts with performance by band, everyone in bar ends up joining)
If you’ve actually read this whole thing, thank you!