Eric Church Keeps A List Of People Who Turned Him Down In His Pocket Onstage

A person singing into a microphone

Nothing like a little rejection to motivate you into becoming one of the biggest names in country music.

Everybody who moves to Nashville hoping for a career in the music industry is probably used to being told “no.” Whether it’s by record labels or producers or publishing companies, the music industry can be a bitch to get into for a new artist who shows up in Nashville with a guitar and a dream.

Even if you’re Eric Church.

Church moved to Nashville after graduating from Appalachian State University after his dad promised to fund him for his first six months in Music City if he finished college and got his degree.

He had some songs he had written, but he quickly found out just how brutal the music business could be.

The Beginning

In an interview with Classic RockChurch describes the icy reception he received from one publishing company head in particular:

“I remember I saw this one publisher three or four times and they paid for a demo, then said: ‘Hey, we want you to come play for the head of the company.’ So I sit down and played Lightning, a song that ended up on my first album.

I got a verse into it and this guy held up his hand. I thought he was going to go: ‘We’re signing you right now!’ But he said: ‘I don’t know where you’re from, but if I were you I’d go back there.’

I packed my shit up and left the office with my tail between my legs.”

Brutal.

I mean, if you’ve heard “Lightning” you know just how brilliant that song is. So just imagine THAT not being good enough for a publisher to show any interest in you.

(That also speaks to just how bad some people in the industry are at identifying good music…but that’s a topic for another day).

Well Church was undeterred, and took the same song with him when he was playing for another publisher the next day:

“The next day, I had another meeting, at Sony Tree Publishing, and I played Lightning.

Same deal, the guy put his hand up and stopped me. I thought: ‘Jeez, I’ve got to stop playing this song’ [laughs]. He goes: ‘I’m signing you right now, just on that song.’ That was the beginning.” 

And what a career it’s been since then.

From Nothing To Entertainer Of The Year

Church just released his seventh full length project, a triple album, with both albums that were released to the general public reaching the top of the charts. He had the best-selling country tour of 2019 (the last year we had real tours), and he even set the attendance record at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, shattering the previous record held by Taylor Swift.

He won Entertainer of the Year at the 2020 CMA Awards, and just got his tenth #1 single with “Hell of a View.”

So yeah, Church is doing pretty well for himself.

And as for all those people who told him no way back at the beginning?

Church keeps a list of those people in his pocket when he walks onstage.

“There’s a motivation in being told no, that you can’t do something. It’s part of paying your dues.”

And Church also has some thoughts on younger artists trying to make get their big break from some singing competition instead of paying their dues the hard way, grinding it out in bars and clubs and beating down the doors to the record label until somebody finally pays attention:

“My big beef with the younger generation now is that they go on shows like American Idol or The Voice and it becomes more about a onetime moment. That’s a really different thing than how you’re supposed to approach playing music.

It’s okay to go to ten places and get the door slammed in your face. It’s an integral part of learning who you are as an artist.

And remember: Nashville told Randy Travis to put a hat on, they told George Strait to take a hat off.”

Amen.

I always wonder if the people who passed on superstars like Eric Church ever see what they turned down and think “Man, I was wrong on that on.”

Or do they sit in their office and pat themselves on the back, thinking they played a part in an artist’s success because they turned them down and forced them to work harder to get their big break?

Or, maybe they just never think about a guy again after he leaves their office.

Either way, Eric Church definitely remembers all those people who told him that he didn’t have what it takes (and those who told him he should go back to where he came from).

And he’s used that rejection as motivation every time he steps on stage.

Seems to be working pretty well for him these days.

Still can’t figure out why anybody would turn this song down though.

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