10 years ago today, Eric Church released one of the greatest records of the last decade… Chief.
Imagine writing a song like “Country Music Jesus,” and then in retrospect, it actually ends up being about you, at least from a mainstream perspective.
You cannot overstate the impact that record as a whole made on country music and while it’s almost hard to believe it’s been a whole decade since the release, but Chief in particular catapulted Eric into the forefront of the mainstream world of country and also gave him his first two #1 hits, “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen”.
You’ll often hear it named as the absolute favorite among Eric’s loyal fans, and for good reason. It brought his “don’t give a shit” attitude to life through song and storytelling, and gave people a true sense of who he was as an artist and a person.
It captures everything we love so much about him… the outlaw spirit, the creativity, the madness and the good ol’ boy persona all in one magical, almost unbelievable, 40 minutes of listening.
We recently celebrated another milestone in his debut album, Sinners Like Me, turning 15 years old a couple weeks ago, and while Sinners is one of my favorite albums of all time, it didn’t have near the impact that Chief did in terms of mainstream success.
Not only did it make him a household name within the genre commercially, it had a lot of positive critical reviews and was nominated for Best Country Album at the 54th Grammy Awards and won Album of the Year at the CMA Awards and ACM Awards. It even debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 and the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
Eric was a co-writer on every single song on the record, too, except “Like Jesus Does”, which was written by his frequent collaborator Casey Beathard along with Monty Criswell.
In an interview prior to the Grammy awards the year he was nominated, Eric spoke in-depth about his process of writing and recording Chief and how he completely went for it in terms of his creativity:
“Chief is, um, I think, the most fearless record we’ve made. I know the first two, I love ‘Sinners Like Me,’ I love ‘Carolina,’ I love what they did for our career, but really this past year we had a hit with “Smoke a Little Smoke.” And it was kind of an unconventional hit for country radio.
But what I found, is it really, even though it was unconventional, it really moved people. And it moved the needle for us. So we went back in the studio this time, I had that knowledge and that information, so I decided it was gonna be no holds barred when we went in.
I just think a lot of times, in this day and age, not only in country music but in the music industry, I think we make records based on fear. We’re scared that it won’t be a hit. We’re scared our label won’t like it. And uh, I just don’t think creativity can live in a place like that.
So when we went in, both my producer (Jay Joyce) and I, decided that consequences be damned. We were gonna make a record that was up against, as close to, the wall as we could get it, and really try to stoke that creative flame. I’m happy to say that, um, I think we accomplished it.
It’s my favorite one we’ve done and I’m proud.”
It’s as timeless a collection of songs as there’s ever been, and it only seems to get better as the years go on.
No matter what, he always pushes himself to step out of his comfort zone and dig just a little bit deeper than everybody else in his process (also looking at you, Heart & Soul).
I don’t know about you, but I’m about to spin this one all day long and dive deep into the genius that is Eric Church…