On this date in 2011, Eric Church released his career-changing third studio album Chief, which made him a household name in country music and became a fan-favorite to this day with the breakout #1 hits “Springsteen” and “Drink in My Hand”, among other great tracks.
But more than that, it’s the album that catapulted Eric Church’s career into the next stratosphere.
Chief was the turning point; Eric went from this edgy, do it my own way, rising country singer, to a full blown country superstar. Whether radio wanted to play his singles or not…
And hey, now he has his own SiriusXM station called Outsiders Radio, so I’d say it certainly worked out for him in the long run:
Needless to say, Chief was a bright light during a time where country music radio was getting acclimated to pop and bro-country, and has stood the test of time.
While it produced two #1 hits, several others cracked the Top 20 at country radio, with “Creepin’” and “Like Jesus Does” being Top 10’s and “Homeboy” just inside the Top 20.
There’s also a great story behind the iconic album cover, which was originally intended to be part of a photoshoot for Busch Light, and was shot in a garage in Nashville by Eric’s manager, John Peets, who wanted to use his new 200mm camera lens.
Once the two of them saw the photo, they knew they had to use it as the album cover:
The story behind the Chief album cover: A photoshoot intended for Busch Light produced the symbolic photo that would represent Eric’s brand for years to come. pic.twitter.com/XB5S13Sllp
The album title is obviously inspired by Eric’s nickname “Chief,” and is actually a hand-me-down from his grandfather Rusty, who was the chief of police in the small town of Granite Falls in western North Carolina where Eric grew up. More on that HERE.
This will always be a classic, very nostalgic, record for me, and really is a 11-song tracklist of absolutely nothing but bangers (there’s a 12th song that was included as a bonus download called “Lovin’ Me Anyway,” too).
At the time this came out, it really felt like a super edgy, almost alt-country record because of what he was up against on the radio, like Luke Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” and Brantley Gilbert’s “Country Must Be Country Wide,” just to name a couple quick examples.
I’ve been an Eric Church fan for a long time, and while I don’t know if I can definitively say this is my all-time favorite record of his, it made a statement that the North Carolina native wasn’t afraid to say, or do, exactly what he wanted to, no matter what the Nashville establishment had to do with it.
I mean, putting out a song called “Country Music Jesus” back then was a helluva gamble, and somehow still feels just as relevant now as it did 12 years ago.
The timelessness of every song he penned on this project (he co-wrote every one but “Like Jesus Does”) is not only impressive, but extremely important, to the longevity and success of Chief, both the album and the artist.
Seriously, it’s a crime against humanity that only two of these songs topped the country charts… I know what I’ll be spinning all day long: