Though the thought of using a phone book is pretty much a long lost memory for most of us now, it actually helped Eric Church get his start in country music.
Upon graduating from Appalachian State University in December of 2000, he moved to Nashville one month later after striking a deal with his father that he would fund his first year in Music City so long as Eric actually graduated and got his degree.
After playing local gigs in and around western North Carolina with his then-band The Mountain Boys, that had him going up and down the mountain and turning in papers with stains from the Waffle House, he was able to fully focus on music after getting the degree.
Of course, making it an any sort of genre of music is not easy, and Eric learned quickly that he was going to have to worker extremely hard, to say the least, to find any sort of success.
And like many successful country musicians, he first started honing his skills as a songwriter, though getting a publishing deal to even do that was a lot of work.
He told CMT in an interview way back in 2006 that when he first arrived in Nashville, he had no contacts to help him get started, so he whipped out a Yellow Pages phone book and began calling every music publisher he could find:
“I started at ‘A.’ I’d call and tell them who I was and ask if they had any opening for songwriters.
I didn’t know how it worked yet. I thought it was like applying for a regular job. It took me a little time to figure out that it didn’t work like that.”
His efforts weren’t totally fruitless, though, as he ultimately met Perry Howard, who worked for BMI (a massive company that handles licensing and royalties for songwriters), and Howard introduced Eric to people at Sony/ATV Tree publishing company.
Eventually, Eric signed a publishing deal there and began working as a full-time songwriter. And I have to hand it to him… that’s a pretty bold strategy, but he knew what he wanted, and clearly, it’s paid off (which is easy to say looking back at his career now, but I digress…).
One of the first songs he penned when he arrived in Nashville was “Lightning,” from his fan-favorite debut studio album Sinners Like Me, which he also said was the song that later got him his record deal:
“I wrote that song when I first came to town. I was on my first trip back to North Carolina to see my family, and The Green Mile was on DVD or TV, I’m not sure which.
I was watching it one night, and there’s a line in it where the lead actor said, ‘You know, it’s been eighty-some years since I let John Coffey ride the lightning.’
I just thought that was a very interesting way of looking at the electric chair. It ended up probably being the song that got me my publishing deal, and it’s the song that got me my record deal.”
Still one of his best deep cuts, in my very humble opinion, if it wasn’t through Eric thumbing through a good old fashioned phone book, we might of never heard it.