If you want to burrow deep inside someone’s soul, if you want to know who that person truly is, you can do a couple of things:
You can marry ‘em.
Or you can write with ‘em.
Much as Eric Church fans may love to do either one of those – especially the former – you won’t. (Sorry, all! He’s a taken man by both his wife and his music.) But as Buffalo’s country (and rock) fans prepare for the arrival of Church’s tour Friday at First Niagara Center, we’ll get you close.
Here’s aviator-wearing, country-rock-playing Eric Church, in the words of three trusted collaborators: Nashville songwriter Jeremy Spillman, who has written several numbers with Church; Travis Meadows, another noted musician who penned the recent release “Dark Side” with Church and Spillman; and Lzzy Hale, frontwoman of the hard rock band Halestorm.
Hale and Church recorded a duet, “That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” and she’s written a couple of songs with Church “just for fun,” as she told Revolver magazine. Halestorm opened for Church on tour, which may seem revolutionary for a country music show, but Church’s brand of music – and fans – ventures far outside bubblegum twang.
The following quotes were gleaned from telephone interviews with Spillman and Meadows, and an email conversation with Hale:
Church Words: How he writes
"That’s Damn Rock & Roll" with Lzzy Hale:
Hale: “He and I have a similar approach to songwriting. You chase after whatever gets you excited and then worry about its place in the world later.”
Spillman: “To him, it’s about making an album that people can dig into from start to finish. Sometimes he’ll sacrifice a great song in respect to the record he’s trying to make. He doesn’t just cut a song because it’s great. It has to fit into the vision he has for the project.”
Hale: “Eric is such a fast, witty writer. It was so much fun to collaborate. Like me, he throws the rules out the window, so we just would spiral down this rabbit hole of an idea until we were satisfied. It was so much fun.”
Meadows: “A lot of times when I’m writing with other artists you have to do the heavy lifting. With Eric, it’s just not that way.”
Hale: “When I threw away the rule book to truly solidify my views and ownership on this new record ‘Into The Wild Life,’ Eric and I had many conversations about how important that was. He was one of the few that encouraged me to just go for it and trust myself. Oh...and I got schooled in the ways of Jack Daniels."
Church Music: Inside the songs
Meadows on writing “Dark Side” with Church and Spillman: “Jeremy and I got on the bus with him. I threw something out there, Jeremy threw something out there. Then there was kind of an awkward silence and then Eric said, ‘Well, I do have this one thing.’”
Spillman: “Eric had that first verse done. He (said), ‘I love this thing, let’s finish it. I want to cut it on my record.’ He had this clear vision.”
Meadows: “He started playing that first verse, and it was obvious this was going to be great.”
"Sinners Like Me"
Spillman on “Sinners Like Me:” “If you listen to that song, everything in that song is true for one or the other of us. We didn’t realize that until after we wrote it.”
"A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young"
Spillman on “A Man Who is Gonna Die Young:” “That really was where Eric is at, at this point in his life. Verbatim, that is where he was at.”
Church Fans: Not necessarily country
Meadows: “Eric Church fans are not necessarily country music fans. They are Eric Church fans. You put them in a room with another unnamed country artist and they’re not swapping shirts, you know what I mean?”
Spillman: “He’s really studied his audience and just done a great job at figuring out how to connect with his audience. Honestly, I don’t know how he’s done it, but when he’s on stage, he has that intimate connection with the audience.”
Spillman: “The music he does is a little more real, down to earth than a lot of stuff that’s out there.”
Hale: “No matter what genre of music you identify with – country, rap, pop – everyone wants to rock. Eric's fans are rebels and reflect Eric's beliefs. They welcomed us with open arms and whiskey shots!”