Country music’s “outlaw” movement was made popular in the 1970s by such artists as Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe and Willie Nelson. The trend is making a comeback and among the new leaders is Eric Church, who has a new release, “The Outsiders.”
Church came up with a unique approach for his fourth studio album. The 12 tracks were placed in a specific order to follow the storyline Church had in mind for the album. With the hope that his fans wouldn’t play the songs out of sequence, he said, “I don’t know that people do that anymore, but it’s meant to be listened to that way.”
Church earned his big break in 2011 with his third album, “Chief.” The award-winning collection sold 1.7 million copies in the United States and produced a pair of Number One Country hits.
Church said he could have continued in the same musical direction on “The Outsiders,” but chose to challenge himself creatively.
“I don’t judge an album on, did it sell more than the last one? Did it have more Number One’s than the last one? That’s not the way I view success. That’s the commercial side," he said. "The way I view it is creatively. Does it go somewhere the one before it didn’t go? And with this album, I can absolutely say, it beats ‘Chief’ in that regard, if we’re trying to beat it. I don't like viewing it that way. I think every record’s its own thing. But from a creative standpoint, this is a more creative album. This is a more artistic album than any we've done.”
Church lists Country legends and hard rock bands among his biggest musical influences. The North Carolina native describes his new album as “a cross between Waylon [Jennings] and Metallica.”
“The Outsiders” brings together a variety of musical styles, including Country, bluegrass, pop, rock and rhythm-and-blues. Church says pushing Country music’s boundaries allows him to stay true to his artistic vision.
“When ‘The Outsiders’ came out and everybody thought it was going to be a progressive rock record, I kind of chuckled when it was happening," he said. "I mean, I enjoyed that, ‘cause I was sitting there going, ‘You’re judging it on the first song,’ and it’s probably the most introspective we’ve done. I mean, you can take two or three tracks on the album that are just very real. ‘Dark Side’ is another one that’s very real and very introspective. To me, it shows maturity. It shows that I’m not trying to figure out what people want me to be or want us to be.”
Church recently wrapped up a 12-city European tour. U.S. dates are planned through most of 2014.