“It’s gonna be the tip of the spear for what’s coming after, and it’s a big spear,” superstar Eric Church declared last summer, when first revealing that new music was on the way. In the nearly 10 months that followed, Church has steadily shared the results of the nearly month-long session during which he wrote and recorded a song from start to finish each day in pursuit of what would eventually become Heart & Soul. The first installment off the three-part project born from that atypical process arrives in full today: Heart is available everywhere now.
Despite career milestones that include 10 chart-topping singles, five Platinum-selling albums, seven ACM Awards, four CMA trophies and 10 GRAMMY nominations, Church still came out of his last album cycle feeling the need to push himself further. Recognizing the level of comfort achieved by recording six highly successful projects with the same team and overall process, he craved the tension and vulnerability that inspires boundless creativity. In his typical fashion, the man Stereogum celebrates as “our greatest working rock star” and Esquire names “one of the most singular working artists in any genre” took that desire to the extreme.
Together with producer Jay Joyce, Church headed to the mountain town of Banner Elk, N.C., where they set up a makeshift recording studio in a restaurant that had closed its doors for the winter. They moved the tables out of the dining room. They turned the basement into a drum booth. They placed microphones around the premises to capture the unique acoustics of the restaurant’s barn wood interior. And then, as the weather outside turned frigid, they got to work, bringing rotating groups of songwriters and instrumentalists to the compound every few days.
“There was an interchangeable quality that felt so unique,” Church says of the recording process. “We were eating together, living together, and acting like a big family up there in the mountains. When we’d record, it didn’t matter if you were one of the writers or one of the players. It really came down to everyone wanting the song to be born — for the song to come alive — and it was just a matter of who could make it come alive. If you could do that, then you’d be in the studio making it happen. And I’ve never seen that happen before. I’ve never even heard of that happening.”
The resulting project captures Church at his very best, matching raw storytelling and climatic hooks with performances that blur the lines between country, soul, Bible Belt funk, and renegade rock & roll, earning early praise from Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Garden & Gun, MusicRow, New York Times, People, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, Tennessean and USA Today, among others.
Today’s release, the first third of the trilogy, opens with heartland anthem “Heart On Fire” whose greasy, Southern stomp nods to Bob Seger and The Rolling Stones, then sees the influence of Bruce Springsteen (a personal hero as well as the namesake of Chief’s 5x Platinum hit single, “Springsteen”) on “Heart Of The Night” and “Russian Roulette,” two tracks that find Church spinning stories of dead-end towns, fast cars, and the lure of the wide open American highway.
Heart’s overall theme, encapsulated by its own moniker, is evident in “People Break,” a wistful reflection about the realities of moving on, as well as in “Stick That In Your Country Song,” the defiant single which was recorded in a one-take rush to beat an impending power outage as a storm rivaling the song’s own manic energy raged outside.
Rounding out the initial album of the Heart & Soul trio are the endearingly reassuring “Never Break Heart,” which despite being written pre-pandemic seems tailor-made for the realities of the past year, the witty drinking song “Crazyland,” which sees Church playing a brokenhearted barfly surrounded by personified emotions, the twangy words of wisdom in “Bunch Of Nothing” and the closing anthem “Love Shine Down.”
With two installments of the project remaining under wraps until their releases next week – & available exclusively to the Church Choir on Tuesday, April 20, with Soul following for the general public on Friday, April 23 – Church has once again proven what Rolling Stone proclaims to be true in the lead review of the April print issue, on stands now: “Eric Church might look like a tough-guy outlaw who plays by his own rules, but his real gift has been for bending the rules to his will. No recent country artist has maneuvered the Nashville system as successfully, remaining dedicated to the power of down-the-center hitmaking even as he’s helped expand the parameters of the genre.”
Church will perform new music from across the collection next Tuesday, April 20 – including the first ever performance of Soul’s “Rock & Roll Found Me” – as part of an exclusive performance and live Q&A on Amazon Music’s Twitch channel and within the Amazon Music mobile app.
The reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, who is currently nominated in the same prestigious category at this Sunday’s ACM Awards (along with Male Vocalist of the Year and Music Event of the Year) will also perform Heart track “Bunch of Nothing” during the Awards broadcast. Church will also appear in an ACM Lifting Lives vaccination education PSA premiering during the show, once again emphasizing his belief that widespread vaccination is the key to a return to touring – which he will do this fall via his 55-city The Gather Again Tour. A full list of tour dates for the in-the-round arena shows is available HERE.
“I just want to play shows,” he shared with Billboard in the April 3 cover story depicting the superstar receiving his own second dose of the vaccine. “Those things that unite us are music and sports. The times when, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican or whatever, you throw your arm around the person next to you. We need that. I need that.”
Heart Track List
Lyrics linked HERE, songwriters in parentheses
1. Heart On Fire (Eric Church)
2. Heart Of The Night (Eric Church, Jeremy Spillman, Jeff Hyde, Ryan Tyndell, Travis Hill)
3. Russian Roulette (Eric Church, Casey Beathard, Monty Criswell)
4. People Break (Eric Church, Luke Laird)
5. Stick That In Your Country Song (Davis Naish, Jeffrey Steele)
6. Never Break Heart (Eric Church, Luke Dick)
7. Crazyland (Eric Church, Luke Laird, Michael Heeney)
8. Bunch Of Nothing (Eric Church, Jeff Hyde)
9. Love Shine Down (Eric Church, Casey Beathard, Jeffrey Steele)
About Eric Church
Reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and 10-time GRAMMY nominee Eric Church has spent the past year releasing new music at a relentless pace; providing a glimpse into the results of a marathon session during which he spent nearly a month writing and recording a song per day – including current Top 15 single “Hell of a View” – while sequestered in a rural North Carolina cabin, and fueling speculation of his highly anticipated new three-part project, with Heart available everywhere now plus & and Soul set for release next week.
Just as unique as Church’s approach to recording and releasing music is his tenacity on the road. During his most recent outing, 2019’s Double Down Tour, Church played back-to-back nights of two unique shows in each market sans opening act, giving every city’s fans six-plus hours of his iconic music. The tour also featured a massive stop at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, where he broke the venue’s concert attendance record with more than 56,000 fans in attendance and became the first artist to sell out the venue with a solo lineup. Church also recently took to the field at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium to perform the National Anthem with R&B star Jazmine Sullivan ahead of Super Bowl LV and will return to the road for The Gather Again Tour in the fall.
A seven-time ACM Award winner, four-time CMA Award winner, and 10-time GRAMMY nominee, Church has amassed a passionate fanbase around the globe known as the Church Choir as well as a critically acclaimed catalog of music. His most recent album, Desperate Man, earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Country Album (his third nod in the category) and produced his most recent No. 1 hit, “Some Of It.” Previous releases include the Platinum-certified Sinners Like Me (“How ’Bout You,” “Guys Like Me”), Carolina (“Smoke a Little Smoke,” “Love Your Love the Most”) and Mr. Misunderstood (“Record Year,” “Round Here Buzz”), the Double-Platinum certified The Outsiders (“Like a Wrecking Ball,” “Talladega”) and the 3x Platinum-certified Chief (“Springsteen,” “Drink In My Hand”), as well as 22 Gold, Platinum and multi-Platinum certified singles.
Eric Church (Heart & Soul) OC: …Heart & Soul is. 1:55
“Heart & Soul — I think that everybody wants to know why Heart & Soul and it’s interesting. I think for me, I didn’t go in there trying to make two albums or three albums. That is not what I tried to do; that is not what this was about. But I think it was about a moment, and what I found when I listened back to the project is there were a lot of songs that had heart in them or cars or guitars or music, and I think that’s because that’s what was on my mind at the time. And what I found that was interesting is there were two groups that they were this kind of song and then this kind of song that kind of grouped together. And then there was this middle five or six songs and I didn’t know where they went. They were cool. And then the thought was raised — do they belong together and that’s the first time that three albums came out. I would initially have said nah. I’m a cynic. I’m a music guy. If you tell me you made three albums, I say well you made one decent one. Just me. That’s not what this is. These are three different feels. These are three different things. They sound the same because they were made in the same moment, but they group up different. And yes, we could have done just Heart and Soul and there would have been six songs that didn’t make it anywhere. But I don’t think that’s right. I think that if you listen to them, they have their own thing. They belong in their own spot. And that’s what ended up at least conceptually with what Heart & Soul is.”
Eric Church (pushed himself vocally) OC: …non-stop vocals. :58
“I think the reason that I at least pushed myself vocally, which you can hear, is because every day you’re trying to do something a little different, a little more unique, than you did the day before. It’s so fresh that you’re going, ‘Well, we did this yesterday or sounded like this the next day,’ and I think you’re trying to do things, you’re trying to do things different; you’re trying to make it sound different. And I think that naturally that ended up being something that pushed me vocally, and it also helped that we were coming off a massive two-year tour. We had just finished in November, this was January, so the pipes were tuned up. I had been up on stage, and there was a lot of that improv going on stage and everything that I do every night, three-hour shows, that I was able to go in and use that for the studio part. Because, you know, it was a lot of singing. Not only am I writing all day singing that, but then I’m in the studio all night. We’re up late, do it again. So, it was about 30 days of non-stop vocals.”