Eric Church’s “Country Music Jesus” Inspired by SCM?

On July 26th, the always polarizing “new Outlaw” Eric Church will be releasing his latest album entitled Chief, which includes a song called “Country Music Jesus”. Saving Country Music has learned that the idea behind Eric Church’s “Country Music Jesus” likely inspired by none other than your humble, lovable Triggerman.

At a party for Eric Church’s fan club in Nashville on June 10th, 2011, he edified his fans with the story of how “Country Music Jesus” came about.

I holed up in a cabin for about 5 weeks, without a cell phone, TV, anything fun. There’s this writer, at the time that kinda had written a critique of the new country Outlaw movement. Said something about “I wish all these new guys would do it like the old guys did it, and make the same music, the same way, over and over.” (groans from the crowd). He said I guess we’re still waiting on a country music Jesus to save country music’s soul. I thought, “Well that’s great!’ (crowd laughs). I used that idea.

Here’s video of the event, if you can keep from being distracted by the outdated wood paneling.

Though I’ve never used the term “Country Music Jesus”, I have referred to a “Country Music Savior” on many occasions, aka a country music star that has the cultural power to right the wayward country ship. The idea of a country music “Jesus” or “Savior” is built into the mythos and tradition of country music, and has been referenced before by people like Merle Haggard. And yes, I have been very critical of the new Outlaw movement from the beginning, and specifically of Eric Church at times. I find the characterization that I “wish all these new guys would do it like the old guys did it, and make the same music, the same way, over and over” pretty laughable though.

Unlike Taylor Swift’s song “Mean” which is POTENTIALLY about me, I don’t believe this song is about a specific person, more that it’s inspired by an idea that may have been asserted by me. In an interview with The Boot, Church seemed to infer the song is to be taken ironically.

It’s one of my pet peeves… If we’re making the same music as Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, why not just listen to that? They didn’t do the music before them, they completely changed. And down the line, Garth, Shania, they also changed the format. You have to be continually changing or evolving. That’s what’s healthy about music.

Eric firmly asserts that country music is currently as good as it has been in a long time. “Since I’ve been doing this, these past six years, the music is as good and as cool as any format.”

However, with Eric Church’s raging disposition for arrogance and self-promotion, there might be a possibility Eric Church is creating the “Country Music Jesus” to then appoint the title to himself. I also wonder if the “Country Music Jesus” idea was the inspiration for his self-gratifying promotional video for the ACM’s. I also don’t understand how if Eric Church thinks Waylon and Hank ‘s sound is no longer relevant, why did he evoke Waylon and Hank’s name in his song “Lotta Boot Left to Fill?”

But Eric Church is right. Making the same country music over and over is not evolution. But I can’t find where I, or anybody else has ever asserted that is what country music should do. Some might assume this is a stance that people who want to preserve the traditions of country music might take, or infer this from the artists those people promote, but this is a classic example of framing an argument around a position that doesn’t exist. I have said many times country music must evolve. Here is one such case from a recent Amanda Shires review:

…country has been trying to evolve for years, but those evolving elements have been pushed into the indie and underground realm as the mainstream devolves and looks outside of country’s big tent for commercial viability.

Find lyrics to the song below, and leave your snarky, Carly Simon-based comments below that.

There’ll be fire on the mountain

I had a revelation last night
Divine inspiration from the other side
Of what it’s gonna take to right all this wrong
We need a country music Jesus to come and save us all

We need a second coming worse than bad
Some long-haired hippie prophet preaching from the book of Johnny Cash
A sheep among the wolves there standing tall
We need a country music Jesus to come and save us all

[Chorus]
There’ll be fire on the mountain
There’ll be revival and banging drums
There’ll be screaming and there’ll be shouting
When my country music Jesus comes

We’ve had our believers in the past
And they gave us a message that would last
They built our house on a foundation of stone
God send a country music Jesus to come and save us all

[Chorus (x2)]
There’ll be fire on the mountain
There’ll be revival and banging drums
There’ll be screaming and there’ll be shouting
When my country music Jesus comes

When my country music Jesus comes