Eric Church has been on sort of an “anti-publicity” publicity campaign for his latest record Mr. Misunderstood. He isn’t all over the place making appearances, he’s not granting many interviews, and there hasn’t been a lot of ads or other promo for the record. By releasing the album as a complete surprise on the night of the CMA’s on November 3rd, and giving away tens of thousands of copies to his fan club before it ever hit store shelves, he’s been relying more on good will and word of mouth to get the Mr. Misunderstood message out.
That has made an Eric Church interview these days a pretty rare instance, but he did talk with the Las Vegas Sun a while back in a fairly unpublicized piece that flew under the radar, but is stirring up dust now that it’s been discovered he had some pretty pointed words for where country music stands today.
“Country has become a bigger umbrella. It’s good and bad,” Church told the newspaper. “Country has become too homogenized and too commercial. It has lost what makes it special. It’s great that it’s popular, but then it starts to become watered down.”
This isn’t the first time Eric Church has criticized the direction of modern country, and he’s done it in his music as well. His song “Lotta Boot Left to Fill” from 2009 challenged the status quo of artists who were more about image than substance. In 2012 Church criticized singing competitions, and specifically The Voice, putting him at odds with Blake Shelton and his then wife Miranda Lambert. Church also had a song on his previous album The Outsiders that criticized the country music business.
So what should country music represent according to Eric Church?
“The song that speaks to the American condition,” he says. “It’s middle America. Eight out of 10 people. Maybe it’s not the No. 1 choice, but they listen to country. Consistency, as well.”
Eric Church also had specific praise for George Strait in the interview.
“He is incredible — especially his longevity. He has stayed true to who he is as an artist. It is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and he has been able to do that. And he’s had more than 60 No. 1 songs — some labels don’t have that!”
Many have wondered what would have happened if Eric Church ended up winning Male Vocalist of the Year instead of Chris Stapleton on that November evening at the CMA’s, or if Church had walked away with the night’s top prize—Entertainer of the Year. Would Mr. Misunderstood have become the blockbuster that Chris Stapleton’s Traveller did due to the buzz around Eric’s surprise release? Was some of the air taken out of Mr. Misunderstood because Chris Stapleton became the big story of the night and not Eric? We can only assume at this point, but Church has held fast to his (anti) marketing plan of letting the music sell itself, which may be a smart choice since it’s one of his most consistent records.