Charlie Cook On Air: Eric Church Is Country’s Rock Rebel

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

I am on record as being one the biggest Eric Church fans out there. I have seen his show live a number of times and each time I am impressed with his passion and showmanship. I have said I find him to be one of the “dangerous” performers. When he is on stage your eyes are glued to him. He might do anything and you certainly don’t want to miss it.

Eric has always pushed the envelope with his music. Early that was a challenge for the promotions staffs as he was still finding his place in the format. The CD Sinners Like Me included the single “Two Pink Lines” that made some programmers uncomfortable. His second CD Carolina established him as a real “must play” on country radio even though “Smoke A Little Smoke” was again, dealing with a topic country radio would rather ignore. You can drink all you want but….

But “Love Your Love the Most” and “Hell on the Heart” were right in the groove and became his first Top 10 hits. Eric had arrived.

Then in 2011 he came with arguably the best CD of the year. Chief is a masterpiece. “Homeboy” was aggressive but by then country radio had said, “Bring it on Eric, you are a star.’ “Drink in My Hand,” more in line with the format’s themes, was his first No. 1 and “Springsteen” is one of my top five favorite songs ever. It was a fast No. 1, so apparently many people agree with me.

Eric was recently quoted as saying music is music. “I think that genres are dead,” he told CMT. “There’s good music. There’s bad music.”

I want to add there is music that works on the radio and appeals to masses and there is music that doesn’t. I think Eric Church can and should do whatever the heck he wants to do on his CDs. He has earned the right to write and record anything. He has been playing music for over 20 years and, as I said, he is one of the best performers in the format.

Eric states, “I’m a country music artist in Nashville, but Nashville is way, way, way bigger than country music.”

He is 100% correct. There are many other genres of music in Nashville…oops I used genre because there are elements that differentiate music tastes.

Eric Church and Charlie Cook. Photo: Charlie Cook

Eric Church and Charlie Cook. Photo: Charlie Cook

Eric is going to sell a heck of a lot of copies of his CD The Outsiders. He is going to sell a lot to people who identify themselves as fans of country music and a lot to fans who identify themselves as alternative, rock, pop, etc. What he isn’t going to do is have a lot of success on country radio with a song like “The Outsiders.” As I programmer I was excited to hear a new Eric Church song. I added “The Outsiders” to the stations I work with and there was some good and bad the first couple of days.

I edited the song, taking off the last 1:30 seconds of guitar riffs that stood out on the station. I thought shortening the song to 2:51 would make both sides happy. The unhappy side got louder and I watched the song quickly lose steam on the charts. My conclusion was other programmers were hearing the same complaints from their listeners.

I suspect that when the CD The Outsiders is released, I will purchase and download it. I will listen to it in the car with the volume at 11. That is because my tastes are a little bit different than the loyal listeners to country radio. You know, that genre that supports us all. I’m gonna listen to Frank Sinatra, Bob Seger and Blake Shelton. But I’m not gonna play them all on a country station.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)

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