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A Minute With: Eric Church on his new hit CD "Chief"

Publicity photo of country music singer Eric Church
Publicity photo of country music singer Eric Church

By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Eric Church is amazed that his new CD, "Chief" has sold 145,000 units in the first seven days and he's thrilled that the album shot to the top Billboard's country chart.

"Chief" has the second highest debut week sales of the year, topped only by Brad Paisley's "This is Country Music" in May. The first single "Homeboy," has been certified gold.

The new CD follows his 2006 debut album, "Sinners Like Me," and his 2009 disc, "Carolina" which yielded the singles "Love Your Love the Most" and "Smoke a Little Smoke."

During his tour for "Chief" Church spoke to Reuters about his success.

Q: Did you ever imagine that the sales for "Chief" would reach the numbers it did the first week?

A: "Hell no! I had expectations it would sell 100,000, which would be a big step for us, and it did that in like three days. It is unreal!"

Q: How much credit does your Church Choir fan club get?

A: "I just love the fact that people who bought my first two records thought enough of them to be waiting and watching for this one. I've always made it about the music, and for a long time I wasn't sure it worked in this day and age. It turns out that it does."

Q: You don't participate in social media like Twitter and Facebook, so how did word get out?

A: "My fans really took responsibility for making people aware of 'Chief.' They posted the information everywhere. I didn't have to say go out and buy my record, because they were carrying the flag for me."

Q: What is it about "Chief" that caught their attention?

A: "Part of the reason we have not had the easiest path at radio is that we put out songs with pretty serious subject matter. The last two, "Smoke a Little Smoke" and "Homeboy," are serious songs, very in your face sonically."

Q: You had a very different approach in writing this album than your two previous albums, didn't you?

A: "Usually I take songwriters out on the road with me, or I'll try to write in Nashville. This time I rented a cabin up in the mountains of North Carolina, near where I'm from, and invited my songwriting friends to join me there. The main thing I wanted was to get away from everything and concentrate on writing songs.

"I brought people to a place that they weren't familiar with, so they would be out of their element and think outside of the box. It was just me and the co-writer in the cabin, 24/7. We wrote at 3 a.m., 10 a.m or 7 p.m, whenever an idea would hit us. It was a unique experience."

Q: How did that translate to the studio when you recorded?

A: "I think you feel the energy in the music. We decided there would be no boundaries, no rules. When we were recording "Homeboy," (producer) Jay Joyce came up with the handclap, and then we added a harp -- stuff you'd never expect on a song like that. We used that as the template for the rest of the record and continued to try to push the envelope."

Q: Talk about the opening song, "Creepin".

A: "'Creepin' was the first track we recorded. I knew when we started working on it that it was the way the record should start. My favorite part is the way the track itself kind of creeps in. It's interesting how sonically it matches the lyrics, then, it gets full-blown and tries to creep out.

Q: Tell us your favorite song on the album?

A: "'Springsteen.' I lived that song. I was 15 years-old and she was 16. We had that love affair where you connect with someone, and the artist that was playing becomes a soundtrack to your relationship. We didn't stay together, but to this day, when I hear Bruce Springsteen, I think of her and I hope she thinks of me.

Q: What is coming up?

A: I'm out with Toby Keith on his "Locked and Loaded" tour through the end of October. I'll be adding the new music now that the record is out. We've already been playing "Homeboy," but I'll add "Creepin'," "Springsteen" and a few others that have a party atmosphere to them, for the tour.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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