Top 10 Eric Church Songs
Eric Church songs are some of the most diverse and challenging of any contemporary country singer-songwriter.
It's easy to label Church an "outlaw" -- but it's also lazy and incomplete. Though the admittedly hard-headed and uncompromising performer doesn't back down from saying what he means -- either in person or in his songs -- his songwriting encompasses a lot more than just his "outsider" persona, taking in romantic ballads, songs that celebrate his small-town roots and much more.
Balanced with his party anthems and in-your-face attitude songs, the resulting body of work has helped Church become perhaps one of country's unlikeliest superstars, after a fairly rough start. The Boot celebrates the full depth and scope of Church's best work with our list of the Top 10 Eric Church Songs.
Church scored a Top 10 hit with the fourth single from his Chief album. "Creepin'" is one of the most unusual tracks to grace mainstream country radio in years, featuring a funky rhythm track, dropped tuning, banjos juxtaposed with electric guitars and layers of vocal effects. Written by Church with Marv Green, the track also features vivid lyrical imagery: "You shot outta hell like a bullet from a gun / A flip of a switch, a thief on the run."
Though it was not released as a radio single, the title song from Church's second studio album still ranks as one of the Top 10 Eric Church Songs on the strength of its poignant lyrics: "There's a cabin in a valley my grandpa built on your land / Your mountains are a canvas for the Maker's hand." Church drops his tough-guy persona in favor of a world-weary traveler looking to make his way home for this essential track.
Church scored his first genuine hit single (No. 10) with the first single from his sophomore album. "Love Your Love the Most" didn't receive great reviews, and with its list-type lyrics, it ultimately has little to do with the larger body of Church's work -- but it still belongs on this list, if only for the fact that it began a run of hit singles that ultimately carried Church to where he is today. Besides, you've got to like a country song that manages to work in the line "Yeah, I'm a fan of Faulkner books."
The second single from Carolina also scored Church his second Top 10 hit. Written by Church with Deric Ruttan and Jeremy Spillman, the song features a somewhat predictable lyric ("Yeah, she's heaven on the eyes / But boy she's hell on the heart"). But its unique production and compelling hook stick in the listener's brain instantly, which no doubt helped carry the song to No. 10 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.
After the breakthrough success of Chief, Church took his career to a whole new level with the release of The Outsiders. The title song and first single is one of the most unique and challenging pieces of music to see mainstream country release in years, combining elements of rock, rap and even progressive metal in an anthem for all the underdogs: "They're the in crowd, we're the other ones / It's a different kind of cloth that we're cut from." Country radio even embraced the song, which rose to No. 6 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.
The third single from Carolina was a sharp departure from the album's other hits. Written by Church with Jeff Hyde and Driver Williams, "Smoke a Little Smoke" was an unapologetic ode to getting over a lost love with the aid of some chemical enhancements: "Put some feel good in my soul / Drink a little drink, smoke a little smoke." The track's free-and-easy rock feel helped it reach No. 16 in the country charts.
While Church had already scored numerous chart hits, "Springsteen" was an undeniable breakthrough single and may well stand as the song of his career. Written by Church with Jeff Hyde and Ryan Tyndell, the song tells the bittersweet story of a teenage romance, incorporating references to the music of Bruce Springsteen: "Somewhere between that setting sun, "I'm on Fire" and "Born to Run" / You looked at me and I was done, we were just getting started." The song reached No. 1, was certified double platinum and earned Church two Grammy nominations, as well as an ACM Award for Song of the Year in 2012.
"Like Jesus Does" is an anomaly in Church's catalog in that it is a hit single that he had no hand in writing. Written by Casey Beathard and Monty Criswell, the song displays a vulnerability that is not what fans generally expect from Church, which is part of what makes it work so well. The lyrics describe a love that is all-accepting: "I'm a long-gone Waylon song on vinyl / I'm a back row sinner at a tent revival / But she believes in me like she believes her Bible / And loves me like Jesus does."
The second single from The Outsiders couldn't have been more different from the first. Church worked with co-writer Luke Laird on this plaintive ballad, in which the protagonist laments the loss of his high school love, which has colored his perception of his hometown forever: "All the colors of my youth / The red, the green, the hope, the truth / Are beatin' me black and blue 'cause you're in every scene." The song topped Billboard's Country Airplay chart.
Church scored a major career breakthrough with the second single from Chief. A classic country rock anthem about drinking away your problems, "Drink in My Hand" became Church's first No. 1 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and has become a highlight of his live shows. The song also earns the top spot on our list of the Top 10 Eric Church Songs.