Eric Church got out of Nashville — and his comfort zone — to make Heart & Soul, his forthcoming triple album. The country superstar says his goal in creating his latest music was to “make people really uncomfortable.”
The decision was a product of the creation of Church’s last album, 2018’s Desperate Man. In a new behind-the-scenes video, the singer admits that he and his team felt just a little too comfortable when they were making that record, “and it was hard to get the record because of that.”
So, in January of 2020, Church, his band and his go-to producer, Jay Joyce, headed to Artisanal, a farm-to-table restaurant in Banner Elk, N.C. Church was familiar with the venue beforehand — in fact, he says, he’d remarked to his wife that the largely wood building would make a great recording studio — but turning it into a workable space in which to record included its fair share of challenges at first.
“To see Jay react to that, I think it put him back where he started,” Church explains. “He’s not comfortable at all, and he’s just trying to go, ‘How do I make this album in this place?'”
Church created further tension — a good kind, he clarifies; the kind that leaves you wondering what’s coming next — by enlisting additional musicians to join him and his band throughout bits of the recording process. Several songwriters came, too, though Church hadn’t previously discussed his plans with them in full.
“Doing it that way allowed for the songwriters to get involved in the studio process and the musicians to be involved in the creative process,” Church says. The goal was to write and record one song per day; some days, they didn’t have a complete song, “but I liked [what we had of] the song and I decided, just start it — we’ll figure it out as we go.”
“It really put creativity in the driver’s seat,” Church adds, “and it was exciting to me.”
Church has previously explained that he wasn’t aiming for a triple album at the start of the Heart & Soul recording process, and has noted that he likely won’t undertake a similar plan ever again. The month-long retreat was an intense creative grind, he admits.
“When I would lay down at night to try to sleep … immediately, you go, ‘We’ve gotta do this again tomorrow, and I have nothing,'” Church recalls. “There was a period there where it was hard — it was a lot harder than I thought … I’ve never been there before; I’ve never been that far out on the limb with the creative process.”
However, recording that way had at least one fun advantage: Because he was only spending one day with each song, when Church went back to listen to what they’d captured, it was like he was listening to something he’d never heard before.
“I would look at the titles and go, ‘What song is that?'” he says. “It was like I was listening as a fan.”
Church will release Heart & Soul in three parts: the nine-song Heart on April 16; the six-song &, available only to Church Choir fan club members, on April 20; and the nine-song Soul on April 23. The singer revealed his plans in full after fans hacked his website and discovered the information earlier than planned, though he has already released several of the album’s songs, including the singles “Stick That in Your Country Song” and “Hell of a View.”
Once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, Church is planning to tour in support of the album as well.
How Well Do You Know Eric Church? Take the Quiz?
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Eric Church: