Eric Church has officially dropped all three parts of his new album, Heart & Soul, and celebrated big during his iHeartCountry Album Release Party.
During the virtual show, hosted by Bobby Bones, Church performed several songs from his new project, including "Jenny," "Heart On Fire," "Hell Of A View" and "Through My Ray-Bans." The country star also listened along to some more songs from the album, with several lucky fans joining him via Zoom, including "Stick That In Your Country Song," "Never Break Heart," "Crazyland," "Russian Roulette," "Kiss Her Goodbye," "Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones," "Break It Kind of Guy" and "Bad Mother Trucker."
Church also opened up about the making of Heart & Soul during an exclusive Q&A with Bones, as well as answered some fan questions and even surprised some fans with tickets to his upcoming "Gather Again" tour.
Heart & Soul was created in the mountains of North Carolina, and Eric and his team wrote and recorded 28 songs in 28 days. He explained of the process, "My program was let's put, Jay Joyce, myself, the band, the writers in an environment that they've never been in before. And that's Act One, to make them uncomfortable, right? Act Two, let's write a song the same day we record that song. And that is the most gnarly thing you can do. And I honestly thought it could have been an unmitigated disaster. That's what I thought this could be. And what I learned is it started to become, 'there's something happening here.' And I think that when you get in that moment where creativity takes the lead, you win, and that's the best, the Genesis, and the revelation of this project, and I couldn't be prouder of it."
In fact, the studio that the group did this in was a restaurant they rented out and turned into a makeshift studio. Church recalled, "The first day was a total disaster because it was my idea to bring it into a restaurant I had been to many times. We have a summer house there and I take my family there, and it's got reclaimed barn wood, kind of deal. And I thought this would be a great studio. And the first day, Jay [Joyce] was there, my producer, we set the drums up in the main room and it was a disaster. He goes, 'The drums can't stay here, we have to figure something out.' But the great thing about Jay, and the reason I think this project works, is he was not in his normal environment. He had to figure out how to make the drums work. And I had to figure out how to write a song a day, and the guitar player had to figure out how to do something different. So, I think this whole thing was about trying to make people be not what they are every day."
Eric also recalled how the Elton John biopic, Rocketman, helped inspire "Rock & Roll Found Me" from his new album. He explained:
"This whole project, I got to a place, creatively, that I had never been to before. I would define it as, not stable, but somebody like my wife who was a former publisher that worked with songwriters, she loved it because you get to see what's coming in, but it was almost like a manic ... So if you get up in the morning and write a song, and then you record that song that night, then that day's done, you got to do it again. And after four or five or six days, that becomes this treadmill of, you know, everything was a song to me. And I'll give you an example. We're probably not gonna play this song, but I think it's on Soul, and it's a song called 'Rock & Roll Found Me.' I took a weekend off and my family came to hang out with me in the mountains, and my wife said, let's just have a movie night, pop popcorn, we've got a bottle of wine. We sat down and we watched Elton John's movie, Rocketman. And, I'm 20 minutes into this thing and he's dressed in this costume and he's at an AA meeting or something. And he goes, 'I was however many years old when rock and roll found me.' And when he said that, I got up, said pause the movie, I went to the kitchen, I wrote the song. And I just was so into that world and that creativity, I couldn't turn it off. And, good or bad, depends on who you talking to, but that's the way it all turned out."
Elsewhere in the album release party, a fan asked about his upcoming tour, and what song from Heart & Soul is he most excited to play live. He revealed, "I'm figuring this out right now, but I'm toying around with starting out the next tour with 'Heart On Fire.' I just think it has the right moment and Joanna Cotten's involved. So, if that's the opener, then I guess my answer to you is the opener, because I just can't wait to get back into it. But, I think 'Heart On Fire' has got a really good shot at being that."
Church went into detail about his forthcoming trek, and explained what fans can look forward to, in addition to how he plans to make each show safe for everyone. He said, "The 'Gather Again' tour starts in September. It's going to be in the round, actual middle stage in the round — so, the stage is going to be in the middle of the arena. And, man, it's going to be ...I can't wait to do it. I mean, we've worked with so many different people here from local municipalities, to governors, to mayors, to ... I've become an amateur epidemiologist during this thing. So, I think that what we found is, once enough vaccines are available, which is going to be this month for anyone, I encourage everybody to get it that has not got it. But, if you want it, great, if you don't, great. I think that's where their restrictions go away. And, we're going to go back to work and I can't wait. Adding 24 songs to the mix of the shows we used to do; still going to be just us [for] three, four hours. We're going to have an intermission, we're going to let people take a break in the middle, but it's going to be, I think, among the best music and shows that we've done."
Eric ended his iHeartCountry Album Release Party by surprising each fan who joined him virtually with tickets to one of his upcoming shows on the tour. He told them, "This entire time, for me, this has been the thing I've been missing. It's not been making new music, it's been that interaction that you have, that moment, that communion that you have with fans. And I think that I have missed that more than I ever knew I would miss that. And I cannot wait to be back in that moment that we all freeze time, in that moment in time. Doesn't matter what's happening outside of that arena, that stadium, wherever. It's about right there, right in that moment. And I think we should all live life that way, in my opinion."