Country singer Eric Church faces competition for Grammys

dmenconi@newsobserver.comFebruary 9, 2013 

  • When to watch

    The Grammy Awards air at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS. The pre-telecast portion streams online at

Granite Falls native Eric Church is up for two Grammy Awards Sunday, for country song and country solo performance for his No. 1 country hit “Springsteen.” In both, he faces formidable competition from the likes of Carrie Underwood and Alan Jackson.

But given the roll Church has been on for the past year, don’t bet against him.

Church blew up into one of country music’s biggest crossover stars in 2012, winning fans and acclaim across a wide spectrum. His most recent release, 2011’s “Chief,” won the coveted Album-of-the-Year award from the Country Music Association in November – after turning up on year-end best-lists from the alternative-rock magazine Spin and National Public Radio.

As further proof of his status as the country singer it’s cool for rockers to like, Church also played last summer’s Orion Music + More Festival in Atlantic City, N.J., alongside Metallica, Best Coast and Suicidal Tendencies. But if you listen to Church’s music, his cross-genre appeal to rock fans isn’t hard to fathom.

“‘Chief’ had no fiddle or steel guitar, which traditionally have been the things you have to have in country music,” Church said. “So it’s very much a country record, but it’s not foreign to people on the rock side, either. I remember starting out in about 2005, when it was really uncool to wear a country artist’s T-shirt on a college campus, and I am stunned at how much it’s changed. We play colleges everywhere now, and those are the best, rowdiest crowds. The country format was always geared toward an older soccer-mom demographic, but it’s become a lot more young males, at least for us.”

For all the accolades and awards that came his way last year, Church’s personal highlight of 2012 was a more personal moment. It happened at a show in New Hampshire, where Church was playing an arena where Bruce Springsteen had performed the night before.

Inspired by Church’s No. 1 country single “Springsteen” – a remembrance of a teenage romance, framed by references to Springsteen hits from the old days – Springsteen left behind a note he jotted down on the back of a setlist. Hand-delivered to Church by one of Springsteen’s assistants, the note said that he was a fan and hoped that they’d someday cross paths.

“It’s scribbly, written in the car on the way to the plane,” Church said. “But it’s a long note, takes up the entire back page of this setlist for a show that lasted three hours and 47 minutes. Now that was amazing, because I never thought a guy like that would even know I’m alive. But the fact that he did and was a fan of that song and moved to write a note, there’s the power of music wrapped up in a little ball. It kind of sums up the year we’ve had, almost surreal.”

Asked if he had the note from Springsteen framed on a wall somewhere, Church laughed.

“No, that note is in a safe and that’s where it’s going to stay,” he said. “I won’t even put it in the house. If the house ever burns down, I want to know that it’s still OK.”

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or

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