Eric Church's The Outsiders dropped earlier this month to immediate critical acclaim and at least a few puzzled reactions. It seems his Nashville-twang-meets-Metallica sound isn't everybody's cup of tea. But as far as Church is concerned, "genre" is an outdated concept, as stale and phony as can be in the age of iTunes and streaming media.
"I think the interesting thing is that there still are a bunch of stigmas about what this is or what that is," says Church in an interview with Exclaim! "But I think the stigmas go away in the next 10 years, if they're not already going away now. I don't know what that means, I really don't."
Certainly, Church demonstrates that he's not hemmed in by genre conventions on his latest record. But what of conservative Nashville? Does he see "Music Row" slipping into the dustbin of history along with its genre?
"People ask me all the time, 'Do you worry about the identity of country music?' And here's what I think: Country music still comes back to songwriting. It's the home of the singer-songwriter. If you come down to Nashville, TN, the one identity it has is that it's a songwriting town. That's different from New York, different from L.A., different from Chicago or New Orleans."
He reiterates, "It is a songwriting town, and as long as we're being true to the craft, to songwriting, to great songs, that will remain Nashville's identity. As long as we're paying attention to that, the music can evolve to where it needs to evolve."
The Outsiders is out now courtesy of Universal Music Canada, and Church has a series of live dates already booked in Europe and the U.S. You can check out the schedule here.
Also, read Exclaim!'s full interview with Church here.