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OUT IN THE CROWD: Singer-songwriter aims for authenticity in his songs

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Honesty is his policy. It's just how country singer-songwriter Eric Church was raised.

And it's a characteristic that carries over into the North Carolina native's music.

The songs listeners hear him sing are songs about himself, his own life experiences and the way he sees the world.

"I think authenticity is very important in today's format," the 32-year-old said. "They either love us or hate us. I really don't care as long as they know where we're coming from."

Church started writing songs when he was barely a teenager.

"It's what I heard in my head kind of, almost like poetry but I would always hear melodies," he said.

When he realized those melodies and lyrics were unique, not just something he had heard somewhere, Church started putting them down on paper. When he got a guitar and taught himself to play, he took it even further.

"That was a vessel and a real avenue for getting those songs out. None of them were any good at the time," he laughed, "but I didn't know that."

While he didn't get serious about songwriting until college, he learned a little about mechanics.

"The thing that was great, that I learned, was how to craft a song," he said, "where the chorus was supposed to be, how to craft a verse."

It wasn't until Church moved to Nashville after graduating from college with a degree in marketing that he saw how professional songwriting was done and was able to hone his craft. A year after relocating from his home in Granite Falls, N.C., Church was signed to a publishing deal. When the time came for Church to record, he had a wealth of songs from which to select, all with his mark of honesty and authenticity.

A song off his first album, "Sinners Like Me," is about teen pregnancy, a topic rarely sung about so openly in any genre.

"A lot of people wouldn't have written it and put it out," Church said of "Two Pink Lines."

"It was truthful and it was something that happens every day. I think sometimes it can be uncomfortable to talk about that stuff and sing about that stuff, but it's important to me.

"In my music, it's me," he laughed, "sometimes to the detriment."

Church has continued his penchant for honesty and authenticity in his music on his sophomore effort, the 2009 release "Carolina." He will be performing fan favorites from both his albums opening for country legend Hank Williams Jr. on his Rowdy Friends Tour making a stop at the Arena on Saturday.

The soft-spoken Church said folks in the audience might be surprised by what he brings to the stage.

"We demand participation," he said. "We want beers in the air, fists in the air. It's full blown rock and roll in your face.

"A change happens," he said, "and I go out there for about 90 minutes or 2 hours and I'm a person I'm not for the rest of the week. It's probably fun to watch. I know it's fun to do."