Eric Church brings 'Blood, Sweat & Beers' to town

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

The "Chief" is still ruling the charts.

Although Eric Church, who named his latest album "Chief" in tribute to his grandfather, has seen his latest album hit No. 1, he seems as down-to-earth as he was in 2006, when he released "Sinners Like Me." While some artists might allow their egos to rise with their popularity, Church's genuine attitude is intact. You'll hear that in his music, including the single "Homeboy" off his latest album. But like Church, the song is much more nuanced than might originally seem.

" 'Homeboy' deals with social issues and with everyday life," said Church, who wrote the songs for his album alone before sharing them with others. "It was pretty challenging for me to take that term 'homeboy' and use it as slang, as a destination, and then at the end, as a spiritual place. Sonically, it's like three or four different songs. It's not something people are used to, and there can be a price to pay for that. I've had people say, 'That's strange,' 'It's odd' -- things that some people might run from, but I think it's fantastic."

Embracing the irregular is arguably what boosted Church into the big time. For a decade, Church recorded and toured the country, playing little barrooms and clubs without having one song crack the top five. But what he gained was a rabid grassroots fan base that swayed others to listen to support him.

Onstage
Eric Church
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: George Mason University, Patriot Center, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
Info: $37.50 to $47.50; 202-397-SEAT (7328); ticketmaster.com

Church has never stopped crediting his fans for powering him to the top of the charts and into headline status, even as he fought against musical conformity. Despite some critical backlash against his outlaw style of rock-oriented country, Church never lost his way, even when the criticism took him by surprise. Instead, he embraced his "outlaw" status, joining Toby Keith's outlaw country "Locked & Loaded" tour last year.

"I have a theory that all of us only get a small window of time to make records when people will really listen and care," he said. "It's up to us to move the needle. People like Waylon and Cash or Garth and Strait -- they all took the format and said, 'We're going over here,' and they all changed the direction of the music a little bit."

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