Country singer, composer, and guitarist Eric Church first made an impact as a songwriter, but he soon revealed a sharp wit and rough-and-rowdy style as a performer. His 2006 debut Sinners Like Me bore the influence of outlaw country, while a touch of rock & roll in his sound helped it score high on both the pop and country charts. Its follow-up Carolina did even better, but third album Chief wound up being Church's entry into country superstardom. Upon its release in 2011, it topped the pop and country charts, while the singles "Drink in My Hand" and "Springsteen" both hit number one. His albums began reaching the Top Five in the album charts regularly, and he became a frequent nominee for Male Vocalist of the Year at the CMA Awards.
Church grew up in Granite Falls, North Carolina, and began singing as a child. At 13, he started writing songs, later teaching himself to play guitar. While attending college at Appalachian State, he formed a band, the Mountain Boys, that played around western North Carolina. After graduating with a degree in marketing, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a career in country music. It took him a year to get a song publishing deal with Sony/ATV, after which he started having his songs recorded by other artists, an example being Terri Clark's version of "The World Needs a Drink." He met producer Jay Joyce, who took an interest in him as a recording artist, and they began making demos. That led to his being signed by Capitol Records Nashville.
Church's debut single, "How 'Bout You," was released in early 2006, and it had reached the country Top 20 by the time Capitol released his first album, Sinners Like Me, in July 2006. The album was both a critical and commercial success, and Church followed it up with Carolina in 2009, which swung for the contemporary country fences and hit them, scoring two Top Ten singles on the country charts with "Love Your Love the Most" (certified gold) and "Hell on the Heart." In 2010, he scored another gold single with "Smoke a Little Smoke" in 2010. He won Top New Solo Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards for that calendar year. After extensive touring, Church released the Caldwell County EP in January of 2011, which reached the number 13 position on the Billboard country chart, as did the single "Homeboy." Church followed with the album Chief in July.
Chief was Church's breakout album: upon its July 2011 release, it debuted at number one on both the Billboard 200 and the Top Country Albums chart. Soon afterward, "Drink in My Hand" climbed to the top of the country charts, becoming Church's first number one single. Its popularity was eclipsed in the summer of 2012 by "Springsteen," a ballad that also reached number one on the country charts but additionally crossed over to the pop Top 20. Two other singles were pulled from Chief — "Creepin'" and "Like Jesus Does" — and the album won Album of the Year at the 2012 Country Music Academy Awards.
Early in 2013, Church released the live set Caught in the Act, which was recorded at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga, Tennessee in October 2012; the album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200. Church spent the rest of 2013 working on his fourth studio album. The first taste of this work was the heavy rock of "The Outsiders," a single that turned out to be the album's title track. Preceded by the second single, "Give Me Back My Hometown" (which followed the title track into the country Top Ten), The Outsiders arrived after considerable anticipation and acclaim in February 2014. It became his second album to hit number one on both the country and overall charts. The Outsiders racked up five hit singles — the biggest were the ballads "Give Me Back My Hometown" and "Talladega," both of which reached number one on Billboard's U.S. Country Airplay chart — and while "Like a Wrecking Ball" remained on the charts, Church released a brand-new full-length album, Mr. Misunderstood, as a surprise in the first week of November 2015.
Mr. Misunderstood debuted at number two on Billboard's Top 200 and country charts, eventually earning a gold certification and winning CMA's Album of the Year in 2016, along with spawning three hit singles: "Mr. Misunderstood," "Record Year," and "Kill a Word," which featured Rhiannon Giddens on its single version. In November 2016, Church released the EP Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks Live and (Mostly) Unplugged. A fourth single off Mr. Misunderstood, "Round Here Buzz," appeared in 2017 and reached the Top 20 of Billboard's Country Songs chart. The singer's sixth studio album, Desperate Man, arrived in October 2018, preceded by its title track as a single. ~ William Ruhlmann