“I’ve always believed that the moment a song is born is the most important moment of that song’s life,” Eric Church tells Apple Music. “And what normally happens, at least in Nashville, is a song is born, and we write the song, and we go home and we make a demo. And six months later, we figure out if we’re going to go into a studio and cut that song. But there’s so much time that the magic just starts to die away.” That isn’t what happened with Heart & Soul, a trio of new albums Church wrote and recorded with his band and team of co-writers over the course of a single month at a shuttered-for-the-season restaurant in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
“I remember having a conversation with my bass player, and I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to bring in some different players on this album,’” he recalls. “And he goes, ‘Man, we’re kicking ass. If it’s not broke—’ And I stopped him, I said, ‘You break it. We have to mess this up.’” It was then that he and his producer, Jay Joyce, decided to follow that instinct. “Let’s write the song that day,” he says, thinking back to their first conversations about Heart & Soul. “Let’s record the song that day. And let’s commit everything we have to that moment, to that song, and let it be. This is my favorite project for that reason, because I’ve never really put it all out there like we’ve done on this one.”
Though they’re three separate albums, Church views the 24 total tracks as a cohesive body of work, all written and recorded in the same place. “Every night, I would stay up most of the night writing songs,” he says. “We’d finish them by two or three o’clock in the afternoon, and then we’d go in the studio and we’d record them. And it also put pressure on me: I’m not going to walk in there with anything that I’m not proud of. I wanted to make sure I walked in with a stud of a song and I would work harder.”
Soon, Church was writing songs in his sleep and letting the inspiration take him and his collaborators where the music flowed. “I got to where I could not turn it off,” he says. “Everything was a song to me. I mean, anybody that talked to me, I would go, ‘I can make that a song.’ I don’t know if that’s good or bad; I got quite manic, but it worked. At the end of it, it took me a while to shut it down.”
Fans will recognize the Chief’s intensity throughout Heart & Soul, but one single stands out as a telltale track. “Stick That in Your Country Song” is a snarling and somber look at modern American life and the conflicts it entails, one that follows a pattern Church says has followed him from his early days as a recording artist. “If you look at our career, it’s pretty easy to see our first single off of every album has been aggressive,” he says. “’Stick That in Your Country Song,’ that’s aggressive, but the next one’s normally a pretty big hit. I know that’s my best chance.”