Eric Church Basks in No. 1 Song and Gold and Platinum Albums

Singer-Songwriter Shares Spotlight With “Talladega” Co-writer Luke Laird

Eric Church and Luke Laird took the stage Monday (March 23) at Nashville’s Acme Feed & Seed to load up on awards for co-writing “Talladega,” Church’s latest No. 1 single.

Apart from the trophies conferred by BMI, the performance rights organization to which both Church and Laird belong, tokens of esteem were issued from the Country Music Association, Country Radio Broadcasters, Avenue Bank (which co-sponsors BMI No. 1 parties), the writers’ publishing companies and Church’s record label.

For a change, Church appeared without the sunglasses that have become part of his tough-guy image.

Speaking for BMI, Jody Williams announced that “Talladega” is Church’s fourth No. 1, Laird’s 19th and the third chart-topper they’ve written together. Laird was BMI’s songwriter of the year in 2012.

Williams recalled that when Church first played Chicago — at a club called Joe’s Bar — he drew about 20 people. Last week, Williams continued, Church set a record at the Windy City’s Allstate Arena by filling more than 18,500 seats.

Such impressive stats help explain why Church is now in the running for three Academy of Country Music awards — male vocalist, top album (The Outsiders) and top song (“Give Me Back My Hometown.”)

Mike Dungan, who signed Church to his first recording contract and now heads the Universal Music Group Nashville, came forward to proclaim that Sinners Like Me, the singer’s first album, has finally been certified gold for shipments of 500,000 copies. Sinners Like Me was released in 2006.

Dungan stepped off the stage and was immediately called back. He had forgotten he had a second plaque to present Church — a platinum award — confirming that The Outsiders has shipped more than 1 million copies.

Laird told the partygoers that Church is “first and foremost a songwriter” who, if he were not a performer, would be having his songs recorded by country’s top artists.

Summarizing his approach to music, Church said, “It’s about passion. It’s about going out there and delivering. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

He likened the music business to a team sport.

“It’s not who you know but who you’re with,” he said. “It’s the faces you see in the huddle.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.