Is Eric Church’s Butter Bean His Old Epiphone?

The Guitar Story Behind the New Music

There’s a song on Eric Church’s new album that I really love. It’s called “Mistress Named Music,” and he wrote it with Casey Beathard.

It’s kind of about the ambitious soul of songwriter. Church sings about how he is “still chasing this song with a guitar full of freedom and a head full of lines” and having “white callused fingers on bronze and nylon.”

And knowing what I know about how this surprise album came to be – it dropped out of the clear blue sky and went to his fan club first, then was released officially on Nov. 4 – it makes this song that much more special.

Because when Church’s team handed out the CDs backstage at the CMA Awards, there was a handwritten letter from Church about the new music.

“My son names my guitars. He named the one that would make my 5th album ‘Butter Bean.’ I’ve always believed that instruments have stories to tell. It’s up to the keeper of the instrument to turn those stories into songs. I wrote my first song on Butter Bean late this summer. 20 days later, I had 18 songs. 20 days following that, I had 10 recorded. That was 30 days ago,” Church explained about the quick turnaround of Mr. Misunderstood. (Doing the math, I think that means he wrote the first song around August 25.)

If he’s right – that instruments have stories to tell – I have to wonder how many he’s gone through since he got to guitar town and bought that old Epiphone and started stringin’ chords and words into songs and pouring out his heart for tips on a stool. That’s a lyric from his “What I Almost Was” off his debut album Sinners Like Me, which is now almost ten years old.

Could Butter Bean be that same old guitar? Maybe he went back to it, for old time’s sake?

Church never says what kind of guitar Butter Bean is, but he does admit that this music came to him a little differently. His letter says that it takes him time to look for inspiration to make a new album.

“This time inspiration came looking for me. Together we found Mr. Misunderstood,” he wrote. “Today, it’s yours.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.