Eric Church has always considered his latest single “Kill a Word” an important song. He just thinks it’s unfortunate that its message is applicable to today’s world.
“Unfortunately, it’s relevant,” Church told media backstage at the 50th annual CMA Awards. “I wish it wasn’t. I think that in the world we live in, the whole world has lost their mind. And I’ve performed at a lot of award shows, and I’ve played a lot of songs. But I don’t know if I’ve ever had a performance that felt more important and timely than this one.”
That night, he sang the song with Carolina Chocolate Drops singer and new Nashville cast member Rhiannon Giddens.
“I was a big fan of the Carolina Chocolate Drops,” he said, “and for her to be able to stand up there and be able to put emotion on it is a big thing. She feels it.”
“It’s coming from here and not here,” he added, pointing to his heart and then his head. “I was honored to share the stage with her.”
Church co-wrote “Kill a Word” with songwriters Jeff Hyde and Luke Dick, the latter of whom came up with the initial idea for the song in March, 2015.
“I had the title, ‘Kill One Word’,” Dick said over the phone in our interview for CMT.com. “I was trying to wrap my head around one particular word and whether it was going to be a love song, or if it was going to be about a goodbye or something like that. Then I just changed ‘One’ to ‘a Word,’ and it opened up all manners of possibilities.”
“Words are indicators of concepts,” he added, “and then concepts are attached to feelings, emotions, people and relationships. So the first verse became really easy to me in just a couple of minutes.”
He presented the idea to Hyde in another songwriting appointment, and after working on the music for about 20 minutes, Hyde had the second verse. He thought Church would flip over what they wrote.
“Eric came over and we finished the song,” Dick recalled. “He had the bridge idea with the sticks and stones part already for the song. The way the song is structured, it’s kind of like a Gershwin style song where the chorus is in the verse, like ‘Every Breath You Take.’”
By July, they had a demo for Church’s Mr. Misunderstood, which is the CMA’s new album of the year.
“We were still in primary election season when we wrote it,” Dick said. “But I wasn’t sitting down and thinking about elections, politics or anything. I was thinking about being human.”
“I’m really glad it’s out right now,” he added. “I only ever write a song to satisfy a creative impulse inside myself. If you like something or something moves you, you want to keep writing it. But at the same time, I’m hoping I’m not the only one that feels that certain way.”
“For it to resonate with Jeff and for it to resonate with Eric, that’s extremely gratifying both on a creative level and also on a human level,” he said. “Something that you felt, something you wanted to write about and were compelled to write about, it resonated with another person. It’s gratifying to see people respond to that song and makes them feel better about a situation or feel not so alone. There’s something about being a human that’s isolating in a way and what music has done for me is make me not feel so isolated.”
Dick is also a co-writer behind Miranda Lambert’s new song “Highway Vagabond” from The Weight of These Wings with hit-makers Natalie Hemby and Shane McAnally. His punk band Republican Hair released a six-song self-titled EP on July 6.