Eric Church and songwriter Jeremy Spillman go way, way back. They’ve written songs together since they first sat down to write songs like the title track from Church’s 2006 debut album Sinners Like Me .
“We wrote it in an old house on Music Row, and in my head, that was just always such an Eric song,” Spillman told me back in 2016. “It wasn’t the first song we wrote together. We were buddies, doing all the crazy things you do when you’re new to Nashville.” Spillman came in with the title the day they wrote “Sinners Like Me,” and Church had the idea to make it a waltz done in 3/4 time. “And then when we got to chorus, and we put in the ’la de dah de dah’ part, we thought that was so emotional and so cool to not have words there. It was almost like a songwriting breakthrough because we were doing something we weren’t supposed to do.”
And now, Spillman has taken his way with words and gone far beyond the four-minute song limit. He’s written a novel called The DeVine Devils. It is set in Arizona in 1867 and tells the tale of brothers Audie and Shane DeVine.
Church may not have collaborated with Spillman on this book — that came directly from Spillman’s pen — but he did write a foreword for the novel.
“Writing songs with someone is a creatively intimate process. You get to know someone at an inspirationally cellular level — what their fears are, their hopes, shortcomings, failures, triumphs, and dreams. The most important thing you get a glimpse at, though, is a person’s imaginative soul,” Church wrote.
“I’ve written amazing songs with Jeremy Spillman — some you’ve heard, some you haven’t — but all were equally unique and special in their own way,” he added. “That’s just the kind of writer Jeremy is.”
That said, Church admits he was unprepared for the day he found out what Spillman had been working on. “Jeremy handed mea manuscript and said, ’Hey man, I’ve written a book.’ Full disclosure here, I’m an avid reader, maybe 50-60 books a year. I’m even what academia would call a book snob,” he said, sharing that the story of Audie and Shane reminds him of his relationship with his own brother. “Jeremy does an amazing job of using that bond as a backbone to a dizzying adventure — one that deals with life, death, humor, loss, prejudices, love, and of course music. I very simply loved it.
“I’m thankful Jeremy wrote it, and I’m thankful he shared it with me and with the world. We are all better off for it.”
With the book project complete, Spillman and Church will likely have more time for their first love, songwriting. They still write together all these years later, and Spillman told me that’s because Church is a loyal artist and collaborator. “Eric brings new people into the fold, but if you look at the songwriting credits,” he said, “you’ll see a lot of the same guys who wrote on the first record wrote on his last record and all the ones in between.”