Eric Church, I know you are a badass, but you do nostalgia really well. I mean, really, really well.
So far today, I've played Church's new single "Give Me Back My Hometown" about 20 times.
The first time I listened for information. The second time, I listened for inspiration. The third time, I listened because I wanted to sing with him on the lilting "ohhhh yeahs." After that, I just kept repeating it because I couldn't not listen.
When Church released Chief in 2011, folks were flipping because the grit, aggression and edginess of his persona were all perfectly captured on each of those tracks. Inside and out, that album was just like you'd expect him -- driving country fused with rock in the ultimate outlaw fashion.
But then there was the song "Springsteen." And there it was -- the softer side of Church, wrought with vulnerability and emotion and nostalgia. That single was a standout, a time-travel piece that took you back to that period in your past where everything -- love, heartbreak, success and failure -- was new and monumental and anything was possible.
The older I get, the more I find myself wanting to go back to that place in my life. It's a place we all need to check in to periodically for our own well-being and sanity to make sure we can still feel and that we haven't evolved too much past our real selves.
Roots, foundations and memories are important. That was always the point of "Springsteen" to me. In my heart and mind, "Give Me Back My Hometown" underscores that importance, too.
In the second verse, he sings, "These sleepy streetlights on every sidewalk side street/Shed a light on everything that used to be." He also recalls, "Every made memory/Every picture, every broken dream/Yeah. everything, everything, everything." And then he delivers the call to action with, "Give me back my hometown/'Cause this is my hometown."
It tugs at your heartstrings. I mean, I couldn't help but tear up. I'd give anything to see my hometown through the hue and view of my 16-year-old self again.
Yes, Church is a rocker. He commands an audience and demands respect. He stomps, he pounds his chest passionately as he performs. And if you've been keeping up with the teaser videos and seen any performances of this new music from his forthcoming album The Outsiders, you know he has no plans to lose that edge whatsoever.
But it's always nice to hear that softer side, too.
The Outsiders will be released Feb. 11.