Eric Church's defiant fourth studio album, The Outsiders, arrived Tuesday (Feb. 11), placing the "Give Me Back My Hometown" singer and his edgy rock sound back in the spotlight.
Following 2011's platinum-certified Chief, Church says this new project had a great deal to measure up to.
"Creatively, I have a bar that every record needs to cross," Church told CMT Hot 20 Countdown. "I can tell you without a doubt, creatively, that The Outsiders is better than Chief was. I mean, that's how we approach it. I approached Carolina the same way. I never went into one saying, 'This is going to be a No. 1 song, or this is not going to be a No. 1 song' or, 'This is going to have success or not.' We went into it from a creative standpoint and said 'This is the kind of record that we are making now.'"
Leading up to its release, The Outsiders generated a mass of media attention in which the singer suggested a shift in tone.
"I did want to show that there was a definite change in what Chief was," he explained. "And I think you can see that from the cover of the album, from the artwork, that it's not the same character. Not the same hat or same sunglasses. ... It's a different thing. It's a turn of the page, and I wanted to make sure that was felt creatively and by the fans.
"I don't know how people are going to treat it. I mean, it's interesting because once this record is out, it is no longer my album. It's the people's album. I have what I think about it. I have my expectations, and it's going to be interesting to see what people think about it."
For more, tune in to CMT Hot 20 Countdown this Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 15-16) at 11 a.m. ET/PT.