"These four walls of Farnworth are closin' on me/ my final meal is over/ they're gonna set me free/ I can feel the fires a burning/ as the devil guards my door/ I hit my knees in search of Jesus/ on a cold jailhouse floor." - Lightning - Eric Church

There's a reprise in the video for the Eric Church death row ballad Lightning where the prisoner flies into the ether after the execution.

It's just a short posthumous cameo but it slams home the message.

Not exactly the same resurrection as the recently deceased character in Tom Pacheco song The Other Side who has his pockets picked by a priest after being murdered by cocaine dealers.

Pacheco organises his victim's resurrection by having him fly back to earth through a hole in the ozone layer - killing more than a few birds with the one stone.

Church, a Baptist by birth, leave his sinner's character's future open ended - just like his career that finds him enjoying the belated release of his second album Carolina in March.

But Lightning is one of the many highlights of Church's 2006 debut disc Sinners Like Me that was produced by Jay Joyce who also ignited the career of Patty Griffin who has toured Australia twice.

Church, 31, is right up front of the posse of roots' country artists whose narratives are etched deep in the psyche from the first stanza.

And, like three time 2009 Grammy nominee Jamey Johnson, it's Eric's second album that will become a salient signpost to his future.

But let's backtrack to Lightning - the song whose video we have belatedly obtained for Nu Country TV.

Church sings of the meditations of a man who is about to be electrocuted for killing a liquor store check out chap in a botched robbery to buy food for his baby daughter.

It was the oldest song on Church's album.

"I wrote that song when I first came to town," Church revealed.

"I was on my first trip back to North Carolina to see my family, and The Green Mile was on DVD or TV, I'm not sure which. I was watching it one night, and there's a line in it where the lead actor said, 'You know, it's been eighty-some years since I let John Coffey ride the lightning.' I just thought that was a very interesting way of looking at the electric chair. It ended up probably being the song that got me my publishing deal, and it's the song that got me my record deal."


"I was fifteen when my daddy's old man/ caught me halfway through my first beer/ he laughed so hard when my face turned green/ he said 'you come from a long line of sinners like me.'" - Sinners Like Me - Eric Church-Jeremy Spillman.

Church grew up in Granite Falls, a small North Carolina town, and graduated from Appalachian State University in larger city Boone with a degree in marketing.

"I was 13 when I started writing," Church recalled.

"It was before I learned to play guitar. I had a lot in me that I wanted to get out, and I started writing lyrics and singing, and I thought, 'If I'm going to play these for people, I'm going to have to learn how to play guitar.'"

He bought a cheap, hard-to-tune one and taught himself to play, aided by his parents' eclectic tastes, from Motown to bluegrass.

The student formed a band with his roommate, his brother, and another guitarist, as the Mountain Boys.

They were playing four or five nights a week in bars at frat and sorority parties in Ashville, Hickory, and Boone.

On the first night they knew just 14 songs but faked their way through a four-hour set and held onto enough of the crowd to help launch them as a regional act.

After a year Eric added his original songs and began selling CDs of his own material.

"The people in my town were about standing up for what you believe in and hard work," Church recalled.

"The town I came from really had one industry, and that was furniture. You worked in a factory, which I did through high school. So I think being around those people and growing up and seeing the way those people worked and challenges they encountered, a lot of that went into the record.

"I encountered other people in college, but I also formulated what I believed and why I believed it. I think college made me decide what that was early on. People may not like it, but I'm at least going to say it. In college, I spent most nights in bars with the same people I was raised around."

His father offered an incentive: six months of living expenses in Nashville.

"I was raised in a Christian Baptist family - the religion of contradictions," Church recalled.

"I had a view of the world. Then I went out on my own. When I got here, I didn't know anybody. If I had known what I was up against, I would have never come. I got an apartment in Brentwood. I didn't know Brentwood wasn't downtown Nashville and it took me about a day to find out where Music Row was."


"Now I'm flying up and out of here/ I close my eyes and slowly rise/ let my body leave this chair/ Lord I hope you forgive me/ for livin' my life this way/ tonight I ride the lightning to my final resting place." - Lightning - Eric Church

The year was 2001 and Church, suffering from a broken engagement, arrived with a portfolio of what he called "bad to mediocre songs."

He spent his first couple of years learning how to write better ones and trying to sell them.

"It's writing to the chorus, every line fits, every line leads you somewhere," he said.

He was signed as a songwriter to Sony/ATV Tree in 2002, a year before Capitol Nashville signed him as a singer.

He scored a batch of covers including The World Needs a Drink - a minor hit for Canadian chart topper Terri Clark.

But Church, a meticulous writer, revamped the original.

"I must have rewritten The World Needs A Drink eight or nine times," he said.

"I just kind of threw muscle into the writing, so we had a large pool to draw from when it came time to record. I think I demoed 60 or 70 songs at Sony last year, and you probably demo one out of every four you write, so I wrote a lot. I figure they're paying me to be a songwriter and that's what I'm here to do."

Church was bemused when Capitol Nashville President Mike Dungan offered him a contract in 2003.

"It's the old story," he said.

"I had been rejected by many record companies; I wasn't expecting this. I'd been in lots of meetings where they'd say, 'We like what you're doing. Come back in six weeks and show us some more.' At Capitol they listened and said, 'We want to sign you as an artist.' I sat there in silence."

Church vividly recalls the concert that sealed his signing.

"The night I got the record deal with Capitol was a really good gig," Church said.

"I knew that whether I got the deal or not, this was as good as I could do. It clicked. You just have those nights. During Lightning, the whole crowd was hushed and I knew they were listening. I knew they were with me on the song, and there's nothing as great as a performer as to capture the crowd."


"We were young and on fire/ and just couldn't wait/ six weeks in she was three weeks late/ one means none and we're home free/ two means three and a diamond ring." - Two Pink Lines - Eric Church-Victoria Shaw

Sinners Like Me paired Church with a brace of songwriters including Victoria Shaw, Brett Beavers, Beathard, Jeremy Spillman, Trent Willmon and Liz Rose.

Rose later became teen superstar Taylor Swift's tutor and writing partner.

But it was Victoria Shaw - a frequent co-writer with another superstar Garth Brooks - who joined him on his controversial radio red flag waver.

Their song tells of a young couple sweating out a pregnancy scare.

The plot unfolds in real time; Church sings the lyrics in the minutes it takes for the pregnancy test to reveal the answer.

There's nothing to do but fret: "We're just sittin' 'round waitin' on two pink lines."

Church also found an empathetic producer in Joyce and recorded his album in his basement studio.

"Jay approaches production the same way I approach songwriting," he says.

"I'm meticulous with the lines and the melodies, how it all relates, and how you deliver a hook. Jay is the same way with guitar parts and drum parts."

The pairing worked - Church scored three Top 20 hits.

How 'Bout You (14), Two Pink Lines (19) and Guys Like Me (17) preceded the title track that stalled at 51.


"There's a lesson I wish I would have learned/ without having to watch my Mustang burn/ before my best buddy had to wind up hurt/ and his whole life was changed/ that's a lesson I wish I didn't learn/ the hard way." - The Hard Way - Eric Church- Michael Heeney-Casey Beathard.

Church injects his own life into his songs - especially ballads like The Hard Way.

Church, Michael Heeney and Casey Beathard combined three separate experiences.

"I was the second verse of that song - the girl and having the diamond ring," Church said.
"The first verse was one of the guys who wrecked their car, and the third verse was the only guy who had lost his dad. It's very rare that you have a song idea that you can pull three different people's experiences into the same idea."

The song, which talks about things in life so many people have gone through, proves that everyone has lessons that they learned the hard way.

"I'm the kind of guy that, I don't think I learn anything until I learn it the hard way," Church said.

"It was a cool experience for me, songwriter -wise. It was a really cool song to be a part of."


"These boots have counted off many a band/ playing one night roadhouse stands/ for tips in empty rooms/ these boots have stood toe to toe/ with the biggest baddest Joes/ like they had something to prove." - These Boots - Eric Church-Michael Heeney.

Church even eulogised his motorcycle boots in his music.

"There's a story here," Church confessed.

"The boots that I always wear - there's a song on my record called These Boots, about a pair I've had for 15 years - they're my favourite boots. They're cowboy boots. And they're in the shop now. And I feel weird. I feel a little bit like the security blanket is gone. I've never walked on stage without those boots. I mean, Opry, Madison Square Garden - any show I've done, I've had those boots on. And the last two weeks I've been without them.

So it's kind of boots by rotation right now."

Church confessed he felt naked without his boots.

"I didn't have a choice," Church confided about his repairs.

"They had to go in. And I thought it would be a quick job. I have a nice guy from Pakistan who fixes my boots. And I took the boots in, and he's embarrassed by me anyway, cause they're old ratty boots, and he's very proud of his work. When other people are in line with me, he'll bring their boots out, and they're all shiny and polished. Mine come out in a bag, and he'll go, "You go now." So I took 'em in, and first he thought he couldn't fix 'em. I took him a record and said, You don't understand. These boots. I don't care what it takes, or how much money it costs. These boots are gonna stay on my feet."


"Your daddy worked in the bank/ mine worked on cars/ you went to college, I pulled graveyard/ you must had your pick of the trust fund types/ but you came back to me and only God knows why." - Guys Like Me - Eric Church-Derek Ruttan.

Church, a literate artist, copped flack for embroidering his blue-collar roots in songs What I Almost Was and Guys Like Me.

The singer has indeed taken his literary licence to the bank a time or two, long after his dad funded his embryonic writing foray.

"I'm not a trust-fund type,"' Church says.

"I just happen to have a dad that really wanted me to stay in school. When I first wanted to go to Nashville, I was probably 17 years old. He was smart enough to say to me, 'You're not ready.' And he was right. I wasn't ready. Not only wasn't I ready emotionally, I wasn't ready musically. That was his way to bribe me. I fully believe he never intended to pay that. He thought, 'OK, this kid's going to go to college, meet girls and find something else he wants to do with his life. I won't have to worry about this.'"

Family has been a focal point of Church's career.

"It was kind of bittersweet," Church recalled a few years ago.

"My first performance on the Opry was in April, and my 83-year-old grandmother made it up to Nashville for that. The Opry meant more than anything in the world to her. She passed away this past week. So coming into the Opry this time was a little different for me. It was already special, but now the Opry is going to be that much more special because the last time I saw her was there at that performance."

The funeral was not Eric's last date with the church.


"I believe that gas is too damn high/ ain't nothing more American than mama's apple pie/ I believe in love, I believe in peace/ but I don't believe we'll ever see it in the Middle East/ I believe the Bible is cold hard fact/ and I believe that Jesus is coming back/ before she does." - Before She Does - Eric Church-Trent Willmon-Jeremy Spillman

Church wed music publisher Katherine Blasingame, 28, on Tuesday, January 8.

The nuptials were held at Westglow Spa & Resort in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

"Katherine and I stayed there last year and we just fell in love with the place," Church said.

"We decided that it would be the ideal spot to get married, up in the North Carolina Mountains, with just family around us. I can't imagine a more perfect spot."

During the ceremony, Church surprised Blasingame with a new song, You Make It Look Easy, written especially for her.

"My brother snuck my guitar in for me, so I think I surprised her," Church said.

I sat her down beside me and started singing the song," he said.

"You think about what those moments mean, and you only get a few of those in your life. I was thankful to have my parents there and brother and sister and her family.

In that moment I knew that this was one moment in life. I will remember that feeling as long as I live."

Church didn't bask in the glow of his wedding day for long.

He returned to Joyce's basement studio to finish second album Carolina - follow-up to Sinners Like Me - set for release on March 24.

The couple met about five years ago at the famed Nashville nightclub Exit/In.

Katherine arranged for Eric to write with Liz Rose.

Eric and Katherine began dating a few months later.

He has known for a while that he wanted to marry Katherine, 28.

"For me, it was really easy," said Eric.

"With what I do, I'm pretty hard to love, as far as being on the road all the time and what I do for a living. It takes a special woman to be able to deal with that and make that happy and beneficial to both parties.

"When I looked at her one day, I thought, 'There's nobody on earth who could put up with me like you do.' "


"I don't need baggy clothes or rings in my nose to be cool/ the scars on my knuckles match the scuffs on these cowboy boots/ there's a whole lot more like me/ how 'bout
you." - How 'Bout You - Eric Church-Brett Beavers-Brandon Church.

Church says the new record will be a departure, and watershed in his career.

"We set out to kinda make this record - and I hate to use the word - a masterpiece record," he says.

"You could say that the kid's really grown up, and that it's really different. It's a journey, a trip and a vibe."

Again produced by Joyce, the forthcoming collection takes up where Sinners left off. It was originally set for an August 2008 release but was delayed for almost a year.

"We kicked songs off and didn't put songs on," he says.

"We cut 16 and left three off that are probably gonna get cut by major country artists. But I don't know if I'm gonna let 'em go."

Now a believer in the collaborative process, Church says he wrote two of the record's songs by himself.

"Sinners Like Me changed my life," Church said.

"But you can't make the same record again. I wanted Carolina to go to some different places. The first album was more aggressive and moody. This one is more diverse, more musical and a little brighter. I hope people can at least hear that we're still taking chances."

Church has toured with artists diverse as Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and Arizona born Dierks Bentley making his first Australian foray with Brooks & Dunn in May.

Eric begins a 37 date tour to promote Carolina from March 12-May 16.

The album's first single His Kind Of Money, My Kind Of Love hit #46 on Billboard in 2008.

Love Your Love The Most followed.


Church performed at the North Carolina Inaugural Ball for Governor-elect Beverly Perdue, held at the state's capitol, Raleigh, on January 9.

Church performed his new album title track.

"This is a very personal song for me, so when I heard that someone in the governor-elect's organisation heard the song Carolina and decided that it needed to be part of the celebration - well, it means a lot," Church revealed.

"Apparently this song hit them the same way it's hitting my fans; I'm grateful that it's making an impact. I'm also hoping it means that I can drive a little faster through the state."

This is not Church's first brush with a North Carolina governor.

"When I was in high school, I was part of a program where I was a page for then Gov. James Hunt for a week - I ran errands, delivered mail, basically just did whatever they needed you to do.

On the last day, all the student pages get their photo taken with the governor in his office, so they rounded us up, stuck us in the room and left us there - unsupervised. Which was not a good idea. I decided it would be funny to sit in the governor's chair and put my feet up on his desk - which I did. What I didn't know was that had I tripped a silent alarm - suddenly, the office was swarming with security. When they finally realized it was just some dumb 16-year old acting stupid, things quieted down. But when Governor Hunt finally entered the room for our photo, the first thing he asked was, 'Okay - which kid was sitting in my chair?' I'm sure my interactions with the new governor will be less troublesome."

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