published Friday, June 8th, 2012

Eric Church launches Riverbend tonight

Eric Church performs on an outdoor stage during the CMT Music Awards show on Wednesday in Nashville. Church will preform Friday at the Riverbend Festival on the Coke stage at 9:30 p.m.
Eric Church performs on an outdoor stage during the CMT Music Awards show on Wednesday in Nashville. Church will preform Friday at the Riverbend Festival on the Coke stage at 9:30 p.m.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

HIS HITS

• "How 'Bout You"

• "Two Pink Lines"

• "Guys Like Me"

• "Love Your Love the Most"

• "Homeboy"

• "Drink in My Hand"

• "Springsteen"

Country superstars Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw were asked in last week's Entertainment Weekly magazine who they thought was the future of country music, the industry name to watch.

Chesney's pick: Eric Church.

That won't surprise his fans, known as the Church Choir. Everyone else can judge for themselves tonight at Ross's Landing, when Church opens the Riverbend Festival's Coca-Cola stage concert series at 9:30 p.m.

"His show is high-energy," said Dex Poindexter, WUSY 101 music director and afternoon radio show host. "I'm glad the Coke stage is metal because of the way he stomps to his music; he actually broke his foot while playing onstage two years ago."

"He definitely keeps the crowd completely focused on his show," added Melissa Turner, Poindexter's partner on the afternoon show. "He has your attention the entire time. It's high intensity.

"My favorite thing about him is that he won't say a word for five or six songs because he's that in tune with his music. Then, when he finally does talk to the audience, they go wild."

Church is riding high on the success of his third album, "Chief," which has produced three Top 10 hits, including his first No. 1, "Homeboy." In that song, the singer is addressing a young man who has gotten caught up in a delinquent urban lifestyle, advising the wannabe "homeboy" to go home, boy, in order to get his life back in control.

"'Homeboy' deals with social issues and with everyday life," Church said on his website. "It was pretty challenging for me to take that term 'homeboy' and use it as slang, as a destination and then at the end, as a spiritual place."

It's not the first time Church's songwriting skill has crafted a thought-provoking turn of phrase to drive home a point.

In 2006, his humorous single "Two Pink Lines" told the story of a guy debating his options while waiting for the results of his girlfriend's home-pregnancy test.

His current single, "Springsteen," No. 3 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles, has become summer's anthem. Teens and their parents alike can relate to its lyrics about the power of a song to immediately take a listener back in time to the artists and music that formed the backdrop for first love.

Church has slowly and methodically built his career since the release of "Sinners Like Me" in 2006, capitalizing on the success of each album. "Sinners Like Me" produced four hits. In 2009, he cracked the top 10 for the first time with "Love Your Love the Most" off his second album, "Carolina."

By the time "Chief" was released in 2011, fan anticipation pumped its sales to 500,000 within six weeks. "Chief" also garnered Church his first Grammy nomination for Best Country Album.

Church announced this week that he is extending his "Blood, Sweat and Beers" tour to the middle of December.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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