Eric Church's third album, Chief, was released 10 years ago today, on July 26, 2011, and was a major success, earning both critical and commercial praise. Church's fans were already familiar with the album title, as they had been referring to him as "Chief" for years at that point, but the nickname and the album's name also has a special family connection to the country star.
"The initial inception was, my contacts would fall out, pop out on stage, and I would be blind for half the show, so I started wearing sunglasses," Church told his record label of how he earned the nickname. "Then I put on a hat to stop the sweat and it just became this thing, and we got in bigger venues, I tried to adjust that, but people in the crowds would have on hats and sunglasses and wouldn't let me adjust that, so it just became this thing naturally. So, that was show time, it was kind of my uniform. The band started joking with me, when I put the hat and sunglasses on, they go 'Alright, its Chief time, Chief's here.' But I laughed about it, it was a joke."
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The 44-year-old added that his band didn't know "the really cool part of the story," which was that his grandfather was the chief of police in Granite Falls, North Carolina, "and everybody called him Chief." "Everybody, my dad called him chief as his son-in-law, so it was just very neat to me, that across generations, it became my nickname naturally and nobody knew about it being my grandpa's nickname, nobody," Church said. "When it came time to title the record, because it felt live, and because it was something I wanted to show — a part of the live show, Chief was the right title from my point of view, but also because of my grandfather and what he meant to me."
Chief was a huge success for Church, becoming his first No. 1 album and giving him his first two No. 1 singles, "Drink in My Hand" and "Springsteen." Both have become two of Church's signature songs, and he told his label that "Drink in My Hand" was inspired by his fans. "I was on the bus with a couple of co-writers of mine, and we had just walked offstage and saw the crowd, saw our fans and saw them put their beers in the air," he recalled. "You could just tell that they had worked all week and this was their moment to let all that wash away. And that was where the title was born from really. 'Everything's OK now, I've got a drink in my hand, and I'm relaxing and I'm chilling.' That just became a really good song born from our fans."