Eric Church landed his second No. 1 album yesterday on the Billboard 200 yesterday with “The Outsiders.” The country renegade’s fourth album sold 288,000 copies, nearly twice as much as his last set, 2011″s “Chief,” an extremely rare feat in these days of declining album sales. It’s the highest debut since Beyonce’s self-titled set bowed in December.
If you’re new to Church’s world, here are five things you need to know about Church:
*He has a fan letter from Bruce Springsteen: Church”s biggest hit is “Springsteen,” which is not so much an ode to The Boss as it is a framing device for the couple in the song. Springsteen made sure to let Church know that he was a fan of the No. 1 hit by having a Springsteen set list personally delivered to Church with a long handwritten note on the back, declaring that he and his family were fans of Church”s song.
*Taylor Swift owes him a big thank you: Yes, he has success with his albums, but it”s on the road where he really shines and where he puts his focus. His rowdy, fun shows are becoming the stuff of legend, but just don”t pair him with Rascal Flatts. As longtime fans know, he landed the opening slot for Rascal Flatts when he was just starting out in 2006. But, to hear Rascal Flatts tell it, he kept playing over his time allotment, making them late to go on and having to pay overtime to the union crews. They warned him four times to stop playing too long and even asked him to go on earlier so he could play longer. After he refused to comply when they played Madison Square Garden,they threw him off the tour. Taking his place? A young Taylor Swift.
*He holds a curious record: When “Chief” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, he was the first country artist to have an album bow in the top spot without ever having had a No. 1 song on the country charts since Tim McGraw in 1994.
*He defies genres: He”s a favorite among artists and festivals who don”t normally embrace country music: Metallica personally picked Church to play on its inaugural Orion Music Festival. He played Lollapalooza last year.
*He”s a social media throwback: He”s on Twitter and Facebook, but uses them primarily to promote shows, rather than personal revelations. He rarely appears on TV, and does very little to court the media.