Slinking into the warm embrace of whiskey and the company of country star Eric Church at New York's swanky Randolph Bar & Lounge should be easy. Except it's 2-o'clock in the afternoon and just a day earlier I'd completed the Brett Robinson Alabama Coastal Triathlon, after which I probably consumed a Bushwacker — a frozen concoction with Kahlua, rum, chocolate syrup… and more Kahlua and rum — for every mile I logged. Thankfully, something about the singer's grounded and calm demeanor put me right back in that Talladega mindset — hangover be damned — and we fittingly spent the afternoon talking about vices like weed, booze, and the occasional bad decision. Here is some of the Chief's best advice for sinners to soak up.
1. Always have a hangover cure.
"Before you go to bed, it’s Advil or Alka-Seltzer. One or the other. You gotta be a little bit proactive and get something that stops the headache. You can’t be so drunk that you can’t get the two Advil in your mouth," says Church. "You do that, you’re totaled." Considering Church is gearing up for three-hour shows (in lieu of openers, he'll play two sets with a brief intermission) on his upcoming Holdin' My Own tour, kicking off in January 2017, we're guessing that Alka-Seltzer and Advil panacea may come in handy. When all else fails, Church says there's always that bloody mary the next morning.
2. Tell your wife you were just too drunk.
On putting the pieces back in place after a night of indiscretions: "Well, the great thing about screwing up when you're drunk is you can blame it on being drunk," says Church. "Whatever you do, it’s just, 'Honey, I was drunk.' Blame it on the booze. Even if you’re not that drunk, blame it on the booze.” And tell your friend or sibling it was the whiskey, for that matter, too. Wherever his nights take him, Church steers clear of a certain agave plant: "Tequila and I just don’t get along. There’s certain things I can drink. Whiskey. I can drink Jack Daniel's all night. We like each other. Tequila and I don’t like each other."
3. Smoke a little smoke.
His whiskey-soaked rebel country anthem may croon these very words, but these days, Church is all about the edibles: "I do more of the edibles now just because the smoking part sucking for me vocally. I mean, it’s one of those things I’m not ashamed of. It’s something I enjoy. It’s escapism. I do it responsibly," says Church.
4. Get out there with a chain saw.
Yes, really. Nevermind that his wife hates it, his manager is terrified by it, and his neighbors probably think there are smarter ways to get your thrills — Church swears by it. "When I’m cutting a tree, if I’m thinking about anything other than that 40-foot oak tree… I’m a dead man," says Church. "It’s a therapy thing for me. And there’s very few things you do where that’s all you can think about." Though, with a knowing glance, Church conveys that he can perhaps think of one other thing you can be truly present for that he can think of.
5. Pissed off? Head outside.
"I’m an outdoors guy, so I love to fish and I love to get outside. I have a little cabin place in Tennessee, and I like to go there to be miles away form anyone," says Church. "I got a little amp in there, and I’ll open up the windows and I’ll just play. I’m playing to the woods, but it’s a great way to blow off steam and not think about all the other stuff going on.”
6. Listen to your younger self.
"I think 21-year-old Eric would tell me as I approach 40 not to eat so much late-night pizza and a 12-pack of beer before you go crawl into bed and [expect it to] turn into muscle," jokes Church. When you're younger, that 10-miler may feel like nothing on your knees, but listen to your body, and don't hold yourself to your standards of yesteryear.
7. Look back fondly on your crazy times.
"Enjoy the journey," says Church. The 39-year-old says his current self would tell younger Eric to embrace the chaos, the hard knocks, and the wild ride. "I didn’t do that real well. As a young artist, you always want to get to the next song or the next album. You want it to be better or more successful, and you just grind and grind and grind," he says. Now that the magical days of touring frat houses and beachside dives are in his past, he wishes he enjoyed that special time more. Like, the time, for instance, at a particularly rowdy Georgia show when a girl gulped down a big pitcher of beer and decided the third song of Church's set would be an opportune time to fill it back up and just "take a piss right there."
Booze, weed, fratty dives, and bar fights aside, doing what you love everyday? "That’s making it," says Church. And after spending time with Church, you can tell the seven Grammy nominations, selling over 1 million albums, and the Academy of Country Music Video of the Year win in 2016 for "Mr. Misunderstood," has so very little to do with it. The overly intoxicated father who had Church sign his baby? Now, that's making it.
Tickets for Eric Church's Holdin' My Own tour go on sale this Friday, September 16.