Tuesday, March 30, 2021

 When I first heard Game Dirt, my introduction to Chris Church, I thought of Neil Young right away. Chris' music makes me think about Young in a new way, while being rewarding in its own ways. Big Stir Records should be commended for continuing to put out albums that push the boundaries of power pop in all directions.

My thanks to Chris for answering a few questions about the album for me.

Andrea Weiss: How did you get your start in music, and where has that path led you?

Chris Church: I guess I'd have to answer that by saying I got into making my own music after playing with a hard rock covers band at age 17 and 18 gave me the bug to start writing my own songs. At that point, my late, great brother Mike, with whom I'd already been jamming, recorded some of my earliest songs together in a North Carolina studio owned by beach music legend Harry Deal (of The Galaxies, who engineered the session -- and no, of course he didn't quite understand us) and then looked into starting our own band. We started several over the years, and I've played and recorded a lot since those days. There's really been no "path" other than simply continuing to create what I want when I can, either by myself, or with the talented musician friends I'm fortunate to know.

AW: Who are your influences?

CC: To name a few, I'll go with Todd Rundgren, Big Star, Zappa, Zeppelin, Dylan, Julian Cope, The Who, Teenage Fanclub, Rush, Hall & Oates, The Church, CSNY... and that's more than a few, so... ok, even though I could keep going for a while, I'll stop there.

AW: I hear a lot of Old 97's in your music, which is great. Are you influenced by them?

CC: Not really, but I love and am probably somewhat influenced by some artists I'd say are similar, like Drive By Truckers and Ryan Adams, plus the country rock aspects of the Stones and Faces, which I love and have listened to a lot. I actually love quite a few of the perhaps out of character county-ish songs by artists like Elvis Costello, Lloyd Cole, Nick Lowe and Squeeze a lot, as well. The European interpretation of country music can often be wonderful.

AW: And would you say the same about Neil Young?

CC: Well, I mentioned CSNY earlier, but Neil Young is one of my most important influences, not just because of his brilliant songs and the often thrilling and ragged in-the-moment aspects of his albums, which Rex Broome of Big Stir correctly identifies as "the spook." It's also because of the fact that he is a true artist who completely follows his own instincts with little regard for any expectations. He's a true inspiration for me in that way.

AW: Your lyrics deal a lot in relationships, which I like. Do you find it easy or hard to write about them?

CC: I do write about relationships, but I think it's kinda rare that I write in an "on the nose" type of way. From my perspective, I'd say most of the lyrics of my songs are a bit obscure, and geared towards letting whoever is listening figure it out for themselves. There are exceptions, and it usually depends on what sort of genre the music I'm working in dictates.

AW: "Learn" sounds almost rockabilly, and seems to be about growing up. Would you say that's the case?

CC:Yes. I wrote that song first thing in the morning awhile back. It was done pretty quickly. I can't remember what I was dreaming about, but it was definitely a retro feeling and approach.

AW: How did you come to self-produce and be a one man band on Game Dirt?

CC: I've done that before, and just felt it was time to do it again. My silly muse convinced me that this batch of songs just seemed to require it. I recorded drums first, while humming the song in my head, and then put everything else down. I'm not a good drummer, and there's obviously no click track, so I guess you could say that sometimes I like a challenge.

AW: What advice would you give someone first starting out in music?

CC: I would never venture to do that at all. If someone asked me directly, I'd give roughly the same advice I've given to the few people who ever seemed to really want direction of any kind from me, "Do whatever you want as long as you're not hurting anyone." It's up to them to consider themselves and our ears at that point.

 Chris Church

Game Dirt

Big Stir

This creative, original power pop take on Neil Young, with some CSNY and Drive By Truckers in the mix too, takes all three to new places, especially Neil and CSNY. This is impure power pop, and all the better for it. 

The lyrics, about the nuances of relationships, are direct and plainspoken, and very emotional at times. "Trying," for instance, is about a complicated relationship, but one that works out. "Smile" and "Sunrise" are just about how good life can be. 

This album is the indie side of Americana, and wouldn't it be wonderful if it got to be at least as popular as the Truckers, or perhaps the Old 97s? Or maybe Neil himself? That's how great this album is, and well worth the time to listen, so open your ears to a new sound.

Andrea Weiss


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