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"When I started touring a few years ago, it was not cool to wear a country music artist's t-shirt on a college campus," Eric told reporters backstage at the awards. "There was still that stigma that country music was not cool. Whatever happened over the last five, six or seven years, I see it all the time now. Frankly, I think country music has always been cool; now it's in a great space, creatively, to allow that [fan base] to develop."
While writing songs for Chief, Eric took a unique approach, inviting a group of songwriters to a cabin in the North Carolina woods where the album was basically written. "I got away from everything for about a month -- touring, technology, TV -- and didn't do anything but music," Eric tells The Boot. "I knew I had to put out something that raised the bar."
In spite of the explosion of Chief and his recent CMA award, the singer-songwriter is in no rush to write for his next album. "Hell no," he reiterates. "I'm gonna wait longer. I think there's a lot of reasons to make records. One of the things I won't do is make them for an economic reason. The next record will come when creatively it's the right time. That's how this record happened. We had nothing to lose. We let creativity be the driver. When you do it that way, hopefully you end up with something like Chief. I'm not gonna rush it. When it's time it will be time."
Eric says he has always made albums, even though country music has increasingly become a singles-driven genre. "I still think in this day and time the only way to get a fan base is to give them more than one chapter of the book," he says. "For them to read the whole book, you have to put an album in front of them."
Next up for Eric is a nomination for Favorite Male Artist, Country, at the 40th Annual American Music Awards, which will air on ABC, Nov. 18 at 8:00 PM ET.