The cover story from this week’s Billboard magazine is about Eric Church, Laura Bell Bundy and Joe Nichols. But it’s not just a look at their music or a litany of their chart stats. It’s all about how the three of them took such different routes to get to where they are today. With this kind of angle, there are always going to be the extreme extremes, like this guy lived out of a van and played for tip jars in honkytonks but then this other girl took the reality TV skyrocket to stardom. But these three articles about Church, Bundy and Nichols show you a few of the other paths.
Church opted out of his opening slot in arena tours and started playing what he calls “little sweatbox clubs” where he built a very enthusiastic fan base of young males. Then Bundy came at her new Nashville success the Broadway way. That influence is apparent in her debut video for “Giddy On Up.” But she’s not all booty-shakin’. Half the tracks on her debut album are what she calls “country you can make out to.” As for Nichols, he has more of a start-stop-start-stop-start-again story. Or if you look at numbers, his first album sold 896,000 copies, his second 294,000, his third 737,000 and his fourth 120,000. If the back-and-forth pattern holds, his fifth album, Old Things New, should do well. He told Billboard that’s his plan. “I want to attract new fans and maybe re-attract fans that bought my early albums but haven’t bought the last couple,” he said.
If there’s a moral to this story, I think it’s that if you’ve got something special, Nashville doesn’t care how you got here. It’s just glad you came.