21st century Nashville has gained a reputation for being a machine churning out songs based on a small grouping of country clichés. The southern music town has, in most cases, become dominated by the “bro country” sounds of Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and, of course, the infamous Eric Church. Church has released a number of “bro country” hits over the past few years from “Drink in my Hand” to “Smoke a Little Smoke.” While most think that Church is just another shallow, stereotypical country artist singing about tailgates and tan lines, a little exploration in to the lesser-known tracks of the North Carolina native lends itself to a completely different image of the artist. Church can go deeper beyond the realm of “Drink in my hand,” as evidenced by his less popular song “These Boots” featured on his first album “Sinners Like Me” in 2006. Instead of singing about how much fun a bonfire on a Friday night can be, or painting a picture of a midnight swim in a southern creek, Church opens himself up in this track, revealing not only his innermost feelings at the time it was recorded, but exploring the mistakes he has made and his need to experience everything he can before he settles down. On the surface, “These Boots” may seem like just a catchy track based around the idea of a man attempting to work up the courage to knock on a woman’s door, but a little background knowledge about the life of the artist places the song on a much deeper emotional level. Through the use of illusions to the devil, personification of his trusty boots and self-chastising of his past choices, Church exposes his personal life, views and struggles to the audience.
Released on his first album “Sinners like me” in 2006, the main idea contained in “These Boots” is that Church’s age-old cowboy boots are directing his decisions, making him simply the wearer and observer of the events that have played out over the course of his life. On the surface, Church seems to have no control over the wants of the boots, causing him both emotional pain as well as a chance to see the world outside his home in North Carolina before he settles down. In reality, however, the boots play a completely different role. In the first verse of the song, Church claims the boots have “Counted off many a band…” and “Stood toe to toe/with the biggest baddest joes…” along with attributing other actions to the boots, making it seem as though these situations were through no fault of his own. The song is not written to displace the blame of Church’s past mistakes, the boots are meant to represent a part of who he is. They are meant to represent his desire to “see California/and an Arizona morning where God paints the sky” and to “Spur that beast in Cheyanne.” His reckless and adventurous tendencies seem to stem from the boots in the song, however, the boots represent the part of his personality that needs to live life to the fullest and experience everything he can while he has the opportunity. It isn’t really the boots that are “one step from the door/They walked out of years before,” and they certainly aren’t the ones who can’t muster up the courage to “kick that door aside/Stomp out my foolish pride” to see his love that he walked out on years ago. It’s him, his personal character, his motives and his decisions, the boots just signify his adventurous spirit and his hesitation to give up the life “the boots” have lead him on.
“These Boots” is about more than just an influential aspect of Church’s personality, however. The song takes an introspective look in to the emotional, physical and romantic portions of Church’s life. In reality, Church never “Stood toe to toe/with the biggest baddest joes/ like [the boots] had something to prove” but rather this is a commentary on Church’s struggle to rise to country stardom. During his time in high school in Granite Falls, North Carolina, Church was offered a record deal, however was forced to turn it down to fulfill his father’s expectations that he attend Appalachian State University and earn a degree in exchange for a year’s worth of support to go follow his dreams to try to be a singer in Nashville. Church never got in an actual fight, but is discussing the hard work and challenges he had to overcome just to get a small chance at becoming the country star he is today. He worked his way through college and was given a slim chance at gaining another record deal, (arriving in Nashville with no record deal) but he overcame the overwhelming obstacles he faced, and it has made him the artist he is today. Church also discusses the “time [the boots] hid that grass/From those cops in Tupelo…” once again mentioning his love for marijuana, which can also be found on his extremely popular single “Smoke a Little Smoke.” He hides the marijuana in his boot, which represents the adventurous and often reckless side of his personality, hinting to the listener that he finds the habit reckless and childish, but continues it anyway, just like his traveling and the abandoning of his love.
This song was released on Church’s first album back in 2006, two years before he married his wife and had his first child. Beyond reflections of what Church’s life has been so far, he dedicates a large piece of the song to his emotional struggle as he stands at the front door of the woman he loved years before, but left to go see the world and overcome his own obstacles: “Now these boots are one step from the door/They walked out of years before/I can almost see her now/These boots ought to kick that door aside/Stomp out my foolish pride…” Church stands at the door, and internally fights it out with himself, even though there isn’t truly a woman on the other side. Throughout the song Church describes a situation in which he is standing on the front porch of a woman he once loved, attempting to work up the courage to knock on the door and confront her. The woman in this song is simply a metaphor for his country music career, however. Just like the woman in the song, Church abandoned his shot at becoming a country music star in high school in favor of earning a college degree, and is once again trying to make a living through music with the release of this first album. Ultimately, this song becomes Church’s reflection on facing his fears surrounding the profession and lifestyle he wants so badly, and instead of attempting to conquer his self-doubt about seeing the woman he once abandoned, he is attempting to gain the courage to “knock on the door” of the country music industry and expose himself as the man and artist he is today. Church realizes that it is time to “Stomp out [his] foolish pride” and let himself be seen as the artist he is to large audiences across the nation.
“These Boots” shatters every preconceived notion that most listeners have of Eric Church, opening the artist up emotionally to the listener and revealing the pain and emotional torment that his mistakes, choices and yearning for success have caused him throughout his life. It’s a song about mistakes, the young man’s spirit, overcoming overwhelming odds and emotions and ultimately the journey to success and stardom in the country music industry. It breaks every mold of Nashville’s “bro country” phase and shows who Eric Church truly was as an artist at the time of his first album’s release, as opposed to the aviator wearing “bro country” artist singing “Drink in my Hand” to thousands of people up on stage that he is portrayed as by most media sources. This song shows his true talent as both a songwriter and as a musician. Perhaps when the bro country fad fades away in to the past, Church will start to become true to his artistic abilities and show his audience what he is truly capable of.
|0:00||Intro||“One, Two Three…”||Church begins the song by counting to 3, where the background instruments then begin to play and the first verse begins.
|0:07||Verse 1||“These boots…”||As soon as the guitars and drums pick up Church begins singing, starting the song off with the title of the song.
|0:35||Verse 2||“Yeah, these boots more than once have saved my ass…”||Very little time between the first and second verses, immediately after the first verse ends Church begins the second verse with the same “These boots.” The second guitar begins to play a slightly different melody in the background.
|0:59||Chorus||“I wore out more soles…”||The song picks up here, introducing an electric guitar in the background, speeding up the tempo slightly and introducing harmony vocals.
|1:24||Instrumental||Guitar/Fiddle||Guitar repeats the melody which present in the background of the entire song, the fiddle takes a more dominant role here, and seems to be louder than the guitar.
|1:33||Verse 3||“These boots had to see California…”||The tempo slows back down here for the third verse, with no electric guitar in the background.
|1:58||Chorus||“I wore out more soles…”||Once again the tempo picks up and the electric guitar is introduced back in to the background of the song, there is no discernable difference between the two chorus sections.
|2:22||Instrumental||Guitar/Fiddle||Exact same instrumental section as last time, with a leading fiddle and the guitar in the background.
|2:32||Verse 4||“Now these boots are one step…”||“Around” is sung in a stretched out manner and blends right in to the upcoming instrumental, the melody and pace are the same as the other verses. A pause at the end of the section adds suspense for the instrumental.
|2:56||Instrumental/Outro||Guitar||Here the instrumental relies completely on the electric guitar, instead of the fiddle similar to the other instrumentals. “Damn these boots” is repeated 2 times followed by a long “These boots” and finally finished up with the fiddle once again taking the lead once Church has finished singing.|
- “Eric Church: Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.
- “Eric Church – These Boots.”Song Meanings. Songmeanings.com, n.d. Web.
- “”These Boots” Lyrics.”ERIC CHURCH LYRICS. A-Z Lyrics, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.
- “Eric Church.”Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.