Eric Church – “Smoke a Little Smoke”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | June 23rd, 2010

Eric ChurchI have a confession to make, although my admission has less to do with the Catholic Church and more to do with a pseudo-rocking country singer of a similar name: Eric Church’s latest single “Smoke a Little Smoke” has been my go-to guilty pleasure since his album Carolina was released more than a year ago.

That guilt stems from the young country star’s mostly contrived efforts at bucking the mainstream while simultaneously banking on the largely unearned title of this generation’s version of a pioneering country-rock original. In the words of Waylon Jennings himself, this outlaw bit’s done got out of hand.

“Smoke a Little Smoke,” however, puts Church’s bravado posturing to good use. The song’s snakelike opening guitar chords morph into a driving drum beat before culminating into a big ball of heart-thumping rhythms, resulting in a progressive mix of rock, funk and blues that still falls under the modern label of country music.

Combined with the cacophony of drums, electric guitar and voice loops, lyrics such as “ Kick back, gives the blues a spin/Break out the wine, forget again/Dig down deep, find my stash/Light it up, memory crash” mimic that pleasingly mind-numbing, out-of-body experience only available through prime spots next to rock concert speakers and certain other endorphin-boosting activities.

The appeal of “Smoke a Little Smoke,” which reportedly makes a routinely late appearance in Church’s concert set list because of its near-riot inducing power over the singer’s rabid fan base, sits squarely in the tune’s total embodiment of its overall sentiment. Church offers no apologies in the form of superfluous fiddle or steel riffs, and makes no attempts to temper the song’s spot-on snapshot of trying to lose one’s self – musically or otherwise – in an effort to awkwardly make the project “country.”

Despite country radio’s current propensity for rock influences, “Smoke A Little Smoke” stands out with a blend of tempos and interesting twists and turns. Does Church deserve comparisons to Jennings and the late legend’s “outlaw” friends? Not by a long shot, or at least not yet. However, when the singer trades in impersonation for experimentation, he forges a unique path that sets him apart from his mainstream peers.

Thumbs Up

  1. Derek
    June 23, 2010 at 7:27 am

    The more I hear this song, the more I like it. I guess you could say it’s very infectious.

  2. Caroline
    June 23, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Good song choice! It’s been a fave of mine since I got the cd. Seeing it performed live is a trip too!

  3. AtlantaFan
    June 23, 2010 at 9:49 am

    I have loved this song, since I first got the CD. What hooked me is the tempo of “drink a little drink, smoke a little smoke.” It’s really catchy! I kept hitting the back button on my car CD player to listen to it again.

  4. Noeller
    June 23, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Sigh. Unreal album – unreal cut. I’m shocked the label is letting him release a song about smoking pot, but it’s cool, nonetheless.

    The strongest statement I can make about this song, is it’s one of the best songs on a VERY VERY strong album.

    Carolina was one of 2009s best releases, period.

  5. Saving Country Music
    June 23, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Not trying to trash your take Karlie, but this is mine:

    This pot anthem should be labeled “Unfit For Human Consumption,” and exemplifies Church’s worst of the worst approach.

    Its just another in a line of dumb pop songs pandering to the “PS3 Pot Head” Madison Avenue demographic of 20-somethings living in their parent’s basement with a game controller permanently affixed to one hand, and a bowl of Lucky Charms to the other–bong at the ready beside them on the couch whose cushions are worn for years of motivation-less lack of employment and/or permanent preparation for a promised return to college.

    Instead of actually delving into the eternal themes of addiction, or exploring the dichotomy of sin, desire, and redemption, this song simply panders to an unhealthy, immature nature of people saying “Hey, I smoke pot, and this song is about pot, and since I have identified myself as a pot smoker in an attempt to delineate myself from the crowd of humans so I can feel ‘unique,’ I must like it.” This is where the enthusiasm from Church’s crowd comes from, NOT something touching them deep down. Instead of attempting to discover what makes them unique, they identify with a worthless vice that makes you dumb and lazy, simply because it is illegal, and allows them to accept themselves in their own skin. Church even takes it a step farther, by condoning laziness, and not facing your problems.

    The overproduction is nauseating, and the lyrics are childish, and there’s really nothing country about it.

    This song isn’t bad, it is a harbinger for the downfall of the Western Civilization due to overconsuption, sloth, and vice worship. Why not write a song about the 17 people dying a day in Juarez, Mexico so Eric Church can “Smoke a Little Smoke”? My guess is THAT song would have some soul.

    I’m not anti-pot or anti-pot smokers or even anti songs that include pot references, trust me. In fact I think pot should be legalized. What should be illegal are these dumb pot pop songs that have their crosshairs fixed on our kids.

    Vomit.

  6. Nicolas
    June 23, 2010 at 11:19 am

    This song is about illegal drugs? Good, now I have another excuse other than “its by Eric Church” for why I won’t listen to it xD haha

  7. Drew
    June 23, 2010 at 11:43 am

    It’s alright, but there were definitely other songs I was hoping he’d pick for the next single.

  8. Stormy
    June 23, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Isn’t pot pretty mainstream at this point? I don’t think an anthem about pot smoking can be considered Outlaw or “deliniating themselves from” ANYONE at this point.

    As for:
    Its just another in a line of dumb pop songs pandering to the “PS3 Pot Head” Madison Avenue demographic of 20-somethings living in their parent’s basement with a game controller permanently affixed to one hand, and a bowl of Lucky Charms to the other–bong at the ready beside them on the couch whose cushions are worn for years of motivation-less lack of employment and/or permanent preparation for a promised return to college.

    How about PS3 Pot Heads who go on to become Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Nobel prize winners or the most award winning Olympic swimmer of all time?

  9. Saving Country Music
    June 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Good point Stormy, but just because society has become desensitized to bad music with poor messages doesn’t make it right.

    And thank you for reminding me that mediocrity is not just rewarded in music, but across all elements of society.

    Sigh.

  10. Saving Country Music
    June 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Michael Phelps might be the exception to my “mediocrity” statement. But he in no way fits the “PS3 Pot Head” mold either just because he smoked pot. Neither do Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, or Nobel prize winners, but unlike Michael Phelps, most of them DO reek of mediocrity, not just marijuana.

  11. Stormy
    June 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Considering that more than 40% of people in the US have smoked pot at one time or another I don’t think that there is a “type” of Pot Smoker.

  12. Stewman
    June 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    To me its just pretty lame. A more subtle song title would be a good start. We get it Eric, you toke and hope that the same people who like the nonsense by likes of Justin Moore & Trace Adkins will buy into this “Edgy” track as well. Forget it.

  13. Stewman
    June 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    You can just see the Frat boys “going nuts” at the show after the chorus rolls through.

  14. Saving Country Music
    June 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Stormy,

    You’re missing the definition of a “PS3 Pothead.” Just because you smoked pot at some point, like Obama or Michael Phelps doesn’t mean you fit into this demographic.

    PS3 potheads are a universally-recognized target marketing demographic of 20-somethings, usually male, who are in a transitional period between education and the workforce who consume large amounts of video games, marijuana, and dumb pop songs like this one.

    Noeller said above that he’s shock the label put it out, but the label probably requested this song to be written and released as a single, to target the PS3 pothead demographic, who is known to have copious amounts of expendable income (usually from mom and pops) for small ticket consumer goods.

    If you want to glimpse into the PS3 Pot Head world, here you go:

    http://www.datehookup.com/Thread-399950.htm

    That thread pretty much sums up how immature this song is for me.

  15. Matt Bjorke
    June 23, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    The single version cuts out references to pot.

  16. Kelly
    June 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    sounds like the song is one big reference to pot. what exactly was cut out?

  17. Saving Country Music
    June 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Yeah, not sure how they would censor this, but if they did, that is even more lame. If you’re gonna put your name on the song, stand behind it and take your lumps. For once that would be a true Outlaw thing for Eric Church to do. Censoring it is an admission of guilt.

  18. Leeann Ward
    June 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    As someone who has no love for his latest album/singles/”outlaw talk”, I suspect he just can’t win.

  19. Mike M.
    June 23, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    @Saving Country Music
    I smoke pot occasionally and I do not fit your stereotype at all. I actually think it’s slightly offensive. They’re are plenty of people who smoke pot on a regular basis that are probably more successful than the average person. It’s a personal choice and more importantly smoking pot doesn’t define a person. If you’ve never experienced what this song describes than you are truly missing out. When you’re having a bad day sometimes the best thing to do is “Drink and little drink, smoke a little smoke”

  20. Kelly
    June 23, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    i dont care who smokes what or drinks what. i just want to know how the “pot references” are taken out of a song that’s titled as this one is and contains the chorus that it contains…also, I’m not big on these recent, redundantly worded titles. “love you love”, “smoke a lttle smoke”…what’s next? “I’m an outlaw who’s an outlaw”? I’ve got bad hair with a bad hair-do?

  21. Kelly
    June 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    forgive my missplelings above, I’m as high as a kite right now…

  22. Kelly
    June 23, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    *misspellings…ok, putting down my smoke now.

  23. Jon
    June 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    … I suspect he just can’t win.

    Hmm, ya think?

  24. Saving Country Music
    June 23, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Mike M,

    Honestly, I can’t say anything more than I’ve already said delineating between people who do or have smoked pot, and the “PS3 Pot Head” demographic this song was manufactured for. That’s not my demographic, I didn’t create it, and I don’t condone it. But watch a run of commercials on Spike TV, and you will understand what I’m talking about.

    Probably 75% of the country I listen to is riddled with pot references, as well as references to harder drugs, murder, and littered with foul language. However it also has soul. It speaks to truths inherent in the human condition. It used to be country could only talk about the “devil” or “Honky Tonkin'”. Now people can speak about their vices openly. There’s a thin line between glorification and symbolism, and that line is different for different people. But I do think it is important that the public airwaves stay clean. Nobody should have to be exposed to something they might find offensive.

    My problem is not pot, or the pot references, it is that this song was not created from inspiration, but from a close inspection of demographics and how to exploit them for financial gain. Eric Chruch is trying to market himself as an “Outlaw”, and just like the term “country” has been diluted, people now think “Outlaw” means cussing and drugs. Has nothing to do with it.

    If this songs speaks to you Mike, that’s all that matters, don’t let a jaded, negative guy like me turn you sour. But if you like pot references in your songs, there’s SO much better; songs that will make a grown man weep. This song is only good for background music as a frat boy throws up in the floorboard of his Nissan Xterra.

  25. Rick
    June 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Matt, does this mean the radio single’s title will be “Blank A Little Blank”? (lol)

    Noeller, you’ve made my list of regulars here, like Kelly, that I can rely on to absolutely love music I couldn’t possibly care less about! (All of the Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift fans make this list by default.) Knowing how you feel about the music of Doc Walker and Eric Church has put you firmly on the list, while with Kelly its the music of Deer Tick and literally every other male artist dominated band Kelly really digs! Thanks guys, you save me a lot of time when it comes to listening to artists I’m unfamiliar with!

  26. Gary Zarda
    June 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I’ve always been a fan of Eric Church but was blown away by the T-shirt selection at the last concert all having marijuana leaves on them. I thought, “Really? When did that become part of this picture?” I’m no prude, but I just walked away.

  27. Noeller
    June 23, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Yeah, I should point out that I’m actually kinda “anti-pot”, to be honest, but this song just has such a cool vibe to it. It’s “funky”. You can just picture Waylon, Willie, etc. sitting in a smokey hotel room/tour bus with the lights dim, picking a guitar and not really saying a whole lot. It’s what I’d call a “chillin'” song.

    I’m a huge fan of all the acts that 9513 tends to get behind – Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band, Joey + Rory, etc., and to me, Eric Church fits this SAME mold, but for some reason people just will not give him a chance. I just don’t get it. I think it must be the rock influence. I fully admit that EC has a lot of 90s rock infused with 70s country, and that must be what’s turning people off.

    I maintain that history will reward Eric the same way it will Kellie Pickler. He’s a way way deeper artist than people are giving him credit for.

  28. Jon
    June 23, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    this song was not created from inspiration, but from a close inspection of demographics and how to exploit them for financial gain.

    And you know this because…?

  29. Michelle
    June 23, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I’m not a fan of Eric Church, but I don’t find the song lyrics offensive. I’ve never been offended by ANY songs lyrics. Who knows, someday I might really like him. I love rock music, so I find it hard to believe that’s why people aren’t giving him a chance. I didn’t realize he wasn’t being given a chance, though. I can see why Gary Zarda would have passed on the t-shirts. I know I wouldn’t want to walk around with a marijuana plant on my shirt.

  30. Mike M.
    June 23, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    @Jon
    You are my hero. There is no way that can be known. From the way this song captures the vibe of the feeling and experience so well, I’d say it was the product of weed-induced writing session.

  31. Stormy
    June 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Saving Country Music
    June 23, 2010 at 5:20 pm Permalink Mike M,

    Honestly, I can’t say anything more than I’ve already said delineating between people who do or have smoked pot, and the “PS3 Pot Head” demographic this song was manufactured for. That’s not my demographic, I didn’t create it, and I don’t condone it. But watch a run of commercials on Spike TV, and you will understand what I’m talking about.

    You get that The Pineapple Express was not a documentary, right?

  32. Troy
    June 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Other than church trying to cause some controversy for the song its boring to me. Nothing sounds intresting of the arragement or the lyrics but that just from the clip of the song from above. From a record label standpoint some pot smokers might use it as an anthem song about smoking pot being acceptable.

  33. Kelly
    June 23, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Rick – if you actually had a clue as to what I really like and dislike musically, you might have a point worth listening to. You have proven over time that your comments lack any sort of real substance, let alone any actual brain-power. You’re a sad, and predictably narrow, dirty, little man. It would be awesome if you could just leave me out of any of your future comments, especially when I havent done anything towards you to warrant your incessant and ignorantly condescending babble.

  34. Matt Bjorke
    June 23, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    The radio version changed the weed references to cigarette and alcohol references: IE: instead of “dig down deep, find my stash”
    it goes ‘dig down deep find my glass, fill it up’……and ‘dig down deep, strike my match light it up’

  35. Jon
    June 23, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    The radio version changed the weed references to cigarette and alcohol references: IE: instead of “dig down deep, find my stash”
    it goes ‘dig down deep find my glass, fill it up’……and ‘dig down deep, strike my match light it up’

    *facepalm*

  36. CMW
    June 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Facepalm seconded.

  37. agent713
    June 24, 2010 at 7:26 am

    This song is a guilty pleasure of mine as well. Mostly because I love the beat :)

    “Noeller, you’ve made my list of regulars here, like Kelly, that I can rely on to absolutely love music I couldn’t possibly care less about! (All of the Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift fans make this list by default.) Knowing how you feel about the music of Doc Walker and Eric Church has put you firmly on the list, while with Kelly its the music of Deer Tick and literally every other male artist dominated band Kelly really digs! Thanks guys, you save me a lot of time when it comes to listening to artists I’m unfamiliar with!”

    Funny, I’ve found that Noeller is pretty much bang on when it comes to music and artists I love. Doc Walker and Eric Church top that list!

  38. Leeann Ward
    June 24, 2010 at 7:35 am

    The radio version changed the weed references to cigarette and alcohol references: IE: instead of “dig down deep, find my stash”
    it goes ‘dig down deep find my glass, fill it up’……and ‘dig down deep, strike my match light it up’

    Ugh. I guess Eric Church won’t be a spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen Foundation anytime soon then.:(

  39. Noeller
    June 24, 2010 at 7:43 am

    @Agent713 – Thanks dude! :) If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the music bizz, it’s “Hater’s Gonna Hate” and you just gotta love whatever makes you happy.

  40. Thomas
    June 24, 2010 at 8:46 am

    …i like the part: drink a little drink, smoke a little smoke…yeah…and then the wake up call by those full blown drums. that probably makes even the most laid back drinker and smoker drop whatever he’s holding. hence, perhaps not such a great hit with the decerning consumer.

  41. buddynoel
    June 24, 2010 at 10:53 am

    No one has mentioned that this song was poorly recorded. I measured heavy distortion straight from several cuts. In fact, I haven’t found a clean recording of this. The bass is heavily saturated and overall sound is garage band at best. I would suggest a remix.

  42. Kyle
    June 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Agree 100% with this review, Karlie. Eric Church generally comes off as pretty contrived to me (not a fan of the current trend of pounding your chest about “true” country in pop-country/rock songs sung with in intentionally exaggerated twang), but he could win me over if he released more songs like this.

    Be an “outlaw” by being honest about things others won’t be, not be putting on a “badass” front… tell us about what you do, not what everyone else doesn’t. I think he does a better job of this here than in most of his songs.

  43. Michelle
    June 24, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I agree 100% with Kyle. This IS a catchy song. I really like the rhythm.

  44. Ben Foster
    June 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I hate this song so much. The lyrics, production, vocals, everything. It does absolutely nothing for me. I think it should have been called “Crap a Little Crap.”

  45. Michelle
    June 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Ben Foster, that’s hilarious. I get so tired of being asked, “What are you laughing about?” Well, it’s better than crying!

  46. Melody
    June 24, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Karlie you are correct. I was at his show in Portland, OR last night and if I remember right I believe it was the first song he did for his encore. I got a m&g too with him through his fan club which was great.

  47. Fizz
    June 26, 2010 at 1:44 am

    Poor Eric Church, he tries so very hard to be edgy, and it comes off so flimsy. Here’s another dumb weed-smoking tune. Just about all reefer-related songs are pretty stupid, coincidence? Hmmmm!

    As for the whole country-rock thing, I’m all about Blackberry Smoke, although I was disappointed in their last album’s attempts to water down their sometimes-dark lyrics.

    Also, I really like a band called Alligator Stew, not sure if they’re still around. They sound more country than a lot of country-rock bands to me. Their lead singer had been in the also-ran hair-metal band Asphalt Ballet, and so the band was marketed to a metal audience, which was just the wrong way to go about it, since Alligator Stew weren’t metallic at all, in any way. They had terrific songs, go find yourself “One Time Too Long” or “Rose Thorn Bed,” or for something slightly harder, “Two Wheels.”

    But I’m rambling. Sorry.

  48. Nicolas
    June 26, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Ben Foster: “I think it should have been called “Crap a Little Crap.””

    I second that statement.

  49. Charles Murphy
    June 26, 2010 at 3:20 am

    Mmmmm…I didn’t realize being a dick to work with in touring situations was one of the requirements that made you an “outlaw”. Everyone knows about the experience with Rascal Flatts and the word on the Row is he was extremely difficult to work with on this summers Country Throwdown tour.

    Not to mention…this song is a bit lame.

  50. C K
    June 27, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I love how quick the haters love to jump on the bandwagon. If you know anything about Eric Church you would know that he writes all his own songs and that he wrote “Smoke a Little Smoke” while he was in college. So to say that he wrote it for for his label to exploit a demographic is ridiculous.

  51. Stewman
    June 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

    CK,
    So why put it out now?

  52. Leeann Ward
    June 28, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Charles,
    I’m guessing it helped Waylon, Johnny and George’s outlaw reputations to flourish.

  53. Jon
    June 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

    George? Jones? Outlaw reputation?

  54. Leeann Ward
    June 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Not his music, but I’ve always considered his lifestyle to be along the same vein.

  55. Jon
    June 28, 2010 at 10:35 am

    No, he was just an obnoxious, irresponsible drunk back then. Different thing. And as Pete Anderson pointed out elsewhere, the original outlaw thing was really a music/business, not a lifestyle thing.

  56. Kelly
    June 28, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Many people, including Willie Nelson, have pointed out the marketing-purposes origin of the “outlaw movement”. If I’m not mistaken (maybe I am), Nelson was against naming “The Outlaws” record by such a name, due to the manufactured nature of it…

  57. Leeann Ward
    June 28, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Okay.

  58. Jared
    September 5, 2010 at 2:16 am

    Im not sure who you guys think Eric audience is? It audience is 20 something year old kids at college who smoke a lil weed every now and then and drink every weekend. Thats Eric fan base. So why wouldnt he do a song like this. Its exciting in concert (which btw are attended by 20 yr olds) and it makes for a great CD (which are bought by 20 yr. olds) country music has changed everybody aims for a target audience and Eric nails his. He will be a star and he’ll keep doin songs that fit his fans. when we turn 30 he’ll start singing about babies and marriage when we’re forty it’ll be about working and kids leaving for school. But Eric will do it like a bad ass.

  59. VoiceOfReason
    November 13, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Jebus Christ Yall are offended by this song really in 2010. So the freak what! like country music is going to stop in its tracks because Eric Church made a song about pot actually the song is pretty neat and this doing well on the charts. I mean really people it’s 2010 damn there 2011 really were still being prude about this. His fans are eating this song up and so is the rest of the country music community I believe all is well in Eric’s circle.. of pot smoking country boys and girls.

  60. Hunt
    August 15, 2011 at 12:58 am

    What no on realizes, is that a lot of country music singers smoke marijuana. Most of America smokes it. And just because someone smokes occasionally does not mean they are a raging stoner. Someone who smokes daily or cannot go a day without smoking is a stoner. So stop the hate on Eric Church. Let him live his life and get stoned if he wants to.

  61. mike
    October 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    “This is where the enthusiasm from Church’s crowd comes from, NOT something touching them deep down. Instead of attempting to discover what makes them unique, they identify with a worthless vice that makes you dumb and lazy, simply because it is illegal, and allows them to accept themselves in their own skin. Church even takes it a step farther, by condoning laziness, and not facing your problems.”

    This is a very ignorant statement. I loved Eric since Sinners like me when I was in 9th grade. I loved Carolina when it came out. I have never touched marijuana so why do I love Church?

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