In an interview slated to air Friday on Apple Music Country, country superstar Eric Church talks for the first time about being picked to sing the national anthem at the upcoming Super Bowl — admitting that he had vowed before never to perform it because of the vocal challenge it poses, saying, “I’m not Chris Stapleton.” He also said that he’d never listened to Jazmine Sullivan, who “may be the best singer,” before being asked to do “The Star Spangled Banner” as a duet with her.

Church also talks on “Today’s Country with Kelleigh Bannen” about his choice to release three separate new studio albums in April.

Of Sullivan, Church says, “No, I’ve not met her yet, Let me tell you something. She may be the best singer. I was floored. And you know what, the best thing about this, no matter what happens, because that’s a nervy thing that we got to do, but what a fan, I’m a fan. I’ve went in and listened to everything she did. And I had heard her name, but full disclosure, I had not listened.”

Church says producer Adam Blackstone, who has worked with the Roots and is currently working with Justin Timberlake, “was the guy that set the track up and said, ‘Hey, these are the two guys I want.’ And it was really credit to him. They come in and go, ‘I want this guy and I want this girl.’ And here’s what I said… I’ve said this forever, ‘I will never ever sing the national anthem.’ It’s so hard. Except the Super Bowl … I mean, I’m not Chris Stapleton. I fully assumed they’re never going to ask me. So, this is the first.

Church has three album releases slated sequentially for April — “Heart,” the fan club/vinyl-only “&” and “Soul.” He talked with Apple about the making of the albums, which involved a complete changeup in his usual methods. It involved taking his entire band and crew to a remote North Carolina location and basically locking everyone down at a restaurant-turned-studio for about a month while he wrote and recorded one song a day, on the spot and one at a time.

“As we got halfway through the project and we were a couple of weeks in, I started going, ‘Damn, this is good.’ And it kind of went from there. We never went in there and went, ‘Hey, we’re going to make three albums.’ That’s not the way. We just said, ‘We’re going to make music. I fully believed that we going to suck a lot more than we did, but it worked out, I think that’s to the credit of creativity.

It’s always interesting when you have a group of songs that you’ve written and you say these are my 10 best or 20 best, and everybody listens to them and they decide. So I feel like that by the time you get to the studio, those songs have been listened to and thought about and played. I mean, I don’t want to use that tired is the wrong word, but by the time you get there… it’s different. So for me, what I wanted to do was, I wanted to write a song the same day we recorded that song and let creativity lead and if it sucked, it sucked. Let it just be what it was going to be. And there’s nothing like the birth of a song. 

“You get the goosebumps and you sit there, God this is good. And I think that I wanted to carry that directly into the studio. And that’s what we tried to do. So every day I would get up or actually every night I would stay up most of the night writing songs. And we’d finish ‘em by 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and then we’d go in the studio and we’d record, and it’s just the most freeing… I’ve never had anything creatively that was that just soul-lifting.”
Of the song-a-day writing/recording process, Church described “recording till 2, 3 in the morning, and then I got to write at 10 a.m. the next day, because I have to have a song by the evening. And I got to where I could not turn it off. I mean, I was writing songs in my sleep. I was dreaming about songs. Everything was a song to me. I mean, anybody that talked to me, I would go, ‘I gotta make that a song.’ I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I got quite manic, but it worked. At the end of it, it took me a while to shut it down.”