Eric Church had just stepped off the stage at Nissan Stadium after a marathon 4-hour show in front of a stadium-record 56,521 fans. As the lights came up, I just stood there (more than a little buzzed) trying to comprehend the magic of the 37-song roller coaster ride I had just been on. It was a ride that showcased Eric Church’s entire career, from Sinners Like Me to Desperate Man, with some Travis Tritt and Queen thrown in there for good measure. I was exhausted – in the best possible way – just from watching it all unfold.
Then, my girlfriend managed to find the words to sum it up: “Eric Church concerts are the closest thing to a religious experience that you can have at a country concert.” She was right. And all 56,521 people in that stadium knew they had just witnessed something special.
In that 4-hour show, Eric Church managed to take us all through a timeline of not only his musical career, but of his life. All of the ups and downs, the memories both good and bad, all of the milestones of a life and career, laid bare for 56,521 people to see.
Any fan of country music has probably heard it a thousand times: “Country songs are all the same. They’re all about beer and pickup trucks.” And for some artists that’s true. Turn on the radio and you’ll hear plenty of artists making the same music now that they were making when they started their career 10 or 15 years ago. Songs that were made to be radio hits and appeal to whoever happens to be listening at the moment.
But Eric Church is different. Each of his albums are a snapshot of not only where he was in his career, but where he was in his life. From waiting on “Two Pink Lines” in a parking lot to checking for “Monsters” underneath his son’s bed, each album showcases the growth and maturity of the man behind the microphone in a way that few country artists have the courage (or the ability) to do.
Through it all, though, one thing is clear: Eric Church is all about his fans. Just look at the decisions he’s made throughout his career and you’ll see that this isn’t a guy who’s here to make friends at country radio or to put out the next #1 hit single.
After his debut album was released, he managed to score a spot opening for Rascal Flatts on one of the biggest tours of the year – and then promptly get kicked off because he played for too long. In 2015, he surprised his fan club – and his label – with a brand new album after buying a record pressing plant in Germany to get it done. On his 2017 Holdin’ My Own Tour, he played 62 shows with no opening act – and two sets each night. And then he doubled down on this most recent tour, playing two shows on back to back nights in each city, again with no opening act and playing two sets every night.
Each and every step of the way, Eric Church has done it his way. And he’s done it so that his fans could connect with his music.
You won’t find Eric Church on social media. (Sure, he has an “official account,” but all of the posts come from his team and not from the man himself). You won’t catch him on late night talk shows. And you sure as hell won’t find him judging any TV singing competitions.
And that’s what makes the connection that Eric Church has with his fans all the more unique in country music (hell, in ANY music). For Eric Church and his fans, it IS about the music. It’s about, as he says, connecting that melody with a memory. It’s about capturing that moment in time and putting it into a song. And nobody in this generation of country music is doing that better than Eric Church.
On that Saturday night in Nissan Stadium, I knew I had witnessed something special. When that melody connected with the memory, when that moment in time was captured, I knew it was one that I would never forget.
A true religious experience, a once-in-a-lifetime show – because Eric Church is a once-in-a-generation artist.