When Eric Church said “I like my country rockin’, how ’bout you?” he meant it.
You may recall he was infamously kicked off the Rascal Flatts tour in 2006 for playing too loud and going over his allotted set time, which proved to be a great thing for him in the long run of his career.
And actually, unbeknownst to practically everyone at the time, that was nothing out of the ordinary for the then-rising country music superstar.
Not too far down the road from where he recorded his 2021 Heart & Soul triple album, a delicious place called Woodlands Barbeque used to be a local favorite of locals in the High Country.
It was a completely wood-paneled, rustic, no-frills, and of course home to some damn good Carolina barbeque. It’s hard to imagine now that he got his start at a small, unassuming barbeque joint nestled in the vast Blue Ridge Mountains, but he did.
And in typical Church fashion, the wait staff would have to run him off during his sets because people would stay too long at their tables watching him.
More customer equals more tips… it’s not hard to see why they didn’t like it. Personally, I cannot imagine a better meal than pulled-pork with a side of Eric Church crushing an acoustic version of “These Boots.”
Because of his natural talent and incomparable ability to entertain, Eric secured his first regular gig playing there by the summer of his junior year of college. Luke Combs also played there on Sundays back in his college days, cutting his teeth on the same bar circuit as his musical hero did years prior.
It wasn’t long after all that when Eric, his late brother, his roommate, and another guitarist formed a band called The Mountain Boys, and Eric and company were playing various bars and restaurants around the same small town of Boone, North Carolina, while he attended college at Appalachian State University.
The rest is history… and as the story goes, Eric took his father up on the deal they’d made that his dad would fund his first year in Nashville so long as Eric graduated college first.
In a 2013 interview with Appalachian Today, Eric detailed the struggle in finding balance holding up his end of the bargain:
“There were a lot of nights when I’d be driving up the mountain at 4 a.m. when I had an 8 o‘clock class.
I remember writing papers and homework at the 24-hour Waffle House on (Hwy.) 321 in Lenoir, then coming into class with hash brown and ketchup stains on the paper.
I’d still not been to bed, and the professors knew what I was doing. It about killed me, but it’s fun to look back on now.”
Eric still goes back to his home state as often as he can, and was even honored with the prestigious North Carolina Award last year by Governor Roy Cooper because of his outstanding contributions to the state.
He’s certainly come a long way from turning in papers with ketchup stains from the Waffle House…
And if that story isn’t North Carolina enough for ya, check out this video of him performing an acoustic version of “Love Your Love the Most” at a Walmart near his hometown back in 2009.