Eric Church has always been one to do things his own way.
After his first two singles at country radio, “How ‘Bout You” and “Two Pink Lines,” failed to generate any real buzz, and the subsequent ones did worse, Church released his sophomore album Carolina.
After his first two singles from that record, “Love Your Love The Most” and “Hell On The Heart” barely scratched the top 10, he decided to buck his label and release “Smoke a Little Smoke” as his next single – after a label exec told him, “It’s your funeral.”
Well that one worked out pretty well for him…
Back in 2015, Church dropped a surprise album, Mr. Misunderstood, after sending it straight to his fans before announcing it to anyone in the media. And the past few tours he’s been on, Church has gone out solo – not bringing along any openers – to give fans a 3+ hour show of all the songs they came to hear. It’s safe to say that Chief really has forged his own path in country music.
And that goes back all the way to the early days, when he was briefly opening for Rascal Flatts on their Me and My GangTour in 2006.
Now right off the bat, I can’t think of any two acts that are less of a fit for the same tour. Church with his rock edge singing about drinking and smoking weed opening for the slicked back, bedazzled jean, mom-country pop sounds of Rascal Flatts. That was a marriage that was destined to fail from the start. And that’s exactly what happened.
I’m sure you’re already familiar with the story, but according to Rascal Flatts, they asked Church several times to keep his set to the allotted time for the opener, and even let him go on earlier so he had more time to play. But Chief still wouldn’t follow the rules:
“We asked him four times to stay to the allotted amount of time that he had to play. We sat him down in our dressing room and were like, ‘Look, we’ll put you on early so you can play longer. But please, just be off the stage because we still have to do our show.’
And for every minute that you go over time, especially in New York City, you’re charged thousands of dollars by the minute in labor fees. So the last time was Madison Square Garden. We said, ‘It’s really important that you get off on time.’”
Well after once again breaking the rules at that Madison Square Garden show, Church was removed from the tour and replaced by an up-and-coming artist named Taylor Swift.
But Church already had a whole tour schedule planned – so he decided he was still going to visit all the cities on the Me and My Gang Tour, and started his own tour that would follow Rascal Flatts around for the rest of theirs.
Church recounts the story in an interview with Lindsay Czarniak on the Lunch with Lindsay podcast:
“I didn’t have anything else to do, so in the rest of the cities that Rascal Flatts went to – their tour was called the ‘Me and My Gang Tour,’ so we launched the ‘Me and Myself Tour.’
So I went to all the rock clubs in the city that Rascal Flatts was. So Rascal Flatts was playing the arena, right? I was playing the little rock club down the street, and I would start my show when their show ended.
And I did it every city the rest of the tour.”
Czarniak got a big kick out of Church following Levox and the crew around from city to city – as Church put it:
“I was stalking them.”
When asked whether Flatts knew that Church was stalking them around on their tour, Church laughed:
“Oh yeah, they hated it. Yeah they knew what we were doing.”
Church also admitted that he did it as a little bit of an “F you” to Rascal Flatts for removing him from the tour – well, actually not a little bit, as he admits that it was actually “a lot.”
But according to Church, by the last stop on the Me and Myself Tour, he had managed to build up a following from taking a stand:
“So we get to the last one and it was like, we had a pretty big following. Like it became a thing. And it gave us identity.
We stood for something, we made a decision. We’ve tried to do that our entire career, I mean I’ve done that a number of times where I don’t care if you agree with me, I’m gonna tell you what I think. I don’t care how it affects my career. That’s just who I am.
And I think that the real fanbases, they understand that and I think it makes them more passionate.”
Spot on. Obviously the decisions he’s made have worked out pretty well for Church, who’s gone from stalking Rascal Flatts on a tour that he was no longer a part of to selling out stadiums, and this summer going on an amphitheater tour with tons of artists from outside of mainstream country.
And it’s just hilarious to think of Gary LeVox, sitting in his dressing room getting his spiked hair fixed for a show, and seething about this guy named Eric Church following them around on tour after they kicked him off.
You can hear Church tell that story, along with his full conversation with Lindsay Czarniak and NASCAR driver Chase Elliott, on this week’s episode of the Lunch with Lindsay podcast here: