Eric Church doesn’t attend many of the parties that Nashville’s music industry often throws for its artists. But he turned up at a special one Tuesday (September 24) to celebrate his latest No.1 hits, “Round Here Buzz” and “Some Of It,” and he was rewarded with a surprise that took him completely off guard.
Held in a gleaming hangar surrounded by private jets at the Nashville International Airport, the soirée started off in typical fashion with guests mingling and winding down with cocktails after another long work day. Soon the publishers of each song were praising their writers one by one — Church, Jeff Hyde and Luke Dick for “Round Here Buzz” and Church, Hyde, Bobby Pinson and Clint Daniels for “Some Of It” — with Universal Music Group Nashville Chariman/CEO Mike Dungan drawing laughs from the crowd (and eye rolls from the artists).
The familiar pattern of predictably ended there though, as Dungan publicly asserted that “the music is sh***y out there right now” — something he’s often proclaimed in the past — and reminded the audience just how lucky his team felt to have an artist like Church … but he wasn’t alone. Dungan then cued up a video montage of dozens of country artists with genuine admirations of praise for Church, as the “Chief” looked on in stunned disbelief.
Jon Pardi, Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell, Ashley McBryde and Brothers Osborne all chimed in about Church’s unshakeable artistic vision. As did Kip Moore, Tim McGraw, and Kenny Chesney, who said “I don’t care if you’re selling shoes or music, it won’t work if you don’t care. And Eric Church cares.” Maren Morris, Morgan Wallen, Jason Aldean and Keith Urban also weighed in, with Urban singling out bold musical choices like the syncopated rhythms heard on “Some Of It,” as Church nodded his head in agreement.
And then came iconic Texas singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, an artist who, like Church, has always been held in high esteem as a breaker of molds and blazer of trails, even if it never made him rich and famous. Church name checked Hubbard in “Mr. Misunderstood” and that led the pair into a writing session, which eventually resulted in Wylie’s first and only song to ever land on the mainstream country charts — the swampy Top 10 standout, “Desperate Man.” Amid perfectly timed jokes and other praises, Wylie called Church “a true poet,” and said “to have co-wrote with Eric Church is pretty badass,” with Church shaking his head and covering his mouth in disbelief.
If he didn’t feel worthy in that moment he was in for a shock, as Daniels looked Church straight in the eye and said “you’re the closest thing to Merle Haggard we will ever know.” Pinson said “Eric Church doesn’t even chase Eric Church” and publisher/executive Arturo Buenahora Jr. threatened to burn Nashville down if Church does not win Entertainer of the Year at this year’s CMA Awards.
For his part, the man of the hour was a bit more composed. He thanked his co-writers and all who have a hand in making his songs into hits, admitting he does not record “easy radio songs,” and called out his band and road crew as “the tip of the spear” in building his career. But then he turned back to the surprise video.
“That video was something I’m not ready to address yet,” Church admitted. “That was one of the coolest things — no, that was about the coolest thing I’ve been a part of. To see other artists [say I] mattered to them, that wasn’t ever my intention. My intention was to make great music, write great songs, and to see it matter is something.
“I will say this,” he continued with a laugh. After seeing that video, I’m not done! I’m not retiring, I’m not dying. But I appreciate that very much, and I look forward to kicking their asses every night onstage!”