On a balmy Wednesday evening (July 12) in Nashville, Tennessee, a collection of music industry personnel and donors gathered at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum to celebrate its newest exhibit: Eric Church: Country Heart, Restless Soul, presented by Gibson.
Since his debut in 2006, Church has consistently gone against the grain and pushed the boundaries of country music, as CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Kyle Young, explained ahead of the exhibit's official unveiling.
Young traced Church's journey from opening on Rascal Flatts' Me & My Gang Tour, which he soon got kicked off of after running over time and playing "too loud for too long", to now being one of the leading artists in the genre.
"Eric was already a hard act to follow and still is," Young shared. "[He is] uncompromising, bound and determined to do things his way, blending country with rock and soul. Speaking his mind in his songs and his interviews, [he's] absolutely convinced that albums should be artistic statements, never product, and that no album should be a retread of the last one, no matter how much success there was."
Taking us through his list of illustrious albums and their achievements, Young went on to note that "Eric hasn't looked back since [coming to town in 2001]. He's become one of country music's leading artists. He tests genre boundaries in his records and in duets on stage... He plays three hour shows with no opening act. He mixes up the setlist to keep it fresh and sprinkles in lovingly curated covers".
He added, "As Eric's body of work consistently shows us, country music is really about life. It's about understanding who we are. It's about reminding ourselves to live right but enjoy the [rowdiness], to speak truth and love more because it could all go away in a heartbeat."
When it came time for the man of the hour to share his thoughts, he took the stage donning his signature pair of shades and said, "I have such immense respect for this place... What's been built here - not just in country music, but in all of music - is very special and I'm honored to be here".
Drawing attention to his new shrine within the Hall of Fame, he explained that upon walking through it himself, the most meaningful part was sharing and reliving all the memories with his two young sons, who have spent much of their lives on tour with their father.
"When you're in the tournado and you're going through it, you forget all these things that happened," he said with a smile. "To be beside my boys as we walked through and went through those tidbits of when they were young and just don't remember it, that was my favorite part of this entire exhibit".
"This is an unbelievable honor for me," he summed up. "I will say that there is something to doing it your own way, and you can still get to where you want to go if you do it that way".
Eric Church: Country Heart, Restless Soul includes musical instruments, song manuscripts, stage wear, tour memorabilia, awards, photographs and more from Church’s personal collection, which spans from his humble beginnings in North Carolina all the way to being the highly decorated entertainer that we know today.
The award-winning, Platinum-selling rockstar has also been invited to serve as the museum’s 2023 artist-in-residence, which spotlights an artist with an exemplary body of work and features one-of-a-kind performances over multiple evenings. Church will host two shows in the museum’s CMA Theater on Aug. 29 and 30, with proceeds benefitting the museum’s educational mission.
The new exhibit is included with museum admission and will be on display through June 2024.
For more on Eric Church, see below:
Featured photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images