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A Broadway original

The Details

In 2022, Eric Church had a meeting.

Broadway was being peppered with artist-specific new establishments. A bar here, a restaurant there. Maybe it was time for Church to add his name to the list.

But as anyone who has followed his career knows, he had no intention of doing it the same way as everyone else. An Eric Church-themed venue on Broadway was going to be authentically Eric Church. He didn’t want it to be yet another Broadway bar that happened to include a couple of Eric Church items. He wanted it to be an Eric Church experience that happened to be located on Broadway.

In April of 2024, the doors opened to the public. And that’s when they finally discovered just how deep the experience goes.

They already knew that they were going to be able to buy tickets to watch a 19-show residency. What they didn’t know is that they’d be sitting in salvaged church pews that date to 1890 — the same year of the original Leslie Warner Building, which houses Chief’s. The artifacts were found in Massachusetts, and when the specific pews were selected for Chief’s, only pews that included a number specifically related to Church and his career were chosen. What are those numbers? That’s part of the fun of going to Chief’s.

pews and stained glass windows in Neon Steeple

Only the most hardcore of fans are going to understand all the references. An earlier story referenced wallpaper that features “two pink lions.” Even some fans thought it was a typo, that perhaps it was intended to read “two pink lines” in a callback to Church’s second radio single from “Sinners Like Me.”

But there’s an extra layer to the story — Church’s mother, Rita, originally thought the line was “two pink lions.” And it’s that extra layer that will make exploring Chief’s so much fun. Anything that seems too obvious upon first inspection probably has a deeper meaning.

Even that residency has multiple layers. The show itself is called “To Beat the Devil.” Maybe you already know that’s originally a Kris Kristofferson song.

What you might not know is Church credits that song with being the one thing that kept him in Nashville when his inclination was to quit. At a 2016 event celebrating Kristofferson in Nashville, Church told the story of one of his last days as an unsigned, unknown songwriter.

“I’d decided if I get told no one more time, I was packing up and going back to North Carolina,” he said. “I went into this particular meeting knowing this would be the meeting where it all happens. I played half a song and the guy said, ‘I don’t know where you’re from or much about you, but I’d go back there.’ And this was one time I was going to.

“I went to my car in the parking lot of this publishing house. I had just gotten The Austin Sessions. The next song was To Beat the Devil. It talked about the very thing I was going through. So I decided to stay one more day. I got drunk first, and then I stayed one more day. The next day, the phone rang and I got a publishing deal.”

So by now you probably already know that in one particular line of the song, Kristofferson describes a bar as having “friendly shadows.”

So it’s no coincidence that on the second floor of Chief’s, you’ll find Friendly Shadows. There will be fans who walk through Chief’s in the months to come and never make the connection, who think it’s just a cool name for the dueling piano bar that takes up the majority of the second floor. But those who do?

They clearly come from a long line of…well, you know.

Get More On the Record

bar and confessional in Neon Steeple


For The Choir

From the very first design meeting, Eric Church wanted Chief’s to be dedicated to the loyal members of the Church Choir. Numerous details in the building are designed to pay homage to them, along with multiple exclusive experiences reserved for them.

Bar in Chief's Tavern


A Career Road Map

Gig posters from nearly every show of Eric’s two-decade career paper the walls, floor and ceiling of Chief’s Tavern. In total, there are over 4,000 of them, all installed by hand on the first floor throughout March of 2024.

Ben Weprin and Eric Church walking through Chief's


Brick By Brick

It might have been easier to start from scratch on the corner of Second and Broadway. But Eric Church wanted a building with some soul. That led to a careful revitalization of one of Nashville’s historic buildings.