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6/8/24 residency show

The Brand

The brand is big.

Eric Church started as a guy with a 1986 blue and gray Chevrolet Blazer and a guitar. There was no thought of an empire. There was only the music.

And the music remains the cornerstone. Now there are two decades worth of songs, and every single one is someone’s favorite. You see it at every show, the way someone has an emotional reaction to a different melody at every single performance, no matter where it is. “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young” is an obvious one. “Those I’ve Loved” is a favorite.’

But maybe your mom also had a soft spot for hell-raisin’ boys, so “Sinners Like Me” has been a favorite. Or you grew up in the mountains and “Carolina” evokes those memories. Or you had some days where you had to sit in silence by yourself, so “Record Year” connects.

The point is, there’s a song for everybody. But it’s gotten much bigger than that.

There is Field & Stream (attendees at this week’s residency shows might have found a copy on their chairs in the Neon Steeple). There are the Charlotte Hornets. There is Outsiders Radio on SiriusXM.
And of course, there is Chief’s on Broadway, where Saturday night Church played the 18th of his 19 sold-out residency shows at the building that bears his name. Naturally, he can’t seem to do a bar the conventional way. It’s a bar, right? It should be easy. Just down the street, one of the artist-themed bars—a population that has recently swarmed the Broadway area—recently changed artist sponsors. It took less than two months from the time the previous artist was removed from the sign to the time it reopened, with a new artist attached.

Meanwhile, at Second and Broadway, it took more than two months just to assemble all the personal photos that line the walls in Friendly Shadows, the dueling piano bar on the second floor of Chief’s. He’s just incapable of doing anything half-ass.

“Eric always seems so engaged with his audience,” says Mindy Harrell, a Chicago area resident who won an Outsiders Radio contest to attend Friday night’s residency show. As soon as she won the contest, she and her husband arranged flights and hotels and made plans to travel to Nashville one week later. It didn’t matter that it was CMA Fest and hotels were exorbitant. She had to be there.
Both of them had tried to get tickets through the Church Choir presale, but neither had any luck. That’s the kind of loyalty Church has inspired. Of course, the fans will try for hours to log in and get tickets when the 19 shows go on sale. If they fail, of course, they will scour the internet and the various fan communities to find out if there might be another way to secure them (nope).

What makes the brand work is that even as it’s grown, it has retained the authenticity that began in those parking lots and dive bars two decades ago. The people who have become part of the team understand the fanaticism, and that’s why—for example—Chief’s offers a Choir Coffee Tour every morning at 8 a.m. for Church Choir members who want to see every single detail of the building. Every single day, dozens of Choir members line up outside for the tour. It’s free, of course, and they even go home with a tour-only souvenir.

That’s why virtually everyone in the organization has been on a packed Broadway at some point this week, often wearing a Church Choir Ambassador shirt so they can be spotted to facilitate answering questions from CMA Fest-attending fans.

And that’s why Outsiders Radio knows one of the best commodities they can give listeners is tickets to a sought-after Church show. That’s how Harrell ended up in Nashville this week for her 22nd Church concert (she has a poster from 21 of those 22, and those posters are another underrated part of that Chief community). She saw the contest, entered without even thinking about it, and promptly forgot about it.

Until, that is, she received an email from Outsiders Radio informing her she was the winner. Ten days later, she was sitting in the Neon Steeple watching the one-of-a-kind show.

“I always feel so good when I leave one of his shows,” she says. “It feels like I had the time of my life every time. And this one was incredible. It’s another way that shows how connected he is to his fans.”
And that’s why the brand succeeds. The brand isn’t a magazine or a channel or even a building.

Jessica and Scott, a couple from Mint Hill, N.C., were in the front row this weekend. Scott wore a Charlotte Hornets jersey with “Chief” on the back. Jessica held her state of North Carolina license plate that reads “SOMEOFIT.”

Both were giddy to be so close to Church. They love all the different parts of the business. They planned to read the magazine. They were eager to absorb all the nuance of Chief’s. But what they really love, and what initiates their interest in all the other arms of the operation, is the music.
The brand, quite simply, is a real connection. And the brand works.

“It’s pretty easy,” Jessica said. “What he sings about is the story of our lives.”

Get More on the Record

Bar in Friendly Shadows


After Hours

When Friday night’s “To Beat the Devil” residency show concluded, Eric Church was just getting started making memories. First- and second-floor Chief’s patrons went home with a late-night memory they won’t soon forget.

Hell of a Q Rooftop


The Scene

It’s CMA Fest weekend in Nashville, which means the sidewalks are packed, the music is loud–and Eric Church is still blissfully ignoring all the commotion while doing things his own way inside Chief’s.

Looking down on first floor of Neon Steeple


This Town

A full day of Eric Church activities included a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame, a 15th straight sold-out residency show at Chief’s, and a reminder that a singer who once couldn’t get a job on Broadway is now influencing the next generation trying to rule Nashville.