Eric Church Addresses Polarizing Headlining Performance at Stagecoach

Country star Eric Church has responded to criticism he received for putting on an unconventional, polarizing headlining set at the Stagecoach Music Festival.

Taking the festival’s main stage for its closing slot on Friday night, Church transformed Stagecoach into a literal church of sorts, projecting dramatic stained-glass art behind him and enlisting a gospel choir to fill-out the sound. Though his performance began later than scheduled, it opened with quite a statement: a five-minute organ intro followed by a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (but don’t tell St. Vincent that).

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From there, Church’s setlist featured more covers — some traditional and some quite unexpected. He played “This Little Light of Mine,” and other standards, but also reimagined songs like Tupac Shakur’s “California Love” and Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.” Notably missing, though, were many of Church’s own songs — he still played hits like “Country Music Jesus” and “Springsteen,” but the focus certainly wasn’t on his own catalog.

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To some Stagecoach-goers, that move was quite a turn off. Social media and articles from outlets like Desert Sun report that there was a “mass exodus” of sorts from folks who weren’t picking up what Church was throwing down. Others — especially die-hard fans of Church — felt that he was keeping up his “rebel” reputation by doing something unexpected, and praised him for the artistic statement.


In his own words, though, Church said, “This was the most difficult set I have ever attempted. I’ve always found that taking it back to where it started, back to chasing who Bob Seger loves, who Springsteen loves, who Willie Nelson loves, you chase it back to the origin. The origin of all that is still the purest form of it. And we don’t do that as much anymore. It felt good at this moment to go back, take a choir and do that.”

Going further, Church confirmed that he was hoping to do something definitively different with the performance. “For me, it’s always been something with records, with performances, I’ve always been the one that’s like, ‘let’s do something really, really strange and weird and take a chance,’” he said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s okay if you’re living on that edge, because that edge, that cutting edge, is where all the new guys are going to gravitate to anyway. So if you can always challenge yourself that way, it always cuts sharper than any other edge.”

Check out some clips of Church’s performance below.

Meanwhile, Church has a number of live performances coming up in Nashville and other cities. Check out his upcoming dates and grab tickets here.