Eric Church headlined the first day of this year’s Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Just two days later, 58 people were killed and hundreds more were injured while Jason Aldean performed on that very same stage.
Three days later, Church took the stage at Nashville’s historic Grand Ole Opry with a heavy heart. Before performing, he spoke to the crowd about his experience playing his last full show of the year, just 48 hours before the attack.
“I watched them hold American flags up during ‘How ‘Bout You.’ I watched them put an American scarf around my neck during ‘Springsteen.’ They held records up when I played ‘Record Year,'” he recalled sadly. “I was so moved by it, mainly because I looked at them and went, ‘This is my crowd. I’ve seen this crowd all year. They’re mine. And they came from all over the country.'”
He described how he decided to mark his last show by jumping down into the crowd, shaking hands and interacting with fans.
“48 hours later, those places that I stood, was carnage,” Church said with a shaky voice. “And those were my people. My fans.”
He went on to admit that he didn’t want to perform at the Opry that night until he saw footage of Heather Melton, wife of shooting victim Sonny Melton, talking with anchor Anderson Cooper on CNN about the tragedy. Heather was wearing a shirt from the Church Choir, Church’s fan club. The couple had gone to the festival specifically to see Church, Sonny’s favorite artist. The couple had also bought tickets to Church’s show at the Opry that night.
Seeing that footage inspired Eric Church not only to take the stage one more time, but to pen a song in honor of Sonny and all the victims of the shooting.
“Something broke in me on Sunday night, when that happened, and the only way I’ve ever fixed anything that’s been broke in me is with music. So I wrote a song,” Church said.
He continued his solemn three-song set by singing “Those I’ve Loved” from his 2009 record Carolina before performing a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”