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Interview: Eric Church prepping a party for O.C.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Eric Church is all about the party, so much so that he brings an intimate bar feel to his current Blood, Sweat & Beers arena tour, which stops Sunday at Nokia Theatre in L.A. and Thursday at Honda Center in Anaheim.

The 35-year-old North Carolina native has been a bona fide road dog for years. Yet it wasn’t that long ago he made the transition from headlining cramped, small-capacity rooms reeking of booze and sweat to jumping on tours as opener for established acts like Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert and Toby Keith.

This current outing marks Church’s arena-headlining debut. But the country star, known for sporting his signature well-worn baseball cap and mirrored sunglasses on stage, doesn’t take it for granted that, thanks to loyal, hard-partying fans, 25 dates of his tour have sold out since the first leg kicked off in Arkansas in January.

“It just makes it that much more special,” he says of the popularity. “I realize that people’s discretionary money is not what it was, so they have to pick the (shows) that they really want to see or the vacations they really want to take. People have to make choices, and to be one of the choices that they’ve made, especially this year, means a lot and we don’t treat it lightly. It’s not lost on us as we walk out on that stage.”

Church, currently supported by newcomers Justin Moore and Kip Moore, may have outgrown nightclubs, but the “Drink in My Hand” singer still does everything he can to turn arenas into cozy bar parties. “We do pretty good on some nights,” he says with a laugh. “Our goal is to make sure the place is as rowdy as it can be.”

Still, the first time he stepped on stage this time out and faced thousands of screaming fans, he admits to feeling nervous butterflies inside. “There is a little bit of surprise in that,” he says. “You kind of want to turn around and look for the real headliner to walk behind you.”

He contends that “over the course of the year we’ve gotten better, and the band and crew, too. We were like ducks out of water for a little while, but just like with anything else, we got used to it. We’re doing 110 arenas total this year, and so far the crowds have been extremely rowdy. I mean, I saw people crowd-surfing in the upper level of an arena, which is weird, but crowds like that make this a lot more fun for us.”

Aside from a successful tour, Church also was nominated for numerous CMA awards, including male vocalist of the year and album of the year (for his third album, Chief), while his hit single “Springsteen” was up for song of the year, single of the year and music video of the year. When the 46th annual ceremony aired Thursday on ABC, he nabbed only the album title, though that’s arguably the best prize he could have received, aside from possibly the male vocalist crown, which went to The Voice judge and country stud Blake Shelton.

Read more of our interview with Eric Church on the Soundcheck Blog.


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