Eric Church sparked off a bit of controversy late last week when he took the stage at The Anthem in Washington D.C. on Friday and Saturday nights (11-15 & 11-16), and made some playful jabs at Garth Brooks after losing a bid for the CMA Entertainer of the Year trophy to Garth. Many of Eric Church’s fans brought signs to the shows proclaiming Eric Church the real Entertainer of the Year, including a few signs tearing down Garth specifically.
During the Friday show, Eric Church acknowledged the signs, and then said, “I told ’em I said, ‘Listen, I’m fine with it. [But] you pissed the wrong fans off.’” Then on Saturday when singing a rendition of the Waylon Jennings classic “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” Church changed one of the lines of the song to, “I know Garth didn’t do it this way” before cracking a smile, shrugging his shoulders, and taking a victory lap around the stage as the crowd applauded.
Garth Brooks didn’t immediately respond about the shade Eric Church threw his way, but when speaking recently to radio DJ Broadway of NASH FM 93.1, Garth Brooks did acknowledge Church’s ribbings, but didn’t seem to take offense, and chalked it up more to Eric Church feeding red meat to his fans.
“Aren’t country music artists by and large known for being kind to one another, and how do you hold your tongue?” Broadway asked.
“For one, you just don’t see it. You just don’t look at it,” Garth Brooks responded. “But with ‘E’ (meaning Eric), the crazy thing was that we hugged each other right before. All I’ve heard from him—and he might be hearing different things—[but] I’ve heard from him that it doesn’t bother him. But the line, ‘They pissed the wrong fans off,’ that’s perfect. Because if our name hadn’t been called, then in Knoxville (where Garth played next), there would have been signs everywhere [too]. It brings you closer to your team. Those guys will keep going, and the year that he wins it will be the sweetest year for him. So I guess I just don’t see what everybody else is seeing.”
This year the CMA Entertainer of the Year decision seemed especially contentious, with Eric Church fans feeling he should have won off the success of his current Double Down tour, and Carrie Underwood fans also upset, hoping she would win after a strong year and help represent the women of country with the Entertainer trophy. Over the years Garth has commonly been the one to side step bouts of smack talking as opposed to feed into them. And as one of the biggest artists in country music history, he’s regularly been on the receiving end of criticism, from fans and artists alike.
Eric Church’s latest album Desperate Man was recently announced as a nominee for Best Country Album at the upcoming Grammy Awards, and his song “Some Of It” was nominated for Best Country song. We’ll find out in January if the awards fortune for Eric Church and his fans is better at the Grammys than it was at the CMA’s.