“Representing the format that I adore is something that I’m trying to live up to.” As CMA’s 2020 Entertainer of the Year, Eric Church knows he’s got the biggest of boots to fill – and he’s not letting anyone down.
It took several nominations but come round four and Eric Church walked away with an award he “never thought” he would win. Despite being one of country music’s most prolific entertainers for the past decade, Church never put much stock in his 2020 nomination for CMA’s Entertainer of the Year. He had, after all, lost out to others he felt more deserving in 2015, 2017, and the year prior in 2019. But that all changed on November 11, 2020 as Eric Church took the stage in Nashville.
The 54th CMA Awards were unlike any before it. Gone were the swaths of adoring fans and industry cohorts. Instead, the ongoing pandemic had reduced the Country Music Association’s typical glamor-to-the-walls down to a barebones roundtable of nominees and performers.
“If there ever was a year not to win this award,” Church laughed in shock at his win. There and then, he stood a global megastar in disbelief of his own influence. Now, however, Eric Church sounds a man saddled with great responsibility, destiny, or both. And he refuses to let anyone down.
Eric Church: “I Felt a Responsibility”
“Coming off the CMA Entertainer of the Year – I’ve said this in interviews and I really believe this – I did not know what that award would mean to me because we’d never won that award (laughs) and never thought we would, and I felt a responsibility,” Church says via his label, Big Machine Records, Monday.
“I know what that award means to the format; I know what that means historically, and I tried to live up to that,” he continues. While his colleagues – and most certainly his fans – never had any doubt that he would, Church has transformed himself into a stronger, emboldened embodiment of the country music genre since his win.
“I think with the vaccinations, I think with the touring, I think with the things we’ve tried to do during this, I’ve done more in that regard than I ever would’ve, because I understand the people that came before me, and I understand the people that will come after me,” he adds. “So, that nomination means more to me now than it probably ever has, because we’ve won.”
“I think representing the format that I adore is something that I’m trying to live up to,” Church ends, still as humble as he was while accepting the award in 2020. And it’s that humility, combined with his unwavering dedication, that solidifies Eric Church as the CMA Entertainer of the Year that his purely-American artform needs right now.
He may still not believe it fully, but through Monday’s sentiments alone – each echoes of his Nov. 11 acceptance speech – Church proves he’s more than up to the task. In fact, he may go down as one of the most important winners of CMA’s most coveted award in country music history.