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A 'Carolina' homecoming for Eric Church

(Story courtesy of The Lenoir News Topic)

Nathan Key
Mar 25,2009

Who says you can't come home again? Eric Church sure has made the effort to return to his hometown every chance he gets.

The Nashville country music recording artist continued to stay true to his roots, making a stop in Granite Falls Tuesday for an acoustic performance and took time to sign copies of his new CD, "Carolina," which was released Tuesday.

Church was at the Walmart SuperCenter in Granite Falls, signing autographs for the approximately 1,000 people who packed in front of the store's electronics department to see and hear him.

The acoustic performance featured three songs and served as a warmup for Church prior to his show to Winston-Salem later that night. The 31-year-old country singer/songwriter was set to perform at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem some 24 hours after a performance at Legends on the Boone campus of Appalachian State University, where Church earned a marketing degree.

As always, Church was glad to have the chance to play in front of the hometown folks.

"These songs are all about these people, this place," Church said. "It's a matter of staying connected with these people. It's awesome to come back and say hello to them."

Church was in Hickory six months ago for a concert at L.P. Frans Stadium, and he played a benefit concert at South Caldwell High School, his alma mater, in the spring of 2007.

He arrived at Walmart a little before 4 p.m. Tuesday with his parents, Ken and Rita Church, and his wife, Katherine. The crowd waiting to see him perform and have him sign autographs started assembling around noon. By showtime, the area in front of Walmart's electronics department, where 900 copies of Church's new CD could be found - at least those not already taken off the shelf by fans.

One of those fans was Shonda Page, who graduated from high school at South Caldwell with Church in 1995.

"I'm a fan," Page said. "I think it's great that he comes back. He and his family are so involved here. This shows his roots, how he grew up and where he came from. It's nice to see him come back for those who helped him along."

Walmart Store Manager Michael Walters said the company was pleased to have the opportunity to host Church's performance and meet-and-greet session with fans.

"He really wanted to do this in his hometown," Walters said. "It's a big deal for Walmart to have a local person able to come back home and be here to support the community. It also provided an opportunity for the community to be able to hear him and spend a little time with him, and get some autographs.

"We wanted to be part of this. It's something the community would want, and something we would want to provide for them."

Before taking the stage, Church took time to meet Walmart associates, sign some autographs and have pictures made with them. Then it was time to play.

As he made his way to the stage, a loud ovation went up from the crowd, and cameras and cell phones started snapping as fans tried to get images of him.

Church played and sang three of the 12 songs from his new CD. One of them, "Without You Here," was co-written by Church and his brother Brandon.

The last song Church played was called "Those I've Loved Along the Way." Church told the crowd it was a song about them and the area he grew up in.

"I wouldn't be here without you," he said. "I certainly had Caldwell County and Granite Falls in mind when I wrote this one."

Church, who was selected as a performer for the North Carolina inaugural ball in January, said his current tour, "The Young & Wild Tour, has been "a tornado right now" with the different stops and lack of sleep between venues. And while admitting to being a little tired, the country singer said he was doing well and "loved married life." He and Katherine have been married 14 months.

The message Church had for all those people who came out to see him perform Tuesday, those heading to Winston-Salem later that night and those who traveled to Boone Monday for his performances, as well as the Caldwell County community in general, was one of gratitude.

"Thank you," he said. "It's very simple. Thank you for supporting me. I learned values here. I learned the work ethic, the blue-collar values I have here. I'm very proud of that. I'm very proud of where I'm from."

Church signed with Capitol Records of Nashville in 2006 and released his debut album, "Sinners Like Me," later that year. The 12-track album reached No. 7 on the U.S. country charts and featured three top-20 hits: ""How' Bout You?" "Two Pink Lines" and "Guys Like Me."


Photo by David Prewitt, News-Topic

For more information on Eric Church visit his website at www.ericchurch.com

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