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Eric Church on Tour Openers Koe Wetzel, Shane Smith: ‘That Was Me 20 Years Ago’

Since his 2019 Double Down Tour, Eric Church has upended the traditional country music live show, doing away with opening acts and choosing instead to carry the night himself by delivering three-hour concerts split into two sets. But for this year’s Outsiders Revival Tour, he was inspired by his own playlist to curate a diverse group of legends, buzz artists, and up-and-comers to join him on the road.

The result touches on all styles under the country umbrella. There’s the hard-nosed Southern rock of Whiskey Myers, the Celtic-influenced red dirt of Shane Smith & the Saints, the Midwest vibes of Hailey Whitters, the genre-hopping of Koe Wetzel, and the twangy yet mainstream country of Lainey Wilson. Other artists on the tour include Jelly Roll, Red Clay Strays, Midland, and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

“That’s who I listen to,” Church says. “This past weekend, we had Koe Wetzel and Shane Smith & the Saints, and it was interesting. They both came up on the bus and they were talking about ‘How did you even [hear us]?’ I said, ‘I like you guys.’”

Church, whose against-the-grain career is the focus of a new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, also saw some of himself in the openers he chose.

“Shane Smith was saying, ‘We’ve thought about quitting for a while.’ And I said, ‘Listen, this happens to everybody. You guys are good. You should keep doing it. And I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you played in front of the people you did,’” Church says. “That was me 20 years ago.”

Church isn’t just introducing his live crowds to the bands he likes. Since last November, he’s also been programming his own SiriusXM channel called Outsiders Radio. It’s a wildly eclectic playlist: On Friday morning, songs by Greta Van Fleet, Whitney Houston, Paul Simon, Steve Earle, and Church himself all played in succession. A yellow legal pad of artists and songs that’s currently on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit illustrates how he came up with the station’s aesthetic.

“It’s out of my phone, alphabetical,” he says. “That whole [legal pad], you can flip a page and there’s another page, and another page. I told [SiriusXM], ‘These are the songs and you guys can expand, but make this your compass.’”

Church has two shows this weekend on his Outsiders Revival Tour: Nineties country star Travis Tritt and the Alabama duo Muscadine Bloodline will open.


Earlier this week, Church also talked to Rolling Stone about his CMA Fest headlining performance, which reinvented past hits and skipped others altogether, leaving some fans unhappy.

“I was shocked because I played the show that I went out there to play,” he said. “We had a timeslot and I went out there to play that slot and try to show a little bit, a peek, as to what I was working on for this tour. I’m not going to [reveal] everything, but I’m going to give a little peek of what this could be.”

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