July 25, 2019
Outsiders Radio: Episode #51
AIR DATE: May 2019
Hey everybody, it’s Eric Church back for the fifty-first episode of “Outsiders Radio.” As we put the show together this week, we’re all preparing to play Nissan Stadium in Nashville. We’ve seen this date on the calendar all year, and now it’s here. It’s not our first time to play there, and we’re not the first to play music in a stadium…it’s been done before. This week we will hear from those who’ve brought their music to the biggest stages available.
The power of rock & roll took music from the clubs and theaters to stadiums. First with Elvis and The Beatles to U-2 and The Rolling Stones. Everyone knows my fans come first, so when we talked about stadiums, I told my tour manager Todd Bunch what I wanted.
“He had to be convinced to do the stadium show. He told me he’d rather stay in an arena for four nights than do the stadium….just because he doesn’t want the crowd to feel disconnected from him, and he doesn’t want to be disconnected from the crowd. So hopefully this design that we’ve done, I think we’ve met that challenge, as far as you can be on a football field to have an intimacy between him and the audience.
The history of country music is filled with artists who’ve played stadiums. All of the great legends we admire did it, and they did it without a lot of the technological advantages we have today. For example, Merle Haggard played Anaheim Stadium in 1980. He had the presence of mind to record the show, and this is what it sounded like.
We have heard the bleachers were shaking as a Merle Haggard played Anaheim Stadium in October 1980. Also on that show with Merle was Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, and Alabama. The band had just had their first #1 record.
Alabama opened the Anaheim Stadium concert in 1980 with Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson. It may have been the first stadium for Alabama, but not for Willie. He played Giants Stadium in New Jersey as an opening act for the Grateful Dead in 1978. He went back there himself to headline the place on July 3rd in 1983. Willie’s first Farm Aid took place at the University of Illinois football stadium in 1985. Here’s Willie in concert from about that time.
There’s a saying in country music that whatever you want to do: Willie did it first, and that includes playing football stadiums. We’re spotlighting country music and stadiums on this edition of Outsider Radio. Back in 2004, George Strait headlined a show at Texas Stadium near Dallas. George had been playing stadiums since the 90s with his Country Music Festival. That tour always featured the biggest stars of the day, such as Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and the Dixie Chicks. For this show, he brought along his friends Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett. Here are a couple songs from Alan.
Alan Jackson live at Texas Stadium in 2004. He played that show with Jimmy Buffett & George Strait. Ten years later, in 2014, George headlined one last tour he called The Cowboy Rides Away. He brought together a bunch of country stars to play AT&T Stadium near Dallas. That night, I got to sing one with “the king.”
George Strait and an all-star group including Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, and myself. Of course George is still playing stadiums, and will headline a show at Gillette later this summer. That particular stadium has become the home of Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes Nation. They even have a banner hanging up there with that name. I got a chance to share that stage with Kenny back in 2013.
What a memorable night at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro with my friend Kenny Chesney. I had so much fun on that tour in 2013 that when the opportunity came to do it again, we did five more shows in 2015.
Not many country stars who played stadiums in the 90s are still doing it today. You can count the number on one hand. There’s Strait, Chesney, and Garth Brooks. His historic World Tour spanned three years from 1996 to 98. In the middle of it, he played New York’s Central Park. When it was over, he released Double Live, and ended it with his two most important songs.
That was how Garth Brooks ended his shows back in the 90s, and it’s also how he ends them now. In fact just last week he headlined a concert at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, and closed with those same two songs. In June Garth will play Mile High Stadium in Denver, and his Stadium Tour will continue into next year.
Before we wrap things up for this edition of Outsiders Radio, I want to mention one more thing. Maybe you’ve heard that there’s a new song out by Keith Urban. It’s called “We Were,” and it’s actually written by some guy named Eric Church. Here’s Keith’s side of the story:
“I just loved it from the very first verse, I had no idea Eric was a writer on it. We went in and recorded it, actually before Christmas, and then I lived with it for a while, tinkering bits and pieces of it over the next couple of months. It wasn’t until we were doing label copy, and needed to make sure I had the lyrics right, and asked for a copy of the lyrics and that’s the first time I saw the writers on the song. Cause I learned it off the recording and wrote out my own lyrics, so I was shocked when I saw Eric on it, but it made sense as well. As soon as I read the names on the lyrics I texted him “Did you write this song We Were?” And he texted back “We Were…is that the one about a water tower?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He says “Yeah I did, why?” I said “I just recorded it. I didn’t know you were a writer on it.” He goes “That’s the best news ever, cause it means you really loved the song.” It’s true.
So here it is…Keith Urban with We Were. See you next time on Outsiders Radio.