Eric Church


By Adam Lucas

CHARLESTON, S.C.—It was blazing hot.

That’s what Carrie Reger remembers about the summer of 2009, when she was very pregnant with her daughter, Maybrie. 

Not just a little warm. But Eastern-North-Carolina-in-the-summer hot, the kind that sticks with you even after you’ve been in the air conditioning for a good half hour. Carrie had two ways to cope:

A banana pudding milkshake from Cook Out.

Eric Church’s Carolina album, which had come out just a few months prior.

Before she moved to the eastern part of the state to fulfill her husband’s military obligations, Carrie was originally from Sylva, two hours west of Granite Falls and less than an hour from the Tennessee border. A sorority sister had graduated with Church, and told her, “There’s this guy, you need to come hear his music.” She saw him at Coyote Joe’s in Charlotte, and she knew immediately:

“His lyrics just spoke to me,” she said. “Everything he said, it was like, ‘Me, too.’ My granddaddy taught me how to fish. My granddaddy built a cabin on his land.”

So the Carolina album was just the next chapter in her dedication. And while Church was turning in some epic performances at Coyote Joe’s, Carrie was belting out “Love Your Love The Most” in her car, to an audience of one: her soon-to-be-born daughter, Maybrie.

Today Maybrie is 13 years old and knows every lyric of every song. And on Thursday night in Charleston, she went to her first Eric Church show, at the very front of the pit, captivated by the Red Clay Strays, Ashley McBryde, and of course, Eric Church.

“When she listens to his music, she’ll turn to me and say, ‘That’s your life, Mama,’” Carrie says. “She makes those same connections that I do. I wanted her first Eric Church concert to also be her first pit concert. There were a lot of years we thought about it, but some of those military years it wasn’t financially feasible, or if my husband wasn’t home and I was working, it was hard. We wanted the first one to be really special.”

So Carrie was in line at the 12,000-seat Credit One Stadium first thing in the morning Thursday and waited all day in the near-90 degree heat and near-90 percent humidity. Herminator was first in line (if you’re a pit regular, you know Herminator), and Carrie was second. So when Church looked down from the stage on Thursday night, he saw Carrie, and he saw Maybrie, singing every word at her first concert, connecting a melody with a whole lifetime of memories. 

The last time Church played Charleston was the Blood, Sweat and Beers tour in 2012. The close proximity to his hometown brought out a legion of friends and family; at the same time Carrie and Maybrie were making new friends in the pit (and Carrie was seeing old friends from some of her past Church shows in the pit), the artist’s friends and family were mixing backstage, catching up—maybe swapping a few different drinks for those banana pudding milkshakes—just like those old/new friends in the pit.

“There’s something special about his shows when you know his family is there,” Carrie had said earlier this week. And she was right. “Give Me Back My Hometown,” as always, is a highlight of the evening, but it’s even better when Church is on stage belting it out and then his parents and sister look up from their spot in the crowd and spot four fans with a Town of Granite Falls flag, waving it from the first row of the second level and singing every word of the song.

And you haven’t really experienced “Sinners Like Me” until you’ve watched Church’s dad, Ken, stand up to watch him sing it while the crowd belts out every word around him. And when Church tweaked the lyrics, pondering, “Maybe my sons will give me a grandson of my own…a long time in the future,” his mother, Rita, had the biggest smile in the building.

We’ve all grown up with the songs and the man singing them. That particular lyric has undergone a complete transformation, from “who knows, one day, I’ll settle down,” to where we were on Thursday, with the singer considering life as—none of us are ready for this just yet—a grandfather.

Hall of Fame basketball coach and fellow Tar Heel Roy Williams, who knows a little something about being a grandfather, just happened to be in Charleston on Thursday. He was in town for a different event, and spotted a billboard touting Church’s evening show.

“Sometime before I die,” Williams said, “I’m going to make it to an Eric Church concert.”

Good news, Coach: he’s back in Charleston on Friday night, a rare Double Down version of the Outsiders Revival. 

Better get there early if you want to be there before Carrie and Maybrie.