Eric Church Shares Tearful Memories of, New Song in Tribute to Route 91 Harvest Festival Victims [WATCH]
Eric Church, who headlined the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Friday night (Sept. 29), performed at the Grand Ole Opry on Wednesday night (Oct. 4) -- his first time onstage since the shooting at the festival on Sunday night (Oct. 1) that left more than 50 people dead and more than 500 people injured. During his set, Church spent some time recalling his show at the festival and paying tribute to the victims -- specifically Tennessee native Sonny Melton.
"I watched them hold American flags up during "How 'Bout You." I watch them put an American scarf around my neck during "Springsteen." They held records up when I played "Record Year." They held boots up when I played "These Boots,"" Church recalls of the crowd gathered to see him at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. "I was so moved by it, mainly because I looked at them and went, 'This is my crowd. I've seen this crowd all year. They're mine. And they came from all over the country.'"
Church's show at the Route 91 Harvest Festival was his final major performance of 2017, so, he says, he decided to jump down into the crowd near the end of his set and walk down a pathway to shake hands and sing from within the audience.
"And 48 hours later, those places that I stood, was carnage," Church says tearfully. "And those were my people. My fans."
Country Stars Respond Following Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting
Church admits that he wasn't sure he'd play the Opry on Wednesday night, but an interview on CNN, with Melton's wife Heather, changed his mind. During the interview, Heather Melton -- whom Sonny died protecting during the shooting -- was wearing a Church Choir shirt; she told CNN's Anderson Cooper that they'd gone to the festival to see Church, who was one of Sonny's favorite artists. Church says during his speech that the couple also had tickets to see him at the Opry on Wednesday night.
"The reason I'm here -- the reason I'm here tonight -- is because of Heather Melton ... and every person that was there," Church says, "because, I'm gonna tell you something: I saw that crowd, and I saw them with their hands in the air, i saw them with boots in the air, and what I saw in that moment in time was frozen. There's no amount of bullets that could take that away."
Following his words, Church performed a song that he wrote for Sonny Melton and the Route 91 Harvest Festival victims. Readers can press play above to hear it, as well as Church's full speech.
"Something broke in me, on Sunday night, when that happened, and the only way I've ever fixed anything that's been broke in me is with music," Church says. "So I wrote a song."
Remembering the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting Victims