Eric Church appears on the cover of the latest issue of Billboard Magazine, in a captivating, statement photo of the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year getting his second COVID-19 vaccine shot.
A Billboard cover story reveals that Church approached the publication with the idea, as a way to encourage music fans to get their vaccines as soon as they can, so that artists and music lovers can return to packed-out concerts.
According to Billboard, when the pandemic first caused tours to shutter, Church met with epidemiologists, industry members and venue managers to discuss ways to return safely return to touring. Those conversations speculated that tours would not resume until early 2023. However, the swift development of COVID-19 vaccines, such as those from Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, has accelerated that timeline.
“I view it as a godsent miracle,” Church told the outlet. “It became very clear to me that the only way to really get back to normal is through vaccinations. You’ve got to get needles in arms.”
Given how vaccines have become a divisive issue, like many issues surrounding the pandemic, Church made it clear he’s not out to convince those who are against vaccines to change their views, but he hopes to encourage those who are on the fence about getting the vaccine.
“If you believe you shouldn’t I don’t have a problem with it,” Church told Billboard. “I’m a liberty guy, too. I get it. But I view this a little differently than most other things. We’ve never encountered this.”
He also revealed that he has plans for an arena tour in the fall to support his upcoming three-album collection Heart & Soul, which releases beginning April 16.
Over the past year, the pandemic has taken away a primary income stream for artists, but for Church, touring has also been one of his primary ways of coping with hardships, such as the death of his brother in 2018 and a near-death experience due to a blood clot in 2017.
“That’s been the hardest thing about COVID: It takes what you do,” he said. “I used the music and the stage to get me through some of those darker things that were more personal…take that away, and you’ve got to deal with some of the stuff you maybe haven’t dealt with.”
Though Church is now known for radio hits such as “Some of It” and “Record Year,” he built his career on the road, concert by concert, drawing in fans one show at a time—and performing live for his fans is something he can’t wait to return to.
“I just want to play shows,” Church said. “Politics job is to divide—that’s how you win elections. Those things that unite us are music and sports. The times when, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or whatever, you throw your arm around the person next to you.”