"We have had a hell of a year," Eric Church crowed to a crowd of well-wishers Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 28) at BMI's Nashville headquarters. "We've had a No. 1 album, we're selling out arenas and now we've got a No. 1 single."
Photo Credit: Marilu White
The single in question and the cause for this particular celebration was "Drink in My Hand," which Church co-wrote with fellow BMI songwriters Michael Heeney and Luke Laird. Both stood near him onstage as he spoke.
"I've been waiting a long time to do this No. 1 party," said BMI's Jody Williams when he called the crowd to order.
He paused in his opening remarks to wish Church's wife, Katherine, who stood near the stage, a happy birthday. This prompted the crowd to break into a ragged but enthusiastic performance of "Happy Birthday."
Although Church has released three albums, Williams continued, "Drink in My Hand" is his first single to top the charts.
Chief, Church's third album and the one that contains "Drink in My Hand," debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard's country and all-formats charts last August, even as "Homeboy," his single at the time, was failing to reach the Top 10.
"Eric's fans don't care how high a song charts," Williams asserted.
"They just care how high they are," came a voice from the crowd, an allusion to Church's references to herbal relaxants, most notably in his 2009 single, "Smoke a Little Smoke."
After the laughter subsided, Williams soldiered on with his appraisal of Church's strong appeal. He recounted being at a Church concert and having a fan deliberately pour a beer down the back of his shirt when he obscured the fan's view of the stage.
He said he learned afterward that the disgruntled fan had driven 550 miles and then spent four more hours working himself into the right vantage point to see the show.
"As the beer poured down into my shoes," said Williams, "I realized that Eric's fans are to be respected -- and some are to be feared."
Williams noted that "Drink in My Hand" is the ninth No. 1 single Laird has written and Heeney's third.
Troy Tomlinson, whose Sony/ATV Nashville publishing company represents both Church and Heeney, presented Church a special No. 1 plaque inscribed to his infant son, Boone McCoy Church.
Mike Dungan, head of Church's record label, Capitol Nashville, said that, in light of the singer's recent successes, he wishes he could re-release some of the earlier singles that "radio didn't get" at the time.
After the usual label awards were distributed, Church was handed a two-foot-high wooden statue of an Indian chief, a reference to his album's title.
"I'm not sure how politically correct this is," Dungan mused.
"[I'm] never one to shy away from controversy," Church responded as he grasped the statue and carried it to the speaker's stand.
Then he reached for a can of beer, possibly to underline the subject of the song being honored. Unfortunately for him, the beer was a Bud Light.
"I know I'm going to get in trouble for this," he said, looking closely at the can. "I have a Busch sponsorship."
View photos from the No. 1 party.