Country phenomenon Eric Church could attest that not all heroes wear capes.
Hours before the Church Choir flocked to Madison Square Garden (May 20) to see the "Springsteen" singer wrap The Gather Again Tour, his background singer Joanna Cotton fell ill. Church had to call an audible and turned to long-time friend Ashley McBryde to save the show.
"When Joanna had to sit this one out, we immediately knew who to ask. Ashley is meant for arena stages, and she'll be headlining her own show at MSG soon," the CMA Entertainer of the Year shared in a statement. "As when Heart & Soul was born, it was moments like last night that we always envisioned: seeing people together again, arms around one another, living and loving life for those three hours. Standing on stage again looking out at that view is a feeling we'll never take for granted," he added.
After delivering a variety of songs from his impressive repertoire, Church acknowledged Cotton's absence and surprised the crowd of 17,899 ticket-holders with McBryde. As thunderous applause consumed the legendary venue, the Arkansas native joined Church for a 30-song set.
McBryde mentioned that she didn't think twice and responded with a confident "yes," when she received the invite to perform.
"When Eric asked, 'Hey, can you come fill in?' I said yes without even knowing how I'd get there. Talk about respect… any time Eric's asked me to do something it has caused me to level up. I got to take a master class in entertaining while on stage," the powerhouse declared.
Although McBryde was honored to fly in last minute, she shared that filling in for Cotton would be a challenging task.
"Stepping into Joanna Cotten's boots… I don't take it lightly," says McBryde. "I have so much respect for that woman and that voice."
The Grammy-nominated artist tackled the gig with her soaring pipes and self-assurance attitude. While cultivating chilling harmonies, the two delivered jaw-dropping renditions of "Heart On Fire," "Stick That In Your Country Song," "Break It Kinda Guy," and "Like Jesus Does." Church topped off the memorable evening with an acoustic five-song medley encore.
Following the unforgettable set, the "Martha Divine" artist took to social media to share a carousel of photos with the Chief. One snapshot captured McBryde belting into a patriotic microphone center stage with Church and a solo photo under the spotlight in sequence ensemble.
Fans and notable names in the industry rushed to the comment section to praise McBryde for her impromptu performance.
"Do it!❤️🔥," said Miranda Lambert. "You were amazing last night. What an ending to a great tour 👏🔥," shared a concert-goer. "Thanks for answering," Church added with gratitude.
The sudden request did not come out of left field, as Church and McBryde have had a tight-knit relationship since 2017. Five years ago, the chart-topping artist introduced the music hopeful to his devoted community during a stop at Chicago's Allstate Arena on his Holdin' My Own Tour.
"I mentioned I had a guest, and there's a young lady here who I have become a massive fan of, and you guys are gonna be a massive fan of her real soon," he said to the crowd. "She's just starting this journey of her career, and she's unquestionably my favorite artist out right now. That's not out yet, but she will be real soon. So I invited her to come out, and just her and I are gonna do an acoustic song that she wrote… please make welcome Ashley McBryde."
Shortly after, the singer-songwriter scored a record deal with Warner Nashville, her single "A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega" soared to the top of the charts, and she jumped on tour with Brother's Osborne. Meanwhile, McBryde also released her debut LP "Girl Going Nowhere" in 2018 – which eventually scored a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album.
McBryde is now a country music mainstay, significantly impacting the genre. This summer, McBryde is touring with Dierks Bentley, will kick start her own 2022 headlining, and is set to join the star-studded lineup on The Judds: The Final Tour this upcoming fall. For more concert information, visit ashleymcbryde.com/tour.