Eric ChurchEric Church was on what seemed like a direct path to success in 2006. With a Top 10 album and three hit singles, he landed the coveted role as the opening act for Rascal Flatts on their Me & My Gang tour. But while most artists would have been content to play by the rules and embrace the opportunity, Eric isn't most artists.

"When they wanted [our set] shorter, I'd go longer and there were discussions about it," he tells the Oklahoma Gazette.

When Eric repeatedly refused to adhere to the time constraints, and ignored their requests to turn down the volume, he was asked to leave the tour, and was replaced by then-newcomer Taylor Swift.

Eric's actions, he admits, were reckless and risky. "Once we squandered [the tour], they said, 'That's suicide' ... and it was for a little bit. But we just kept clawing and playing." Still, Eric believes that what could been the most disappointing moment in his career was also his biggest blessing.

"There was a lot of piss and vinegar in there with the gravel in the gut," he asserts. "I had a lot to prove. It almost became a personal vendetta. I was going to get something going, by God, if it was the last thing I did."

His determination is paying off. His sophomore album, 'Carolina,' was released last year, peaking at No. 4, and producing two Top 20 singles. But with or without success, Eric has no plans to change the person he is. "I kind of tell you what I think, and sometimes it makes people mad, sometimes it turns people off, but I think that's OK," he says. "Not everybody's going to get into that ... We haven't had the opportunities some people have, TV-wise and marketing-wise, because of what we do and because we piss some people off. That happens sometimes, but the passion's there, and that's been where we've won up to now."

Eric is getting ready to hit the road on May 13, as part of the Country Throwdown tour, where he'll join Jamey Johnson, Jack Ingram, Heidi Newfield, Montgomery Gentry, Emily West and several others as they travel across the country for one of the hottest shows of the summer. Click here for dates.

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