During a recent industry party celebrating two of Eric Church's No. 1 radio hits ("Round Here Buzz" and "Some of It"), the singer's team surprised him with a video featuring some of the biggest stars in the music industry honoring Church and his influence on their music. In the clip, Luke Combs, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and a slew of others express what it is that makes Church such a special artist.

While each artist points out different aspects of Church's career, one theme comes up over and over again: "When I think of Eric Church, I think of an artist that has cut his own way," says Jon Pardi, right at the beginning of the nine-minute video.

"He takes stretches, he takes chances on things," adds McGraw.

"I've always been the kind of person that doesn't have a lot of damns to give, and in discovering Eric, I found out that it was okay to be that way. And not only was it okay to be that way, but it was necessary to be that way," Ashley McBryde points out.

It was a little ironic that these tributes to Church came in the middle of a party celebrating two radio successes, because, to a large degree, what the singer's peers were celebrating about him was his refusal to chase radio success for its own sake. That's a big part of Church's artistry: He welcomes and is grateful for the commercial success that comes his way, but that success is, in and of itself, never really his goal.

Church expounded on that idea when he took the podium, after hearing remarks from his co-writers and several other people who were instrumental in creating his two most recent chart-topping songs. He singled out those responsible for promoting his music, acknowledging that he knows the music he makes doesn't always fit easily into the country radio puzzle.

"My promotion team, I've always said to them, 'I'm not sure if I can give you a song that's gonna be a No. 1,'" the singer reflects. "But I can promise you I will never give you something that you're not proud to represent. I'll never do that. It will be something that you can look at your friends in any genre, or anybody that has any kind of taste in music, and say, 'This is the song I represent.'"

That method doesn't always yield hits, Church admits, but it yields something even more important than commercial success. "That's what we've always tried to do. Sometimes we get No. 1. Most times we don't. And some of it you learn the hard way," he jokes, referencing the lyrics of "Some of It."

As Church looks toward the 2019 CMA Awards, and his nomination in the category of Entertainer of the Year, he faces tight competition. His fellow nominees -- Urban, Chris Stapleton, Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood -- have all distinguished themselves throughout 2019; in unique, irreplaceable ways, each of them has elevated their careers and strengthened their connection to their fans. Each nominee is deserving, but if Church takes home the trophy, he will have done it on the merit of his powerful, willful sense of musical integrity.

"That was one of the coolest things, about the coolest thing, I've been a part of," Church says of the compilation montage, his voice full of emotion. "To see other artists [react in that way], when that was never my intention. My intention was to try and make great music. Write great songs. And to see that matter is something."

Church concluded his speech on a competitive note: "I'm not done. I'm not retiring. I'm not dying," he adds with a smirk. "So I appreciate that very much, and I look forward to kicking [all those artists'] asses every night onstage."

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