The Capitol Riot Convinced Eric Church to Sing the National Anthem at Super Bowl LV
Until now, Eric Church never particularly wanted to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner." Yet the superstar country singer will be doing just that — with R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan, nonetheless — at Super Bowl LV on Sunday (Feb. 7). It was January's storming of the U.S. Capitol that moved him to take the job.
The riot changed Church's personal "risk versus reward" valuation of an anthem performance, as he puts it to the Los Angeles Times. So, weeks before the entertainer's triple album Heart & Soul comes out, listeners will get a chance to hear Church belt "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The "Heart on Fire" singer is doing so because he thinks it's the perfect time for a show of American solidarity. But before the Jan. 6 attack, the performer always shied away from the anthem.
WATCH: Country Commercials Fit for the Super Bowl
"I've avoided it forever," Church admits, downplaying his talent. "It's an incredibly hard song to sing. And I'm not a vocalist — I'm a stylist. Somebody like me, you take some liberties with it, then you've gotten too far away from the melody and suddenly you're a communist.
"Honestly, there's just more to lose than to gain," he adds.
Still, on Sunday, millions of CBS viewers will get to make their own conclusions as to if Church is up to the task. But the country singer's taking on the anthem for more important reasons than mere showmanship: He wants to help heal the country's widening divide.
"With what's going on in America, it feels like an important time for a patriotic moment. An important time for unity," Church asserts. "The fact that I'm a Caucasian country singer and she's an African-American R&B singer — I think the country needs that." (For her part, Sullivan says she appreciates the "richness and grit" of Church's voice and is "excited to blend our styles to create something original and new.")
"I feel like in this country, we've given up the common ground," Church further elucidates on America's current state. "When I'm at a concert, I'm not thinking about how many people there are Republicans or Democrats. But that's how you win elections — you have to create the division, to rile up a base. And because of COVID, we've lost the things that used to unite us: concerts, sporting events, trips to Vegas with the boys. I can tell you from the concert standpoint, the longer we go without people being able to put their arms around the person next to them and have a moment of communion, it gets more tenuous and more dangerous. And I think the reality of that is what happened at the Capitol."
Super Bowl LV — the 2021 NFL championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — airs live from Tampa, Fla.'s Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7. A kick-off show starts at 6PM ET; the game itself begins at 6:30PM ET. Church is the first country artist since Luke Bryan to perform at the Super Bowl, who sang the National Anthem at the big game in 2017.
Country Singers Who Have Performed at the Super Bowl: