To fully understand and appreciate Eric Church as an artist, you really have to see his live show. As wonderful as his albums are, he shines the brightest when he’s onstage. His passion for his music and for performing live are very apparent from the start of his show. I’ve often wished that he would record a live album and/or DVD so that I could enjoy the live show experience anytime. My wish came true when it was announced that Eric would be performing two shows in Chattanooga, Tennessee to be recorded for a live album and DVD that will be released in early 2013. My friend Rachel and I knew that if it were at all possible, we had to be at those shows. Thankfully it worked out for our schedules and we were able to attend both shows.

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The Tivoli Theatre in downtown Chattanooga was the venue for the shows. It’s a gorgeous, historic place built in the 1920s. The ornate architecture and the 1,700 person capacity made these shows feel much more intimate than the arena shows for which Eric has become known. Monday night’s show was slightly more laid back than Tuesday’s. Eric was smiling and doing lots of pointing and interacting with the crowd. Whereas the pit on Tuesday night seemed more crowded and the fans were rowdier. Eric also seemed a little more intense on Tuesday night. Eric often says that he draws his energy from the crowd and his performance both nights matched the vibe of the crowd. Both shows were extremely entertaining and the set lists weren’t exactly the same, which allowed us to hear a lot of our EC favorites.

Singer Joanna Cotten was there to sing “Over When It’s Over” with Eric both nights. We were also treated to an acoustic version of “Lightning,” which is a song that I’d never heard Eric perform live before. During the acoustic set on Tuesday night, some fans drew Eric off course when they started chanting for him to play “Chevy Van.” It’s a song that appears on his iTunes exclusive EP Caldwell County and was originally recorded in the 1970s by fellow North Carolina native Sammy Johns. Eric obliged and played the song without hesitation and without missing a beat. He also played a new song for us. On Monday night he introduced it as “All I’m Sayin’.” When he started playing it, he realized that he’d mixed up the lyrics and started over. When he played it on Tuesday night, I didn’t hear him say the title of the song. In comparing the videos from Monday and Tuesday, he changed up the lyrics on Tuesday night and instead of using the phrase “All I’m Sayin’,” he sang “I’m Just Sayin’.” Either way, it’s an entertaining song about the super sensitive, politically correct world we live in and how saying what you really think is frowned upon these days. I got video of the song both nights along with video of “Over When It’s Over” on Tuesday night.

“All I’m Sayin'” – Monday night

“I’m Just Sayin'” – Tuesday night

“Over When It’s Over” – Tuesday night

Both shows were absolutely fantastic! Now comes the hard part of (not so) patiently waiting for the release of the album and DVD. I know that it will be worth the wait. With Eric announcing that his touring in 2013 will be extremely limited as he begins preparing for his next studio album, the recordings from Chattanooga will have to suffice.

I’ll leave you with some of my favorite pictures and the set lists from both nights. The links to the full albums from each night are at the bottom of the post.

Monday night

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Monday’s Set List

  • What I Almost Was
  • Guys Like Me
  • Hell on the Heart
  • Pledge Allegiance to the Hag
  • How ‘Bout You
  • Over When It’s Over (featuring Joanna Cotten)
  • Longer Gone
  • I’m Gettin’ Stoned
  • Jack Daniel’s
  • Keep On
  • Sinners Like Me (acoustic)
  • Lightning (acoustic)
  • All I’m Sayin’/I’m Just Sayin’ (new song)(acoustic)
  • Country Music Jesus
  • Creepin’
  • Lotta Boot Left to Fill
  • Drink in My Hand
  • Those I’ve Loved

Encore

  • Smoke a Little Smoke
  • These Boots
  • Springsteen/Born to Run interlude

Tuesday night
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Tuesday Set List

  • Before She Does
  • Over When It’s Over (featuring Joanna Cotten)
  • How ‘Bout You
  • I’m Gettin’ Stoned
  • Longer Gone
  • Guys Like Me
  • Creepin’
  • Keep On
  • Hungover and Hardup
  • Sinners Like Me (acoustic)
  • Chevy Van (acoustic)
  • I’m Just Sayin'(acoustic)
  • Country Music Jesus
  • Pledge Allegiance to the Hag
  • Homeboy (with A Country Boy Can Survive intro)
  • Drink in My Hand

First Encore

  • Smoke a Little Smoke
  • These Boots
  • Springsteen/Born to Run interlude

Second Encore

  • Livin’ Part of Life
  • Lightning

Monday night’s photos

Our full post recapping this year’s BamaJam music festival will be up shortly, but in the meantime, I’d like to share our interview with Cody Harris and Bubba Thompson from seasons one and three, respectively, of CMT’s Sweet Home Alabama. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that I’m usually not a fan of reality TV shows. However, when CMT began airing commercials for Sweet Home Alabama, I was intrigued to see how Southerners would be portrayed in this reality show set in my home state. After watching the first episode, I was hooked. Since then I’ve seen every episode of all three seasons of the show and all of the episodes of the Real World-style spinoff show Southern Nights which featured various cast members from the three Sweet Home Alabama seasons.

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Bubba Thompson (L) and Cody Harris

Cody and Bubba were at BamaJam meeting fans, enjoying the performances and selling their Ranchey Productions and Faith Cattle Company merchandise. With so much going on, we were appreciative that they took some time out of their busy schedule to talk with us. Right off the bat, Cody kept calling me ma’am. When I told him that he didn’t have to call me that, he said, “I call everyone ma’am, so you’re just going to have to get used to it.” He’s always a gentleman. 🙂

We started our conversation by discussing their BamaJam experience and favorite performances. Without hesitation Bubba told me that his favorite was Eric Church’s show. Cody’s favorite was Alan Jackson, but he also really liked Eric’s performance. While they were at the festival as VIPs, they didn’t get a chance to hang out with any of the artists due to tight schedules, time constraints and security. Although Cody joked, “They wanted to hang out with us, but we just really didn’t have time.” This response drew a huge laugh from Bubba. When I asked about their BamaJam experience, they both emphasized the great time that they were having. I pressed them to give me some details about any interesting experiences or outrageous moments that they’d witnessed. Cody revealed that on Friday night he and Bubba were rushed by a big group of autograph seekers. He said that things were a little scary for a few minutes until security got the crowd under control. Bubba smiled sheepishly and said, “We signed some body parts.” The body parts to which he was referring were the chests of two girls who’d stopped by the Faith Cattle Company tent. The picture of the autographed ladies with the guys made its way to Twitter. Cody chimed in, “We haven’t signed a baby’s head yet. I’m looking forward to that!”

Neither Cody nor Bubba seems like the kind of guy who would seek out fame on a reality show, so when talk turned to their new-found fame, I had to know how they’d gotten involved with the show. Cody was discovered at rodeo. “They had a scout there and I thought it was joke and they kept calling me. I thought it was one of my buddies calling me. It’s probably Bubba calling me. I finally realized ‘this is legit’ so two days prior to filming I decided to do it. It was crazy. I’m glad that I did it.” I then learned that Bubba was actually led to the show by Cody. “Cody called me up and said, ‘Hey, this lady is gonna be calling you make sure you pick up the phone.’ This was for the third season and I didn’t know anything about it. I picked up the phone and some lady from CMT and Sweet Home Alabama asked me to be on there. I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a good opportunity and we had a blast. It’s odd because we’re just good old country boys, cowboys. We’d rather be out in the pasture or roping a cow or at a rodeo or something. And [now] we walk around doing the filming and the media and stuff.”

During the second season of Sweet Home Alabama, contestant Tristan Smith mentioned that she was brought to the show by Cody. After hearing that Bubba was also on the show at Cody’s recommendation, I jokingly asked Cody if he was rounding up all of his friends for the show. He replied, “They hired me to cast. They said, ‘We need some country people like you.’ I was like, ‘Oh, god!’ I found Bubs and Tristan and Shaun Smith. I’ve known all of them pretty much my whole life.”

An interesting dynamic of Sweet Home Alabama, especially compared to other dating shows, is that the guys or girls competing on the show often form strong friendships with the other contestants. With the show’s pairing of country and city folks, several instances of headbutting arose, mainly due to cultural differences. But several friendships also formed between members of the country and city camps. I asked the guys about the most unlikely friend that they made during their time on the show. Bubba immediately answered. “Me and Big Shaun [Bigos]. He come around. He was just hardheaded. I just killed him with kindness. It ate him up. I still talk to him. He’s a good guy. He really is.” Cody also befriended a city guy – “Jersey” Jeff Miranda. “I love that guy. He’s a hoot. You’ve got to take him with a grain of salt, but that’s for most people. You’ve probably gotta take me with a whole cup full.” The guys are also friends with several girls from the show. Cody said, “Me, Bubba and Devin are all amazing friends. And Paige and Cassie Rupp and Courtney.” Bubba added, “And Kristina.” Kristina, for those of you who didn’t watch the show is a true California girl from Orange County. She’s always bubbly and dressed to the nines and she seems to be someone whom everyone on the show liked. But she’s also a world away from the country lifestyle. Bubba explained, “She brightens up every room she walks in, just her demeanor and her attitude. She’s always happy go lucky.”

Cody also participated in the wildly popular Southern Nights series that was filmed in Savannah, Georgia. I asked him how that experience differed from Sweet Home Alabama. “That was totally two different ends of the spectrum right there. You’ve got a fairy tale love story to reality. It was crazy doing that, but I had a great time doing that and made some good friends.” In discussing both of the shows, both guys insist that what you saw on television is how things really happened. Cody said, “There was nothing on that that was any way, shape or form scripted or played out it was legit stuff.” Bubba chimed in, “On any of them.” “We all argued some. I’m glad that they didn’t show some of the bigger arguments. It’s like having a brother or sister you can only be mad with them for so long,” Cody continued. Bubba reiterated Cody’s statements saying, “I’d say that 99% was accurate on Sweet Home Alabama while I was there. Nothing was put on. They weren’t making us do what we didn’t want to do. Everybody had their own choice.” Cody summed up the portrayal of the rowdier cast members in typical Cody fashion – “I mean if want to act like an ass, they can make you look like one, real easy. I guess that’s who they are and if they wanna be like that, let ‘em.” In addition to their friendships with cast members, the guys also revealed another friendship. Cody explained, “I think the biggest friendship, and we’ll both agree on this, is with the producer – Andrew Glassman of Glassman Media. He was the producer of Sweet Home Alabama and Southern Nights. When I first met Andrew he was kinda hippie, California kinda trendy. Right now we could call him and he’d be wearing cowboy boots, a long sleeve shirt and a buckle. He loves this lifestyle. He actually called and wants to come down next week and hang out with us.” So what will the guys and Mr. Glassman do when he arrives in Alabama? Bubba shared, “We’ll take him ridin’. Take him to the ranch and ride a little.”

So now that the guys are done with Sweet Home Alabama, I wondered if they planned to go back to their daily lives of ranching and rodeoing or if they would be pursuing more opportunities in the public eye. Bubba had previously announced via the Faith Cattle Company website that a publisher in New York contacted him about writing a book. “It’s called The Cowboy Code – How to Treat a Lady,” Bubba explained. “It’s just some advice that I’m giving out and I hope people will take. It’s about the dos and don’ts. I grew up with a family full of women so I’ve got a little bit of an advantage. Maybe take it to the next step. That’s the goal. You know you want to always keep moving forward. Pull our hats down and roll on.” Cody then revealed, “We’re definitely, I’ll speak for both of us, we’re definitely both gonna keep moving forward in our TV careers. We’re gonna stay humble, but we’ve both got some big stuff in the works that we can’t really talk about.” Bubba teased, “But you’ll see us several more times.” Cody continued, “Once you get your foot in the door, it gets addicting to be on TV. I don’t like being the center of attention most of the time, but sometimes it feels good.”

The next big appearance for the guys and several other Sweet Home Alabama castmates will be at an event called Bulls on the Beach to be held in Orange Beach, AL on August 25. Tickets go on sale on Monday, July 16 at 10 a.m. CDT. To get yours visit FrontGateTickets.com. In the meantime, you can keep up with Cody’s Twitter
and Facebook accounts and Bubba’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. Also be sure to pick up your Ranchey Productions and Faith Cattle Company merchandise. Oh, and ladies, both guys wanted me to let you know that they’re still single! 😉

I can’t wait to see what these guys do next. In the short time that I had a chance to talk to them, they proved to be as genuine as that their on-screen personas. These guys are reality stars for whom you can really cheer. Thanks again to Cody and Bubba for talking with us!

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