Eric Church and Morgan Wallen took their friendship to the spotlight in Nashville this week when they surprised VIPs at an opening party for Justin Timberlake and restauranteur Sam Fox's The Twelve Thirty Club with a hit-packed mini-set.
Church, 44, and Zac Brown, 43, were among the night's scheduled performers. Church entertained with cover songs including "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Tiny Dancer," "Danny's Song" and "Space Cowboy" before closing with his "Drink in My Hand." Brown took over with covers of "Gin and Juice," "Sexual Healing," "Leader of the Band" and his hit "Colder Weather."
Jason Bihler Zac Brown
The crowd packed in front of the stage dispersed before Church and Wallen, 28, shocked the audience and took the stage as an acoustic duo.
"This is just one of my favorite songs I've ever got the pleasure to sing," Wallen said before "Sand in My Boots."
Church, sans his trademark aviator sunglasses, stood beside him grinning like a big brother, then joined him on the song's chorus. Wallen started to take off his guitar, and Church encouraged him to strap his instrument back on.
Jason Bihler Eric Church
Wallen launched into "Silverado for Sale" as Church clapped heartily and said, "Yeah."
Church jumped in for the spoken word part of the song. The men bumped fists at the end.
The crowd shouted requests for Church's "Talladega" as he and Wallen spent several minutes attempting to tune their guitars.
"I'm going home after this one," Church quipped, the time well past midnight.
"I'm not," Wallen shot back.
"I'm not playing 'Talladega,'" Church told fans.
"We really can't hear anything up here," Wallen explained. "If it sounds like we don't know what we're doing, we don't."
Then he took off his guitar and told Church he would let him play the song alone.
"I'll sing," Wallen promised.
"Just hang on, hang on," Church said, frustrated as he wrestled with the tuning pegs on his guitar. "These … things are in the key of Z."
"Does anyone have anything to drink on them?" Wallen asked.
Someone passed him a shot, and Church told him to gulp it down.
Courtesy Cindy Watts Morgan Wallen and Eric Church
"Don't you leave," Church chided Wallen. "You stay right here."
Stating his tuning was "close enough," Church strummed the opening of "Springsteen," and the crowd cheered.
He forgot the second verse to the song, and Wallen jumped in and helped him out.
"Come on, let's get … out of here," Church told Wallen when he hit the last chord and quickly pulled off his guitar.
Wallen waved to the crowd and said: "Thank you guys so much."
The performance is one of many Music City appearances Wallen made in recent weeks. In February, Wallen retreated from public view after he was caught on video drunk and using a racial slur. Following the controversy, Wallen's record label suspended his contract. He was removed from radio airplay, dropped by his agency, and disqualified from the 2021 Academy of Country Music Awards. Wallen apologized, saying: "I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better."
In July, he told Good Morning America's Michael Strahan that he checked into a rehabilitation center after the incident and has since eased back into his public life. In July, he made a surprise appearance at Luke Bryan's Bridgestone Arena concert. In August, he released "Sand in My Boots" to country radio. And earlier this month, Wallen held a benefit concert that raised $725,000 for The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund to assist victims of the recent severe storms and flooding in Humphreys County and other parts of Middle Tennessee.
The night of entertainment was one of many opening events hosted by Timberlake's multi-level The Twelve Thirty Club in recent weeks. Wednesday night's soirée was specifically to mark the opening of the bar's 1920s Art Deco-inspired supper club. The restaurant officially opens to the public on Sept. 28.