Luke Bryan was on hand at the 2021 Super Bowl on Feb. 7 to watch fellow country superstar Eric Church deliver the national anthem, and they exchanged texts after Church’s performance, he reveals.
Church performed a unique arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” with R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan before the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced off at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., and during an in-depth interview at the 2021 Country Radio Seminar on Friday (Feb. 19), Bryan says he texted Church immediately after his performance ended.
“I was like, ‘Dude, I know you’re glad it’s over. Congrats,'” Bryan recalls. “And he sent me one word: ‘Stressful.'”
Bryan can readily relate to that stress. He gave an a cappella rendition of the national anthem at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, to help kick off a Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, and he was especially nervous because he had earned widespread criticism after a poorly received performance of the anthem at the MLB All-Star Game in 2012. That performance caused a giant controversy online when fans criticized the singer for reading the lyrics to the anthem off his hand while he sang.
He didn’t let that previous experience turn him aside, however.
“I said, you know, I didn’t move to Nashville and go through all this to puss out on those kind of moments,” Bryan reflects. “This is a time where you’ve gotta do it, you’ve gotta own it, you’ve gotta own what you are, and no matter how much moxie or swagger you’ve got, you’ve gotta walk your butt out there and sing the anthem … and move on from your past.”
Church also admitted to nerves prior to his performance with Sullivan, saying he had long shied away from singing the anthem because it’s such a daunting vocal challenge.
“It’s so hard,” he told Apple Music Country’s Today’s Country Radio With Kelleigh Bannen. “My first response was, nuh-uh … I can’t. I’m a stylist, not a vocalist.”
He changed his mind once he heard the arrangement from producer Adam Blackstone, who hand-picked Church and Sullivan for the performance.
“I thought, ‘That’s cool; that sounds like me,’ and then I heard her, and I’m not missing a chance to sing with her,” Church said. “And that was it. Once I heard her voice, I said, ‘Okay, I’m in.'”
WATCH: Country Commercials Fit for the Super Bowl
Country Singers Who Have Performed at the Super Bowl: