Eric Church wrapped up his 50+ date Gather Again Tour in New York City on Friday, May 20, at the famed Madison Square Garden, with special guest Ashley McBryde, who filled in for Church’s backing vocalist Joanna Cotten, who unfortunately couldn’t be there due to illness.
Cotten, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 for a second time this year, was forced to sit out the final show of the trek due to her illness.
“Well friends, it’s heartbreaking for me to tell you that I have covid for the second time and have got to sit this one out,” Cotten wrote. “As you can imagine, I’m devastated. But I will be there in spirit. Waving, prancing from side to side on that stage, watching my brothers in awe while they play their hearts out and supporting the main man, Chief, like I have so many times in the last 8 years. So from my heart to yours…here’s my final Gather Again tour bow. You the fans, are the ones that have kept me going. With all my heart, I love y’all.”
However, the show must go on, even without a very important member of the band, so Church made a quick call to another powerhouse vocalist, his longtime friend Ashley McBryde, who graciously joined Church for his 30-song set on background vocals.
“When Joanna had to sit this one out, we immediately knew who to ask. Ashley [McBryde] is meant for arena stages, and she’ll be headlining her own show at MSG soon,” Church shared.
McBryde explained that when she got the call to fill-in for Cotten, she immediately said ‘yes’ before even knowing how she’d get to New York City for the show.
“Stepping into Joanna Cotten’s boots… I don’t take it lightly,” McBryde admitted. “I have so much respect for that woman and that voice. When Eric asked, ‘Hey, can you come fill in?’ I said yes without even knowing how I’d get there. Talk about respect… any time Eric [has] asked me to do something it has caused me to level up. I got to take a master class in entertaining while on stage.”
During Church’s final show of The Gather Again Tour, McBryde was first given the spotlight during the second song, “Outsiders,” where Church explained the inevitable to the crowd.
As the show continued, McBryde showcased her impressive vocals and stage presence alongside Church with dueling vocals on “Heart On Fire,” “Break It Kinda Guy,” “Stick That In Your Country Song,” “Like Jesus Does,” “Hell Of A View,” among others.
— Carla (@GrafEngineer) May 21, 2022
This isn’t the first time McBryde has joined Church onstage, in fact, the “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” singer recently joined Church during the ACM Awards in March of 2022, where the superstars performed a medley of Church’s hits.
McBryde also joined him on stage in Chicago in 2017 before she was known or even had a single at Country radio.
“I mentioned I had a guest and there’s a young lady here who I have become a massive fan of, and you guys are gonna be a massive fan of her real soon,” Church said at the time. “She’s just starting this journey of her career and she’s unquestionably my favorite artist out right now that’s not out yet, but she will be real soon. So I invited her to come out and just her and I are gonna do an acoustic song that she wrote… please make welcome Ashley McBryde.”
Watch the superstar’s 2017 performance of McBryde’s “Bible And A .44” below.
McBryde recently earned her first-ever No. 1 single at Country radio with her and Carly Pearce’s duet, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” and will soon join Dierks Bentley on his Beers On Me Tour, which kicks off on June 3 in Wilmington, North Carolina at Live Oak Bank Pavilion.
Meanwhile, Church just wrapped up his Gather Again Tour and will perform several stadium concerts throughout the remainder of the year. The North Carolina native recently released his triple album, Heart & Soul, and was feature on a duet alongside Chris Janson, “You, Me & The River.”