Eric Church Receives His Home State’s Most Prestigious Honor: “North Carolina Is Where I Became Me”

Eric Church may be used to receiving awards at highly publicized events like the annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards and Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards. But, the seven-time ACM Award winner, four-time CMA Award winner, and 10-time GRAMMY…

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Melinda Lorge

Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Music Mayhem, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

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Posted on December 5, 2022

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Eric Church; Photo Courtesy of Anthony D’Angio

Eric Church may be used to receiving awards at highly publicized events like the annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards and Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards. But, the seven-time ACM Award winner, four-time CMA Award winner, and 10-time GRAMMY nominee, has now received an award that is unlike any other.

Church, 45, who was born and raised in Granite Falls, North Carolina, and is an alum of Appalachian State University, recently returned to his roots to accept his home state’s highest honor – the North Carolina Award.

The prestigious title, according to ncdcr.gov, “recognizes significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine art, literature, public service, and science.”

During a special ceremony, held on Nov. 15 at the North Carolina Museum of Arts, Governor Roy Cooper was on hand to present each award to its recipient.

While accepting his medallion for fine arts on a national scale, Church said, “I didn’t think music was going to lead me here. I’ve had the good fortune to win some awards and have some accolades, but this one hits differently for me.”

YouTube video

“North Carolina is where I became me. I became a songwriter. I became an artist. I became a man,” he continued. “I can remember being 22, heading to Nashville, Tennessee with a dream and a guitar. And my mother and close friends, who are here tonight said to me, ‘Don’t forget who you are and whose you are.’… I belong to my God, my family, and North Carolina.”

In a separate clip, shared via YouTube, Church, whose musical journey began at the age of 13, detailed his background before he moved to Music City to chase his dreams.

“I think a lot of the DNA of who I am comes from playing in North Carolina, being in North Carolina. When I grew up, it was very much Doc Watson. It was bluegrass. It was songwriter driven. It was local artist-driven,” he says in the clip. “I played many, many years in different parts of North Carolina, little bars, little clubs, with those guys as the inspiration. Frankly, I never thought I’d get out of that. It would’ve been fine if I didn’t, but it’s been kind of cool that we did, and those guys and girls are still part of the DNA of where I got to where I’m at.”

YouTube video

“My mom was more into country [music], and my dad was into Motown. So I had a pretty big field between the two to play,” the 2020 CMA Awards Entertainer of the Year continued to share the history of how he got to where he is today. “I had an interesting time as a child growing up. Then as I got into my formative college years, I started to dive pretty hard into songwriting, which is really what I am. That’s how I got here…. I think, North Carolina has been a pretty creative compass for me. It was where I started. It’s also where I made the Chief album, which changed my career. It’s always been a vortex, a place I can always count on for finding my creativity. That’s my home, where I’m from. It’s where I feel comfortable. It’s where I cut my teeth.”

This year, Church was honored alongside five other distinguished North Carolinians. Other 2022 recipients included Honorable Eva Clayton for Public Service, Honorable Mickey Michaux for Public Service, David Zucchino for Literature, Dr. Stanley Riggs for Science, and Dr. Priya Kishnani for Science.

“These individuals have enriched North Carolina and our nation through their extraordinary accomplishments,” Reid Wilson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said in a statement. “Each of them has enhanced the lives of North Carolinians through their lasting achievements in the arts, literature, sciences, and public service.”

The North Carolina Award, established by the General Assembly in 1961, has been given out annually since 1964. Only a select 250 people have received the honor since then.

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Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Music Mayhem, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

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