When Eric Church took the stage at the ACM Awards in Nashville this month, he began his performance of "Stick That in Your Country Song" with a recitation of Johnny Cash's "Ragged Old Flag," an image of a tattered American flag on a screen behind him. Church had originally shared the idea of starting his performance with Cash's song with ACM Awards Executive Producer RAC Clark back in July, but was met with some resistance.
"As we got into it, we found the Cash estate and publishers are very protective," Clark told Country Aircheck. "No matter how much talking I did trying to get it cleared, it was a corporate wall." So Clark suggested to Church's team that the singer appeal to Cash's children Rosanne Cash and John Carter Cash, both of whom are artists, in an effort to secure the rights to the song for the performance. Church wrote the siblings a letter, and his request was granted.
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"I’m never going to share that letter, but it's the reason that performance aired," Clark said. "His passion about what he wanted to say and why allowed them to entrust him with their father’s legacy." Ultimately, Church's performance began with a spoken-word recitation of the song by Cash rather than Church singing the lyrics, which Cash wrote after President Richard Nixon's resignation.
"There was a lot of sweat equity by a lot of people," Clark recalled. "Part of my job is to bring these things to life, but this was Eric’s vision. He pushed it over the top, and boy, did he deliver."
Church released "Stick That in Your Country Song" in June, five years after it was written by Davis Naish and Jeffrey Steele and several months after Church recorded the song in January. "The greatest thing about 'Stick That In Your Country Song' is it really became almost a harbinger of things that were to come," he previously said in a statement, via iHeartRadio.
"We were in the mountains of North Carolina, this is January, this is before COVID, this is before social, racial unrest, riots, protests, and as real as the song was to me then, it became a hundred times more real as time continued to evolve," Church continued. "That's rare. I've only had that happen, maybe a time or two. And, it just felt like I was meant to cut the song and to sing the song, and that's the reason it's the first single. It felt like it was the right song for the right moment in time. And, I'm proud of the job we did on it."