The road to country stardom isn’t easy. Just ask superstar Maren Morris, who learned to sing at the age of 10 using the family’s karaoke machine and then performed for years before she got her big break, per Ace Showbiz. When she released her debut album, Walk On, in 2005, Morris’ mother told Harper’s Bazaar that she “basically sold the furniture out of the house” to pay for production and distribution. Likewise, Luke Combs was rejected by reality singing competition The Voice years before he was named Male Entertainer of the Year at the 2021 CMAs. “They had four casting cities and narrowed it down … I made it through those rounds with the producers, but I got a letter saying I wasn’t ‘interesting’ enough for the show’s ratings, so I came not to the show,” Combs told Whiskey Riff.
In line with Morris and Combs, there are plenty of other country superstars who paid their dues with unspectacular jobs before their names were ever in the spotlight. According to Wide Open Country, Trace Adkins worked on oil rigs for 14 years while Dierks cleaned Bentley toilets. As incredible as it sounds to imagine the “Burning Man” singer ever scrubbing the china, he was clearly determined to do what needed to be done!
While it’s not quite as bad as Bentley’s gig — at least he remembers seeing a toilet fire once (yikes) — Eric Church is another one who had a pretty brutal job before manifesting his dreams of country stardom.
Eric Church sold knives on TV
After graduating, Eric Church moved to Nashville to try his hand at music. But that didn’t happen without him working a side job to earn some cash — and according to Church, it was a slob. “I sold knives from midnight until 7 or 8 a.m [on the Shop at Home Network]he said (via Taste of the Country). Given the late-night time slot, Church was aware that many of the callers who dialed in were not sober. “I knew they were drunk. … They just got home from the bar and turned on Shop at Home and said, ‘You know what? I need [those knives]’ he joked. The “Heart on Fire” hitmaker would therefore try to talk potential customers out of their purchases. “I was maybe the worst salesman in history because I ended up discouraging a lot of these people,” he said. Sounds fair, right? After all, no one wants to wake up with a hangover only to find they’re suddenly the proud owner of a 10-in-1 air fryer or (thanks to Church) a new set of knives.
But in hindsight, the job proved that Church was never afraid to take risks. For example, when he was on the rise, he asked his label, Capitol Records, to allow him “to edit the songs the way he wanted,” according to The Boot. It was a bold move that paid off massively, as it helped establish Church as the rebellious, uncompromising star he is known as today.
Eric Church does things his own way
As of this writing, Eric Church is one of the most popular musicians in contemporary country music. Since taking the stage with his debut album, Sinners Like Me, he’s had 28 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100, including “Springsteen,” “Talladega,” “Drink In My Hand,” and “Heart on Fire.” He won Album of the Year in 2019 and his other accolades include Grammy nominations galore and three CMT nominations for Video of the Year per IMDb. At this point, Church is probably on every Spotify playlist, and he’s clearly a long way from selling hot items on the Shop at Home network.
But whether it’s selling knives or writing hits, the star does things his own way. Although he got in trouble with his bosses for turning away clients at the time, Church does not look back with regret. “I want someone to talk me out of buying some of the stuff I bought at 2am,” he defended, per Taste of Country. Likewise, at one point in his music career, Church was fired from a Rascal Flatts tour for playing too long and too loud. Rolling Stone reports that Church also took an unconventional path with his 2021 album Heart & Soul, recording in a restaurant and “challeng[ing] writing and recording a song every day.” But whenever the hitmaker decides to do something, it seems to work out in the end.