Eric Church

Eric Church says his "unconventional tour etiquette" once got him booted from a tour with Rascal Flatts. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images / December 11, 2012)

Just one song, even if it's a heck of a song, likely won't fill up an arena. But it sure can get fans' attention.

For Eric Church, that song is "Springsteen," a reminiscence about a high-school love who slipped away. The 35-year-old from Granite Falls, N.C., acknowledges that the song, nominated for a Grammy, helped rocket fan interest to the point that he's now playing arenas as a headlining act.

"It's been pretty crazy to go from where we came from to 10,000 people a night," Church says in a recent phone interview. "It's been a long process. It didn't happen overnight."

But he's happy that "Springsteen" has spurred his new fans to go back and listen to his whole body of work. Apparently, they like what they hear: Church's 2006 debut album, "Sinners Like Me," went gold this year.


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"Country music fans already knew who we were, but that song really put us on the map with people outside the genre," says Church, who at 7:30 p.m. Saturday will bring his Blood, Sweat and Beers tour to the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

His recent album, "Chief," had momentum before "Springsteen" was released, with "Drink in My Hand" and "Homeboy" making the country charts. In November, "Chief" was named the 2012 CMA Album of the Year.

Church had a small, loyal following for years, his fans recognizing him as a rebellious and boisterous performer. He opened for Miranda Lambert and Toby Keith, and Church admits that "unconventional tour etiquette" — playing too loud and for too long — got him kicked off a 2006 Rascal Flatts tour.

One critic says Church "beats his chest at the end of a show like a man of the jungle" and resembles a "warriorlike Kirk Gibson rounding the bases after hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series." The quote draws a chuckle from Church.

"That's just passion. I'm passionate about the live show. I'm passionate about the live crowd," he says. "We're not the kind of show you can just sit there and enjoy. I've joked many times that my job is to take that 10,000 people back to that bar or club we used to play … bar to bar, rowdy, just bedlam.

"That's where we thrive. That's where we grew up in," he continues. "If I have to grab people by their collars, I'll do it."

He's already done that to one person: Springsteen himself sent a note to Church, congratulating him on the song and suggesting they get together sometime.

To open his Blood, Sweat and Beers tour, Church enlisted Justin Moore ("If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away") and Kip Moore ("Something About a Truck"). The Moores, who are not related, can play as loud and for as long as they like, Church says.

Nsortal@SouthFlorida.com

Eric Church

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15

Where: BB&T Center, 2555 NW 136th Ave., Sunrise

Cost: $37.50-$47.50

Contact: 954-835-7825 or TheBBTCenter.com