At the 55th Annual CMA Awards, Eric Church’s performance was a highlight of the night.
At the CMA Awards on November 10, 2021, Church lit up the stage, quite literally, with a performance of his song “Heart On Fire,” which is from his triple album Heart & Soul.
The reigning Entertainer of the Year performed alongside his band and his longtime backup singer, who almost stole the show! Watch a short clip of why everyone is talking about their performance.
So, who is she?!
Well, her name is Joanna Cotten and she’s been singing with Church for many years. If you’ve seen him in concert before, she and the “Chief” often sing duets together and she gets the spotlight for a couple solo songs as well.
She previously had her own record deal as a solo artist and recorded over 20 songs before leaving the label in 2007. Then, Cotten hopped on board with Church and has been singing with him ever since. She is so well-loved by his fans that she has her own merchandise out on the road!
Although Cotten is a classically trained vocalist (she attended Julliard), she has always been a country girl at heart. She was raised in Memphis, Tennessee and admitted that during a rehearsal when her voice teacher was telling her about a church hymn, she brought her now-signature country sass.
“[The teacher] said, ‘Well, you know, Jesus came down from heaven,’ to try to teach me the meaning of the song,” Cotten recalled. “And I said, ‘Yeah, and the devil went down to Georgia!’ I think at that point I was quite busted that my mom was letting me sing other things!”
She even left Julliard and moved to Nashville to pursue her country music dreams.
Not only can she sing, she’s a songwriter as well, but put that on hold when her touring schedule with Church got hectic. But when things slow down, she always enjoys writing again.
“Just being on the road and adjusting to that life — it sort of drained me of my creativity, because I would just be tired when I got home,” she said during the summer of 2019. “I’m hoping this break I can get back in there. And, here and there, I have done some things that people haven’t heard.”
At every live show, Church always performs a cover song that relates to the city they are in, forcing Cotten to sometimes learn a song the day of the performance! Despite that, she and Church always kill it.
Check out a video of Cotten and Church singing The Beatles’ “Come Together” in 2019 below.