Eric Church hasn’t been shy about asking country music fans to schedule their Covid vaccinations. As he recently said in the Rolling Stone Interview: Special Edition, it’s the fastest way for live concerts to resume. “I would encourage anyone who can, to get the vaccine,” he says. “It’s common sense to me. The fastest way for me to strap on a guitar and have people there that I can shake a hand with and jump in a pit with is a vaccination. Period.”
On Sunday night, Church will join Darius Rucker and Ashley McBryde in a new public service announcement that aims to educate the public about the safety of Covid vaccines. The PSA — part of the national “It’s Up to You” campaign — debuts during the 56th ACM Awards on CBS and will then roll out on other networks. The commercial pairs ACM Lifting Lives, the charitable arm of the ACM, with the Ad Council and Covid Collaborative.
Damon Whiteside, CEO of the Academy of Country Music and an executive producer of the ACM Awards, calls Church, Rucker, and McBryde “the perfect combination of artists to appeal to the fan base.”
“We just want to educate people to know the truth that vaccines are safe,” Whiteside tells Rolling Stone. “If we really want to get the music industry back, if people want to be back and see their favorite artists performing onstage again, [vaccinations] need to happen.”
Like last year’s ACM Awards, Covid safety protocols will be paramount at Sunday’s show, originating from the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium, and Bluebird Cafe. “Back in September, we had hope that things were going to just be a lot better. Maybe in some ways we could lighten up restrictions, but honestly, it’s not worth the risk to the artists, to the industry and to our crew,” Whiteside says. “Testing is the same, masking is the same, social distancing is the same. We’re still being very cautious.”
This marks the second consecutive year the ACM Awards have been held in Nashville, a departure from the show’s long-running history in Las Vegas. The Academy of Country Music is based in California and staged its early awards in Los Angeles before moving to Vegas. Whiteside says they expect to return to the West Coast in 2022.
“We’re not going to be in Nashville next year. We’ve absolutely loved our two years and it’s been such a good partnership with the city and the state, but we just have such a history on the West Coast and the roots of the organization,” he says. “The positioning for our show is typically ‘Country Music’s Party of the Year’ and we’ve kind of paused that a little bit because of the nature of [the pandemic]. So we’re going to go back to the big, gigantic arena next year and Vegas is definitely on the table.”
The 56th ACM Awards air Sunday, April 18th, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton co-host.