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Rascal Flatts Say They Gave Eric Church Four Tries Before Firing Him

Rascal Flatts
Jason Merritt, Getty Images

It’s a story that’s been rolling around the country music world for years: Rascal Flatts fired Eric Church from their tour for playing too long, Taylor Swift took his spot, and ‘The Outsiders’ hitmaker was “banished to the wilderness.”

Now, the trio are finally dishing their side about why they let Church go, explaining that they actually gave him four tries to stay on their tour.

Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney tell Electric Barnyard that when the now-star was the road with them in 2006 as their opening act, he played too long not one, not two, but four times.

“We asked him four times to stay to the allotted amount of time that he had to play,” the Flatts recall. “We sat him down in our dressing room and were like, ‘Look. We’ll put you on early so you can play longer. But please, just be off the stage because we still have to do our show.’”

Apparently, it wasn’t necessarily because the trio wanted to be villainous, but it had to do with money — lots of money. “For every minute that you go overtime, especially in New York City, you’re charged thousands of dollars by the minute in labor fees,” the group members share.

The ‘Rewind’ hitmakers hit their breaking point with Church at Madison Square Garden — their first time ever playing the venue. They told the country rocker that it was extremely important for him to get offstage on time that night, even giving him twelve extra minutes early in his show to ensure he would exit the stage before they were due on.

However, ever the outlaw and tired of playing by the rules, Church played 20 minutes over, starting his set 10 minutes late.

“It was kind of like a middle finger,” the trio admit now, so many years later.

While country fans may think there’s bad blood between the three crooners and Church, the Flatts insist there’s not, saying, “The thing is, we really don’t have anything against Eric Church at all … every time we see him … it’s fine.”

They contest that the issue boiled down to money and disrespect.

“It was just a bit disrespectful because when you’re an opening act, we did our best to abide by the rules that the headliner laid out for us,” the band says. “And you just do that and there was no goodwill being sent back to us.”

Church — whose rep had no comment in regards to the Flatts’ retelling of the story — enjoys playing with a rougher crowd these days, straddling the line between country outlaw and wild rocker. He has admitted to being a hell raiser and rocking hard, which is something that likely would have never fit well with a clean and polished group like Rascal Flatts.

“Nobody would touch us. It’s like we were nuclear,” Church told Playboy last spring. Still, he turned those proverbial lemons into lemonade, carving a niche in country-rock that fits him like a koozie on a cold one.

After being picked up to replace him on the road, Taylor Swift gifted Church with her first Gold record for his unintentional kindness.

Currently, Rascal Flatts are preparing for their 2014 Rewind Tour with special guests Sheryl Crow and Gloriana. Church will drop his new album ‘The Outsiders‘ on Feb. 11.

Next: Country Feuds That Really Were

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