Unexpected moments as a “Desperate Man”: Eric Church reveals his near-death experience

Joe Pugliese for Rolling Stone

Eric Church is underwater, dressed in black with a guitar to match, submerged in the bright blue water of a pool on the cover of the new Rolling Stone. You can even check out how the fun photo shoot was done in a new behind-the-scenes video.

But inside the magazine, the Chief gets serious, discussing his dissatisfaction with Garth Brooks lip-syncing at the CMAs, politics, the Vegas tragedy and gun control. He also reveals he nearly died last year, shortly after his 40th birthday — something he hasn’t revealed until now.

The North Carolina native first noticed his hands were tingling on the Holdin’ My Own Tour. In June, he was in NC alone when he realized his entire left arm was red and swollen.

He drove himself to two hospitals, before finding out he had a blood clot in his chest. Eric remembers his conversation with the doctor: “I said, ‘Can it kill me?’ And he said, ‘Today.’”

“I was thinking about my family and kids, and how I wanted to make it back home,” he tells Rolling Stone. “But I was also thinking about the tour, and what we went through. I looked back and I honestly felt pretty satisfied that I couldn’t have given another thing.”

After surgery at Duke, he learned the blood clot was caused by a birth defect that left his top rib too close to his collarbone. After three days of recovery, the rib was removed a week later.

Eric did rehab and physical therapy over the summer, before hitting the road again in September. So far, he doesn’t see any long-term effects.

“I can still play guitar, and I play golf better than ever,” he points out.

You can check out the full Rolling Stone cover story online now.

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