Chruch played the guitar and sang alongside Sullivan as they stood on the field in Tampa, Florida, delivering killer vocals as troops overseas were shown watching the performance alongside players and fans in the stadium.
The NFL confirmed in January that Church, 43, and Sullivan, 33, would be teaming up for the ceremonial performance before the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off for Super Bowl glory. Grammy-winning artist H.E.R. was also selected to sing the traditional pre-game rendition of “America the Beautiful,” while The Weeknd will take on the halftime show.
Before being approached by the NFL about the special Super Bowl moment, Church told The Los Angeles Times that he had “avoided” singing the national anthem for several years.
“It’s an incredibly hard song to sing. And I’m not a vocalist — I’m a stylist. Somebody like me, you take some liberties with it, then you’ve gotten too far away from the melody and suddenly you’re a communist,” he told the outlet in an interview published on Tuesday, February 2. “Honestly, there’s just more to lose than to gain.”
However, the opportunity to collaborate with an “unbelievable vocalist” like Sullivan presented itself at the perfect time.
“With what’s going on in America, it feels like an important time for a patriotic moment,” the “Give Me Back My Hometown” crooner said nearly one month after the storming of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., made headlines. “An important time for unity. The fact that I’m a Caucasian country singer and she’s an African American R&B singer — I think the country needs that.”
As they prepared to perform, Church said that he and the “Bust Your Windows” singer weren’t planning on straying too far from the original melody. “Basically, if I can stay out of her way, we’re golden,” Church joked of the duet.
Sullivan, for her part, told Entertainment Tonight that she was “nervous but mostly excited” about the major career milestone.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” she said in January. “Obviously, no one can do a better version than Whitney [Houston] but I’m just here to represent for my people. … Go up there, sing and bring some soul to it.”