It's the end of an era for Eric Church's live show: His prominently-featured backing singer and close collaborator Joanna Cotten is moving on to pursue a solo career, after about a decade of touring with Church and his band.

Cotten shared the news on social media, explaining that she originally planned to take some time off after Church's Gather Again Tour to "focus on writing some new songs and have a time of rest & recovery," but her plans changed during that break from the road.

"It was my intention to return, but God has other plans," Cotten continues. "I also want you all to know that your energy carried me through so many shows with Eric. What a run we had. I am so grateful for the stages I sang on with him & the people I met along the way."

Cotten was signed to Warner Bros. in the mid-2000s as a solo artist, but at the time, her blend of country music with the soul and gospel roots she picked up while growing up in Memphis, Tenn., didn't get much airplay on country radio. She ultimately walked away from her label in 2007 without an album to show for it. In 2019, she told The Boot that her biggest regret is the fact that the songs she made during that time never got a fair shot at reaching fans' ears.

"I never got a shot to get to the people — to just see how they responded — which was probably the saddest part, for me," Cotten explained at the time, "Because I knew that if I personally could take my music to the people, I felt I would get a strong response."

But between the grassroots fanbase she built up on tour with Church and the advent of a more soulful style of mainstream country music popularized by artists like Chris Stapleton, Cotten said that a return to solo music was still very much on her mind.

Meanwhile, on tour with Church, Cotten redefined the definition of back-up singer: Special moments in Church's show put her in the spotlight, and she even had her own fans show up to the shows wearing handmade shirts with her name on them and inspiring her to start a merchandise line.

Cotten hasn't specified exactly what's in store for the next chapter of her career, but in her post announcing her departure from Church's band, she promised fans that they would be seeing her out on the road "before you know it!"

Top 50 Eric Church Songs: His Greatest Hits and Best Deep Cuts

Eric Church’s best song fall into rows. There’s the sullen heartbreakers and the grateful lovers. There are the snarling social statements and buoyant bops. OK, there are only a couple of buoyant bops on this list of Church's 50 greatest songs, but they exist. 

He's been known to sample R-Rated burners and sage truth-tellers — and then there are two songs about murder. So, Eric Church’s songs fall into rows, but there are a lot of rows in his 15-year catalog. 

His best song? Taste of Country asked fans, staff and the industry to weigh in and then looked at chart success, sales data pop culture importance to choose No. 1 from No. 50. Songs with strong lyrical content rank high. Songs with creative production rank high. Songs with both ended up in the Top 5. 

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