Eric Church opened up a set of three mini-performances to close the first hour of the 2011 CMA Awards on Nov. 9. The North Carolina native sang his current single, ‘Drink in My Hand,’ and showed millions of people watching on ABC why fans have for years been fighting for tickets to his live show.

Brad Paisley, wearing a blue and black camouflage jacket, introduced Church, the first of three New Artist of the Year nominees to perform consecutively. The new daddy was wearing what’s become a uniform: jeans with a gray T-shirt, a black ball cap and dark aviator sunglasses. While his major award show performance resume is limited, Church looked like he’d been working this stage for decades.

Thompson Square and Chris Young followed Church’s performance, each playing their song almost in its entirety. Luke Bryan and the Band Perry are also nominated for the Top New Artist category.

‘Drink in My Hand’ is from Church’s most recent album ‘Chief.’