DL-Online – Detroit Lakes, Minnesota – July 5, 2023 – Vicki Gerdes

Trucks ‘n Tunes set to take DL to church — the Church of Cash, that is
The premier Johnny Cash tribute band is set to take the stage at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 14 at the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell.
Church of Cash
The Church of Cash is coming to Detroit Lakes on Friday, July 14 for a 5 p.m. concert at the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell. Their performance will be the finale of Project 412’s summer concert-with-food-trucks series, as well as one of the first events of the 87th Annual Northwest Water Carnival.Contributed / Alisha Gregson

By Vicki Gerdes
July 05, 2023
News reporting
DETROIT LAKES — The finale of Project 412’s summer concert-with-food-trucks series, Trucks ‘n Tunes, is set to coincide with the opening of the 87th Annual Northwest Water Carnival on Friday, July 14.

The Minnesota-based Johnny Cash tribute band Church of Cash will take the stage at the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell at 5 p.m. for a three-hour concert. (Zorbaz is the alternate location in case of rain.)

Church of Cash frontman Jay Ernest is Minnesota born and bred, but his band actually got its start in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“I was touring (in Hawaii) with a band called Go Jimmy Go, and when the band was not on tour, I still wanted to play music,” he said, adding that he started playing gigs “at Irish pubs around Waikiki.”

When he started playing songs by the Man in Black, Ernest said, “People would stare at me. I didn’t know if they liked me or hated me!”

One night, someone in the audience told him he sounded “just like Johnny,” so he figured he’d “cash” in on that coincidence, and the Church of Cash was born.

“I put a band together with some of my friends, and we started playing,” he said, adding that they found an immediate audience among some of the young soldiers, sailors and pilots returning from service in Afghanistan and Iraq. “They wanted to hear live music, and they wanted to hear us.”

When he decided to move back home to Minnesota, Ernest brought the Church of Cash with him, and they started playing some gigs locally, then branched out to regional, national and eventually, even international tours.

“We got well-known enough to start touring regionally in 2014-15,” he said. “I was doing a lot of regional shows in the Upper Midwest, five-state regional area and had an opportunity to go to Europe around 2016.”

They’ve done six tours abroad since then, Ernest added, with another planned in November of this year. “We tour all over the U.S. and Europe,” he said. “The Church of Cash is my bread and butter.”

It’s a good thing, then, that he’s a lifelong fan of the Man in Black. “My father is a huge Johnny Cash fan, which means I’m one,” Ernest said.

Though he went through a period in his late teens and 20s when he “tried to explore other kinds of music,” Ernest said, “I started coming back to him in my 30s, and I’ve been a big fan ever since.”

Though he has taken on a few side projects over the years, and has a couple in the works right now, Church of Cash is still his “main gig,” Ernest said.

With more than 200 Cash songs in the Church of Cash repertoire, he says he doesn’t like to keep a “tried and true” set list for their live shows.

“I’m kind of the opposite of that,” he said. “I like to keep things a little more fluid and loose.

“I approach each show like new. I like to get the vibe of the audience … if it’s an older-school crowd, I’ll stick to the early career. If they seem to like what happened (with Cash’s music) in the 90s, I’ll lean a little more heavily on that.”

Sometimes, he’ll even take requests. “I take the audience on an adventure and guide them to find those memories (associated with certain songs). It’s my job to find where that vibe is and take them down that path.”

In the summertime, Ernest prefers outdoor shows to indoor venues. “When it’s summertime, I’m outside playing,” he said. “I don’t want to play inside, ever.”

That’s why he tends to focus their tours on the Upper Midwest during summer months, then head down south when it starts getting colder.

For those who don’t know what the Church of Cash is all about, Ernest said, the group has a website at churchofcashmusic.com as well as social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

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