Anderson East emerges from side stage just in time to grab the microphone and give it a windmill twirl before singing the opening lines of “Sorry You’re Sick,” the energetic, Ted Hawkins-penned clap-along from his new album, Encore.

With his hard-charging band laying down the driving beat and joyous horns blowing the melody, he reaches into the audience like a preacher leading his congregation. The capacity crowd at the intimate Duling Hall in Jackson, Mississippi, heeds the altar call with hands up, heads bobbing and voices shouting.

It’s a Tuesday night, but for East, it may as well be Sunday morning.

“That’s my church,” he tells Rolling Stone Country before the show. “I’m trying to get something really big out of it – getting musically to a place to where I feel justified, like I’m actually at the right place in the universe. I need that in my life.”

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Originally published by Rolling Stone, February 20, 2018