Country musician Joel Crouse first performed at Gillette Stadium in 2013 as an opening act on Taylor Swift's "The RED Tour," and on Saturday, he returned to sing the national anthem in front of 68,000 Patriots fans. We sat down with the 22-year-old Holland, Mass., native just before kickoff to get his thoughts on being back in Foxborough, singing for a hometown crowd and what he misses about New England now that he's based in Nashville.
How does it feel to be back at Gillette Stadium?
It feels pretty good. It's actually kind of weird, because I've never been to a game here. This is my first NFL game ever, so to be able to do the anthem is pretty cool. I couldn't pass up the opportunity.
It's a little bit of a different crowd than last time.
Yeah, probably the screaming will be a little bit manlier.
Have you sung the national anthem before?
No, this is the first time. I've been asked to do it before and I've turned it down, but when I got this call it was kind of hard to turn it down, being the first playoff game for them. I'm super, super excited. I'm really thankful that they thought of me.
Why did you say no in the past?
Being fearful of messing it up, you know? Then when this came I was like, man I should have taken those opportunities because it probably would have prepared me for this. It was just my own fear. That's why I was hesitant in the past.
And it's your first gig of the year, right?
Yeah, it's a pretty good way to start 2015, I think. I was supposed to play at the Oprey tonight – I've played at the Oprey quite a few times – but I had to call and tell them, not that this was more important, but that it was just a home thing for me. They understood.
Speaking of the Oprey and Nashville, you've been living there for five years now. Is there anything about home that you miss?
I miss a lot of things. One is sushi. There's better sushi up here. That's definitely one. And I do miss the whole Boston sports atmosphere. You don't really get that in Nashville. It's all college football down there … but I grew up in Massachusetts and we had this organization [the Patriots], so it was a little different. I miss the atmosphere a lot sometimes, but I do visit and I tour up here a lot. The only thing I don't like about home is the cold, let's put it that way.
Well, it's freezing out there today. Are you going to stay for the game?
I am. If I didn't I'd feel awful, just because it's my first game. I have like 19 layers on, at least. I've got feet warmers and everything, and I'll probably have a beer or two to keep me warm.
Did you grow up watching the Patriots and the other local teams?
We probably don't want to talk about basketball. I grew up watching basketball and unfortunately not rooting for the Celtics. I blame that on my father [who's a Laker's fan]. But, I'm only 22, so I've watched the whole Brady era. That's what I've grown up with, so that's kind of special to me. When I came here on the Taylor Swift tour they gave me a [number 12] jersey and they put my last name on it. I feel like it's disrespectful to Tom Brady but I'm happy to have it.
Do you have any other plans while you're in town?
Actually, I leave tomorrow morning. I came in last night, I had dinner with my family, saw a friend, woke up, came here, and tomorrow I'll wake up and get on a plane back to Nashville and back to work.
When can your fans expect to see you back in the area?
We're working on a second album right now for January and February, so there are different odd dates here and there but as far as this area, it's Mohegan Sun on February 19, at the Wolf Den. It's a free show [for 21 and over]. ... I'm thankful for the support from home, ever since I was playing coffee shops in my small town in Massachusetts.
Back then did you ever imagine you'd end up performing at Gillette Stadium?
No, I never thought I'd go out on a stadium tour [with Taylor Swift] and then end it at my home stadium, and I never thought I'd be asked by my football team to come sing the national anthem for this game. It's an honor.