CMA Fest: Day 4

A view of the crowd for the final night of CMA Fest on Sunday, June 9. 

The 48th CMA Fest took over ABC Network on Sunday for the “Music Event of the Summer” as country artists took the stage to perform over 30 top country music hits.

“You got the most hard core fans in the world converging on music city, it doesn’t get any better than CMA Fest,” Luke Bryan said before he sang “Knockin’ Boots.”

Starting at 8 p.m., the TV premiere began with Carrie Underwood performing her newest hit and summer bop, “Southbound” followed by Thomas Rhett’s “What God Gave Her” and “T-shirt.”

Rhett was one of three hosts for the summer special including country singer Kelsey Ballerini who also performed “Miss Me More” and “This Feeling” with The Chainsmokers, and special guest host Bobby Bones who took the audience backstage throughout the special.

Entertainer of the year, Keith Urban performed his hit single “We Were” which in a backstage chat with Bones said that he felt great after singing the song, even if it was still new for him to perform unlike his other songs he'd sung millions of times on stage before.

“It was great," Urban said. "It’s still a new song but yet so people were singing along, so it’s a great feeling." 

Other performers included Chris Janson, Luke Bryan, the Pistol Annies, Midland, Miranda Lambert, Luke Combs, Maren Morris and Brandi Carlile, Kane Brown, Dan + Shay, Florida Georgia Line, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Blake Shelton, Brett Young, Old Dominion, Ashley McBryde, Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell, and Tim McGraw.

Ending the night and TV special, Tim McGraw and Luke Combs sang “Real Good Man” for the first time together.

Behind-the-scenes magic unveiled

One of the interesting things about seeing the live performance and then seeing the TV special is knowing the behind-the-scenes magic that goes into making a television special. As part of the live-performance experience back in June, fans witnessed the behind-the-scenes magic first hand.

 When Bones introduced the line-up at the beginning of the special to the crowd around him, not only did this happen on one of the later days of the festival, but there were several “takes” of it.

Some of the scenes where the hosts prepare audiences at home for what to look forward to happens after the actual performances so as to not spoil any surprises that happened during those four evenings. Most of the introductions of singers onto the stage did happen before the artists came out.

Those surprises included Carrie Underwood bringing Joan Jett out to sing a medley of Jett’s most memorable songs and Lil Nas X performing “Old Town Road” with not only Billy Ray Cyrus but Keith Urban too.

During the “takes,” Bones would ask the crowd to participate and give a countdown as to when they should start cheering, doing several takes as to make sure to get the best shot and to have the crowd cheering as loud as possible. Now, while not everyone in the stadium would cheer during the second or third takes, those who did roared to life as their voices ricocheted off the stadium.

Additional advantage of the TV special

Another cool aspect of watching CMA Fest on television is the added benefit of the flying cameras that were suspended above the crowd to give aerial shots. Beyond having that advantage of practically sitting front row, the aerial cameras give perspective including showing the rain that poured down the first couple nights.

Beyond just the performances, audiences could go behind the scenes with hosts as they spoke with stars.

Bones spoke with Keith Urban about what if felt like performing, with Urban mentioning how he was sticking around to perform a little known summer hit that has been at the top of the music charts, “Old Town Road,” along with Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X.  

“I’m gonna stay around cause I’ve got a little song that I’m sitting in on,” Urban added. “Well I’m singing as well, but I’m going to play predominantly in this little song called ‘Old Town Road.’”

In addition to stars singing on the main stage at Nissan Stadium, Blake Shelton performed his song “God’s Country” at his Nashville bar Ole Red. 

Fans found out that Dierks Bentley shared a dressing room with Bones who pointed out how he only had one pair of jeans while the rest of the clothing behind them were Bentley’s. 

“So one of the cool things about being backstage here at CMA Fest is your randomly run into friends and they’re actually playing together tonight,” Bones said standing next to Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn, John Osborne and T.J. Osborne.

Bones later jokingly promised fans that he is in fact 6-feet tall while he stood next to Brooks and Dunn and Brothers Osborne as he spoke about their chance of performing Brooks and Dunn’s “Hard Workin’ Man” together.  

“Oh, it’s amazing. We’re a huge fan of them, but this song is itself an iconic country song and John’s going to go out there and gun sling on the guitar,” T.J. Osborne said. “I think it’s going to be really good for the fans.”

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