PT. 1: BACKSTAGE AT CMA FEST WITH LITTLE BIG TOWN’S KAREN FAIRCHILD
The most action-packed night on the Country Music calendar begins at 8 PM ET/7 PM CT on Tuesday, August 5. For three solid hours, ABC Network Television will broadcast “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock,” with sizzling stadium performances, up-close club sets and a few hilarious sketches featuring some of the greatest stars in Country Music.
What you won’t see is what went on behind the scenes to make sure everything happened smoothly and was captured on film flawlessly by producers Robert Deaton and George Flanigen. CMA members can get backstage access in the Aug/Sept 2014 issue of CMA Close Up. But for further insights from the special’s hosts Little Big Town, Karen Fairchild pulls the curtain back in Part 1 of her CMACloseUp.com interview.
What do you see as the role of the host in “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock”?
We have to set the energy of the show. We create the tone and the vibe of the show. Hopefully, we’re making Country Music look cool and relevant, as it is. We’re taking it to the world. That’s a huge responsibility. We feel like we’re almost ambassadors or gatekeepers, taking the music to the people.
Little Big Town hosted this special last year too. What was different about it this year?
For the first time, we took artists right to the stage. It was like double duty, where I was introducing on the show and also doing it to the crowd. That’s going to be really exciting for the fans to watch the energy right there on the TV special. It was so exhilarating to watch all those fans go crazy!
About six weeks before the Festival, you met for the first time with Robert and George to start mapping out what you and the rest of the group would be doing as hosts. What happens at that initial meeting?
Robert brings an outline for the way he sees the show, the acts that are booked and what night they’re going on. We just talk through it and practice in that meeting. Then, a couple of days before, we start reading through the scripts again, because they’ve been tweaked and finalized. I’ll memorize and start practicing lines. We talk through the funny bits we’re going to do.
Does each member of Little Big Town have a solo moment or two?
Those were divided up pretty evenly. We did several artist introductions together. Then we divided up into twos on some of them. Jimi (Westbrook) and I did a few introductions from the middle of the crowd. On one of them, Jimi was up on scaffolding in the sky with a chainsaw in his hand, which was frightening. We had to be super on our toes and flexible because the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Sometimes bits or introductions that we thought we were going to do don’t work out on the stage, so George comes and grabs us and takes us to a different location. It’s exciting!
It’s also exhausting. You had to fit all of your hosting responsibilities with everything else you had scheduled at the Festival.
It was pretty crazy. We tried to leave some of the mornings open because we all have children. But it’s CMA Fest and we wanted to maximize time with our fans. For example, we did a surprise meet-and-greet at our soundcheck on Saturday. We posted on Facebook that we were going to let 100 fans come into our soundcheck as a last-minute surprise. That was so much fun. Then we did pictures and met all of the fans. We also did a bunch of radio interviews and a bunch of press and TV for the ABC special. We were launching “Day Drinking” as a single. We had the CMT Awards and dress rehearsals for it in the middle of it all. I will say that at the end of this particular CMA Fest, I thought, “I haven’t been this tired since I brought Elijah home as a newborn.” The day after, I thought, “Holy cow! That was fun – but, man, am I tired!” It was fast and furious, with a lot packed into a really big week.
Next week on CMACloseUp.com, Karen Fairchild talks about juggling demands for performing and hosting, dealing with rain and other CMA Music Fest adventures.