Producer Robert Deaton Takes Us Inside “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock”

Producer Robert Deaton Takes Us Inside “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock”

Producer Robert Deaton knows better than anyone how challenging, complex and exhilarating it can be to capture the best of CMA Music Festival and trim it down to three hours of killer television.

The results of his efforts, and those of hundreds of assistants, technicians, volunteers and of course world-class artists, will air on Tuesday, Aug. 5, beginning at 8 PM ET/7 PM CT on the ABC Television Network.

With just hours to go before the show, Deaton offers a behind-the-scenes look at how this year’s spectacular came together.

You expanded Little Big Town’s role from what they did last year by having them do interviews along with their other responsibilities in hosting the program.

You always have to adjust the show every year a little bit. Sometimes a couple of shifts can change the tonality of the show. One thing we did this year was to give the viewer a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at CMA Music Festival. I expected Little Big Town to be more comfortable this year because, quite frankly, when you have six acts a night, 65,000 people in the audience and 500 people working just on the television side, it’s hectic. When you’re behind the scenes for the first time, you really get a chance to view it from within and go, “Wow, it’s overwhelming!” Since they went through this last year, I was able to give them even more responsibility this year.

Did you give them any advice on how to conduct interviews?

The main thing I told them was to have fun but listen. Just relax and be yourselves. You’re not sitting down in chairs across from anybody. Let the interviews get a little silly – and that’s appropriate for the show.

That does emphasize the intimacy of the show for viewers.

I wanted them to be them, to ask the questions with their personalities. Whatever goofy thing they wanted to do, I wanted them to have the leeway to be able to do it. They know the artists. They’ve all been on tour together. So it’s not like someone coming in from a network that the artist doesn’t know. They’re friends with all of these artists, and I wanted that to come across on camera.

So you leave plenty of room for spontaneity.

“Country’s Night to Rock” is just an outline. This is not like the CMA Awards, where every word is scripted. It’s about keeping the pace going but also promoting that Tim McGraw is going to perform with Faith (Hill) later in the show. You want to tease that performance. Ninety percent of what they do is an interview type of thing with some spontaneity.

For more on the Aug. 5 broadcast of “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock,” visit