In addition to the performances they both delivered during the 2018 CMA Music Festival in June, Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini are hosting a TV special featuring performances from the event for the second year in a row. On Aug. 8, CMA Fest 2018 highlights will be broadcast during a special televised event, giving festival attendees, fans who couldn’t make it and the hosts themselves the chance to live out the experience one more time.
Ballerini, a self-proclaimed die-hard country music fanatic, says the CMA Fest hosting spot gave her a front-row seat to the performances at Nissan Stadium on all four nights of the festival. “It gets you more involved in the whole CMA Fest,” she explained backstage to The Boot and other media outlets. “It keeps us here all four nights, and we get to watch our friends and heroes.
“I am a fangirl to the core! Y’all know this about me,” she adds. “So, to be able to sit and watch and soak it up every night is super cool.”
In 2018, Ballerini and Rhett have a year of hosting practice under their belts, but the two starts admit that their hosting duties involved a bit of a learning curve in the beginning.
“Me and Kelsea were in the dressing room the other night watching our intros from last year, and we were both embarrassed at ourselves the entire time,” Rhett says. “I was yelling the entire time. Her hand was moving the entire time. So we get better at it every year.”
For the “Life Changes” singer, hosting may be good practice for future career experiences: “It’s always been a dream of mine to do TV or act in any fashion,” Rhett shares, “so it’s been really cool to get out there and hopefully do a good job hosting the CMA Fest. I’m glad they keep asking us back.”
Growing up the son of songwriter of Rhett Akins, Rhett’s memories of the festival date back to its early days, when it was known as Fan Fair.
“I remember being young — Blake [Shelton] used to come over to my dad’s house when I was 9 years old and just hang,” Rhett recalls with a laugh. “Fan Fair back then was definitely a different experience when my dad was involved in it, but by the time I was in high school, he wasn’t involved in it any longer, so I did not get the hookup then.”
Rhett speaks fondly of the CMA Fests for which he scrounged up tickets as a teenager: “Me and my buddies in high school and college would always try and go find as many tickets as we could and just fill out the nosebleeds,” he recalls.
“Eric Church was always my favorite to come and watch. Him, [Jason] Aldean, Luke [Bryan] — this was before I knew those guys,” Rhett continues, “so to be hosting and playing here now, and have my heroes become my friends, it’s an odd, full-circle thing.”
For her part, Ballerini has also seen her role in the CMA Music Festival expand dramatically over the past couple of years. These days, the singer is able to host her own fan party; in fact, her first one happened this year.
“I didn’t get to have one [in 2017], so this year we wanted to make it extra special,” she explains. In order to do that, Ballerini’s fans got a first look at the music video for her newest single, “I Hate Love Songs” — but that wasn’t all.
“We recreated the whole set, so they [could] walk through each of the little nooks and take pictures,” she explains. “Then, at the very end, we took our photo together in the last scene.”
The 2018 CMA Fest TV special will air on ABC at 8PM ET (1AM UK Time)