Last week, I was back in my element for a brief 24 hours. After a couple year hiatus from the awards show circuit, I jumped back into the playing field for one night at the CMT Music Awards.
The fun actually started the night before when my friend (and Southern Living editor) Jennifer came up and we tackled the Rolling Stone Country launch party together.
It was hot as the dickens with no A/C at Peter Nappi and 90 degrees outside, but tequila popsicles made by Patron and a private Keith Urban concert seemed to make up for it.
There were all sorts of country music artists milling about, from Kristian Bush, Ashley Monroe and Brett Eldredge to a handful of cast members from the ABC show Nashville.
The next morning, we fueled up at Pinewood Social, I went and got my hair and makeup did, and then it was time to get our CMT on: I was covering the awards for the first time for Southern Living and doing so on camera at that.
For the first time in my life, we arrived at the red carpet right when they told us to—after pulling up at 3:30pm in our Uber ride, which was actually a monster truck driven by a middle-aged, heavily-tattooed cowboy named Rex who answers to Wyatt Earp, showed us picture of a ghost he captured with his iPhone and spilled his life story about how his fiancée dumped him last month (“That’s OK, I’ll find me another,” he says confidently. “One of you girls in Nashville has got to like me.”)—and after 45 minutes of setting up and doing intros and outros, the talent started arriving.
If you’ve never done a red carpet, you should know that it’s typically very much a “hurry up and wait” kind of scene, as in you get there promptly when the publicist tells you to, only to wait hours for the people you’re there to interview to show up. But not this time.
With all the awards shows, premieres and other star-studded events I’ve covered in the past, this was my first country one. And boy was it different. For one, everyone was SO nice. As in, acted as if they were honored to be talking to me. I know I’ve said it many times before, but God, I just love Southerners.
I got a lot of hugs, some high-fives, and a ditty or two. I chatted with Jake Owen, Gloriana, Easton Corbin, Jana Kramer, Cassadee Pope, Eric Paslay, Craig Campbell, Charlie Worsham, Thompson Square, Danielle Bradberry, some professional bullriders, some NASCAR folks, a ton of reality TV characters. The list goes on and on.
There were some major non-country names like Lionel Richie and John Legend present, and a few of the big country acts I really wanted to meet like Little Big Town, Band Perry and Lady A either didn’t do press or didn’t make it all the way to us, so I was a bit bummed that I didn’t get to make friends with everyone—though I did spot many of them throughout the night—but there’s always next year!
After four hours on the red carpet, Jennifer and I made our way down to what we thought were our seats, but found ourselves backstage at Bridgestone instead. Rather than watch the awards from the floor, we snagged seats in the private Crown lounge and watched from the monitors.
I chatted for a good bit of time with the Doobie Brothers, who were in from California promoting their new album, which is a compilation of country songs with other big artists. I can’t wait to buy that one, namely because they were the nicest ever and we could have talked travel all night.
The funniest moment of the night happened when I caught a visual of James van der Beek, as he shoved Jennifer out of the way to set his drink on our table. Since we hadn’t been watching the awards, we had no idea he was presenting, and the look on Jennifer’s face when she turned around to see whose elbow was in her ear and found out it was Dawson Leery’s was just priceless.
When the awards ended, we headed to The Stage on Broadway, where we were on the list to see a private Alan Jackson concert (so fun!) then it was off to the official CMT after party, co-hosted by PEOPLE Country. It was at The Rosewall, a fairly new private venue I’d never visited, and it was all done up for the occasion.
I started chatting it up with Chaley, hearing how she came to find herself in Nashville (she moved here because of the show), and Jennifer and I ogled her perfect hair. Girlfriend also has perfect skin, a perfect body, a to-die-for wardrobe and a voice like an angel. You want to hate her but can’t because on top of it all, she’s just so darn sweet.
I’m currently out in Montana having the time of my life with five close friends so I didn’t stick around for the next four days of CMA Music Fest, which no doubt would have been more late nights and too much fun, but it’s safe to say I’m already looking forward to the 2015 CMT Music Awards.