CMA Close Up: Little Big Town Host “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock”


CMA Close Up:

Little Big Town Host “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock”


When you see Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook, a.k.a. Little Big Town, looking like they’re having a ball as hosts of “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock,” that’s because they are.

“It’s not like ’60 Minutes,’” insisted executive producer Robert Deaton. “It’s ‘Country Music’s Night to Rock.’ We’re having a good time. And we want the television viewing audience to have fun as well.”

The ABC Television Network will air three-hour “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” special on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 8 PM ET/7 PM CT.

For Little Big Town, the fun began a little more than a month before CMA Music Festival’s opening day, June 5. “Robert and George (Flanigen, co-producer) did a lot of work ahead of our first meeting,” said Fairchild. “Then we got together for the first time, read through the script and brainstormed about some of the bits. Robert has an outline for the way he sees the show, the acts that are booked and what night they’re on. We 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. We dive in that week, doing some of the first voiceover and introduction work on Tuesday.”

At that initial meeting, Deaton ran through his concept for how the show would differ from the focus in 2013, when Little Big Town debuted as hosts of the show. “From the creative standpoint, in this day and age, from your mobile phones to iPads to social media, the world is fast-paced,” he said. “So I wanted to quicken the pace of the show. I also wanted to do some interviews backstage, see what goes on and give a glimpse of the world behind the stage.”

“The only challenging thing about this year’s show is that we had to interview some of the artists, and we realized that we’re better singers than we are interviewers,” Fairchild said. “We only had little, tiny interviews to do, but we did laugh about how we would get nervous and freeze up in front of our friends when interviewing them, or we’d forget to put the microphone in front of their mouth — you know, easy, Journalism 101 stuff. But because we were interviewing our friends and we wanted it to be relaxed and lighthearted, we weren’t doing anything really in depth. And we were talking about music or silly things, so it wasn’t that difficult.”

Spontaneity is a critical ingredient in this year’s special. And the hosts weren’t the only ones to play it by ear when the time was right. For all the planning and blocking that Deaton undertakes before shooting the songs they select for the show, sometimes the best results come as a result of pure impulse. It happened this year during Miranda Lambert’s set.

“Once we get the TV song, my guys will look at me and go, ‘Should we stop?’” Deaton said. “Usually we do, but after Miranda did ‘Automatic,’ for some reason I said, ‘Keep rolling. Let’s see what happens.’ Then she did a song called ‘Little Red Wagon.’ We weren’t scheduled to shoot it, but it turned out to be some of the best television we’ve ever done. Miranda has turned herself into a master performer. It was inspiring to see someone so in control of her performance and the audience. It’s actually breathtaking. So we ended up putting it in the television show because it was too good to leave out.”

For all key players, CMA Music Festival 2014 was a home run. “We love, love, love doing this,” Fairchild said, smiling. “I hope it shows, because we’ve really had a great time. What’s not to love about standing in the middle of 50,000 screaming Country Music fans and introducing your friends? It’s not a bad gig!”

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.


On the Web:

On Twitter: @LittleBigTown



Little Big Town performs at LP Field on Saturday, June 7, during the 2014 CMA Music Festival in Downtown Nashville.Photo Credit: John Russell / CMA



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