‘Tis the season for your favorite country stars to fill your TV with holiday cheer, as the 2019 CMA Country Christmas special is set to air on ABC on Dec. 3.
The tenth annual event finds Trisha Yearwood, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Brett Young, Runaway June, Chris Young, Rascal Flatts and more sharing the stage with cross-genre acts including Kristin Chenoweth, Tori Kelly, CeCe Winans and For King & Country to sing a variety of holiday favorites, with Yearwood serving as host.
Though she’s performed in years past, 2019 marks the first time Yearwood has hosted the show, following in the footsteps of fellow country legend Reba McEntire, who hosted in 2018. Backstage during the taping at the Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville, the “Every Girl in This Town” singer admits that she was nervous to step into the new role that finds her juggling several tasks, including quick changes, singing and entertaining the audience, so much so that her nerves kept her up the night before the taping. But Yearwood says the skills she’s gained hosting her cooking show, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, will translate to the CMA Country Christmas stage.
“I’m excited and I’ve been really nervous. I didn’t sleep last night, I just want it to be good,” Yearwood, who will open the show with a medley of “Silver Bells,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Winter Wonderland,” admits to Sounds Like Nashville and other media. “I’m an introvert, which is hard to probably believe, so singing in front of an audience and talking to an audience was something I really had to learn to be comfortable doing, and the cooking show has really helped me because it’s not scripted,” she continues. “ I think I can be good on my feet in that way just because I’ve done it a lot on my cooking show. That whole show is pretty much by the seat of your pants.”
Fans will also get to see Lady A perform a special medley when they take to the festive stage with a blend of “Silent Night,” “White Christmas” and a song featured on their new album Ocean called “On a Night Like This.” “It just has a very Christmas feel,” Charles Kelley describes of the cinematic ballad. “Having a Christmas record too, it’s always going to be such a big part of our career. I think us showing up to the things like this and really embracing our favorite holiday, and to be able to share the stage with people like Trisha Yearwood and Tori Kelly, it’s pretty cool.” Rascal Flatts are also set to perform a pair of holiday hits. They’ll team up with gospel icon Winans, who Gary Levox refers to as “one of our all time favorites, American heroes of all time,” for a powerful rendition of “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” along with their original version of “Deck the Halls.”
Meanwhile, Brett Young will add his flair to a holiday classic. The ballad-loving star tapped into his Christian roots during the 2018 broadcast with a performance of “Mary, Did You Know?” but this year, he’ll show off his love for R&B and soul music with a rendition of “This Christmas,” inspired by legendary soul singer Donny Hathaway. “We went around with the song choice a little bit. Did a Christian song last year, I grew up in church, my dad’s a pastor. The year before I released a Christian song, and that is my heart, but also I grew up listening to a lot of soul and R&B music,” he explains. “I grew up on all kinds of music and so there’s a Donny Hathaway version of ‘This Christmas’ that I’ve always been a big fan of. So, I’m going to try not to shame him tonight.”
For Chris Young, his CMA Country Christmas performance of Nat King Cole’s classic “The Christmas Song” allows him to flex his musical capabilities. Young reveals that growing up, he studied jazz and classical music alongside country, citing Christmas music as a style that blends all genres. “There’s a lot of songs that you end up cutting or singing during the Christmas season that are not just one, four, five, so to speak, there’s a lot of passing chords and interesting melodies. To me ‘The Christmas Song’ was always one of my favorites because of that and it’s fun for me to sing,” he shares.
The show will culminate with an all-female performance of “Children Go Where I Send Thee” featuring Yearwood, Hillary Scott of Lady A, Kelly, Winans and Chenoweth, and according to Yearwood, it will serve as a memorable moment in the holiday-themed broadcast. “There’s a lot of really great female talents. There is a really cool collaboration with a lot of women,” she reveals, adding that the rehearsal “was pretty powerful.” “So I’m really excited about that.”
2019 CMA Country Christmas airs on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.