Sitting down with the Nashville media during a party celebrating her most recent No. 1 hit “Southbound,” Underwood revealed that the 2019 show will continue to blend comedic moments with heartfelt gestures – a theme established during her 11-year tenure with former co-host Brad Paisley – all while spotlighting the women of the genre. “It’s definitely going to be heartfelt,” Underwood shares. “The whole tone this year is obviously taking a look at women in country music. It’s so nice to just be heartfelt and celebrate women in country music, so I feel that Dolly and Reba and myself, we’ll have our moments of that.”
One of these special moments will take place during the opening number, as the three superstars lead an all-star tribute to the female forbearers of the genre, joining forces with the likes of Martina McBride, Sara Evans, Gretchen Wilson, Tanya Tucker, Jennifer Nettles, Crystal Gayle, Terri Clark and supergroup The Highwomen, to perform an expansive medley of hits by female country artists across generations. Kelsea Ballerini, Ashley McBryde, Lindsay Ell, Carly Pearce, Maddie & Tae and Runaway June will also collaborate on a performance of a song that was awarded the CMA Song of the Year and Single of the Year, with Little Big Town making a special appearance. “I love the fact that there’s a theme happening,” Underwood expresses. “I hope that’s something that maybe we adopt for future CMAs.”
In addition to her hosting duties, the powerhouse singer is nominated for three awards. She makes her ninth appearance in the category of Female Vocalist of the Year and is up for Album of the Year for Cry Pretty and the most coveted award of the night: Entertainer of the Year. Marking her second nomination in the category, Underwood stands alongside fellow nominees Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Eric Church and Chris Stapleton. The nomination follows a year on the road with Maddie & Tae and Runaway June on her Cry Pretty Tour 360. In the midst of the trek, Underwood was juggling life as working mother to four-year-old son Isaiah and 10-month-old Jacob, all while running her lifestyle brand, Calia by Carrie Underwood, and penning her upcoming book Find Your Path: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Soul, and Get Strong with the Fit52 Life, inspiring peers like Miranda Lambert to throw their support behind her for the elite prize.
In Underwood’s eyes, Entertainer of the Year is an all-encompassing reflection of an artist’s hard work, and while she admits to harboring a competitive edge, she says she simply feels “blessed” and “lucky” to be nominated amongst a talented group of her contemporaries. “I personally feel like Entertainer, it’s everything. I feel people kind of narrow it down to tour, but I feel like there’s so many more components to it,” she explains. “It’s not the end-all be-all, but of course I’d be lying if I had say I didn’t want it – sorry boys!”
With the live show impending, Underwood already had music and script ideas in mind for the CMAs at the time of the interview, and was anticipating sitting down with Parton and McEntire to flesh out the rest of the details, knowing the two iconic stars will bring their bold minds and sharp wit to the show. “I feel like Dolly and Reba are both so good at those one liners that just kill, so I can’t imagine there not being some of those in there,” she describes. “But I feel like it is heartfelt.”
The 2019 CMA Awards air live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Wednesday (Nov. 13) at 8PM ET on ABC.