Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood Jam 50 Years of Country History into Three-Hour Awards Show

ABC/Bob D’Amico

Tonight, for the ninth time in a row, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood take the reins for Country Music’s Biggest Night. But this year is no ordinary installment of the show — it’s the half-century anniversary of the CMA Awards, so it’s a job both Brad and Carrie take very seriously.

“We’re tasked with 50 years of retrospective and that’s a big task,” Brad says. “Because you think back to the incredible performances over the years and we have to relive a few of those, and at the same time, we have to include all of the legends we can possibly include that are still around. It’s a balancing act, but however it ends up coming off on Wednesday, just know that we’ve had a lot of discussions about this and how you pay respects. So our attempt is to be so totally respectful of our format and of our history.”

Carrie agrees, echoing Brad’s desire to pave the way for an incredible night that goes down in country music history.

“From the get-go, we just wanted this show to feel different, and to just be elevated…” the Entertainer of the Year nominee says. “Normally, we have the task of celebrating a year in country music. I feel like this year, we are celebrating 50 years of country music, and that’s a big deal, trying to figure out ways to just work different people in and have people there and acknowledge accomplishments for 50 years worth of incredible music. We’ve had and still have a long road ahead of us!” she confesses.

The celebration of the CMA Awards’ golden anniversary kicks off at 8 p.m. ET tonight, live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on ABC.

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