CMA Music Festival Wraps Up with Performances from Carrie, Luke, Zac Brown Band and Many More


Here’s a roundup of what the stars said over the weekend backstage at the CMA Music Festival’s nightly concerts at LP Field in Nashville:

Carrie Underwood returned to the concert stage at the CMA Music Festival over the weekend after giving birth to her son, Isaiah, earlier this year. The appearance came just days after she performed at the CMT Music Awards, and Carrie feels great being back amongst her fans.

She says of the CMT performance, “I was nervous just because I had been away from big, public events for a while. This is one of the funnest weeks we have in country music, and it really is all about the fans, and I definitely felt very welcomed at the CMT Awards.”

Isaiah is the first child for Carrie and husband, Mike Fisher, but they’ve had their dogs Ace and Penny for quite a while now. Carrie thought Ace would really bond with Isaiah, but that hasn’t been the case.

Carrie says, “The puppy that I thought would be super-excited about the baby has ended up kind of being a little sad, I think. His world has definitely been rocked. I thought he would be my playful one and my sweet one, and he’s kind of ignored Isaiah.”

As for Penny, Carrie adds, “The one I thought would be my problem child, my problem dog has actually been the super-sweet, cuddly one towards him.”

Carrie feels like all of her babies will eventually live in harmony.

She says, “[The dogs will] love him once he starts dropping food and things like that. They’re gonna be best friends.”

— CMA Music Festival gives Luke Bryan the chance to play for tens of thousands of fans just miles away from his house in Nashville.

Before taking the stage at Music City’s LP Field, Luke said, “It’s a great, great week for me. And then I get to be home and do all this stuff. I was at the house playing with the boys and came in.”

Proceeds from the CMA Music Festival go to the CMA Foundation’s efforts to fund music education programs in Nashville and around the country. Participating in music programs at his school helped Luke prepare for his current career headlining stadiums on his Kick the Dust Up tour.

He says, being a pro is similar “when you look at the pressures of being a kid, having to perform at state, high-intensity state competitions and how you learned about the show always goes on kinda deal.”

That experience came into play as Luke recently played Denver’s Mile High Stadium and rainstorms put them 10 hours behind schedule setting up the stage.

Luke was also fighting a bad cold at that show, but he adds, “The show went on, and that’s all a part of show business. So yeah, I think that [music education] was laying the framework and the groundwork. At the time I didn’t know it. At the time I was just being a kid.”

As for the school musicals he starred in growing up in Georgia, Luke says, “I was not a good actor, but I was lucky enough to have this big ‘ol loud theater voice that always kind of put me in really, really high-profile roles in that world, but yeah, it was fun doing that.”

Zac Brown Band returned to the CMA Music Festival for a performance at LP Field over the weekend. After their set, the guys stuck around to see some of the other superstars on the bill. The festival’s stellar lineup makes it a big treat for the fans, according to Zac Brown.

He says, “They know they’re gonna get to see a lot of the folks that are out and about and touring and playing and everything. It’s exciting for us. Everybody’s ramped up.”

Zac adds, “We’re glad to be here as always.”

Little Big Town‘s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman were giddy when they interviewed Tim McGraw last year for the annual CMA Music Festival special on ABC. This year, the man People magazine named the Hottest Guy in Country Music, Dierks Bentley, had Karen and Kimberly majorly crushing.

Kimberly says, “We interviewed Dierks a couple days ago, and we were sitting back in the dressing room very casually. ‘Oh, this is gonna be easy and fine. We’ll figure it out on the fly,’ and then when we got up there, my armpits started sweating and my hands started shaking. I was like, ‘Oh Lord, it’s Dierks Bentley. What am I gonna say?'”

Dierks was a little embarrassed to have Karen and Kimberly fawning over him, but Karen adds, “It was good. It’s gonna make for good TV.”

Karen also loves seeing acts like Brett Eldredge and Sam Hunt make their debut at LP Field during CMA Music Festival.

She says, “Just the excitement when they come off that stage. That’s my very favorite thing.”

Little Big Town hosts the CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock special August 4 on ABC.

Randy Houser last played LP Field at the CMA Music Festival in 2010, but he had a lot more #1 hits to play for his fans when he returned to the big show this weekend.

“I think this is the first time I’ll get to play it where actually anybody might know who I am,” Randy joked before going on stage.

As for the crowd in Nashville for the CMA Music Festival, Randy says, “This is the cream of the crop, elite country music fans from all over the country and all over the world are here.”

— Money raised from ticket sales at the CMA Music Festival benefit the CMA Foundation’s music education programs across the country, and that cause is very dear to the heart of Lady Antebellum‘s Dave Haywood. He grew up playing clarinet in the high school band as well as guitar in the school’s jazz band. His sister is a music teacher back home in Georgia, so Dave still feels the impact of school music programs to this day.

He says, “It’s so critical when I hear stories that she tells about how this music impacts people and it really affects these families in a powerful way. It did me, and it did mine, and I’ve always been a proponent for it.”

Over the past few years, the CMA Foundation has donated millions of dollars to music education thanks to CMA Music Festival ticket sales.

“It’s exciting to see that organizations like this can make an impact in that way,” Dave says. “Because it’s such a great form of development for people. Such a great form of, for me, it was camaraderie, friendship.

Chris Young celebrated his 30th birthday Friday night at a low-key party with his friends and family.

Says Chris, “[I] actually had two of my friends play, and then we had karaoke, which was awesome.”

Chris didn’t stay out too late, though. He had to be at the CMA Music Festival’s Fan Fair X Saturday morning to sign autographs and do a question-and-answer session with fans in town from around the world. He then played a set at LP Field Saturday night.

Chris says, “There were people in my meet-and-greet from Australia and the U.K. and Canada. It’s so great to see that, to be a part of it, especially at LP Field, and just to see the CMA doing such big things for country music during this week.”

As a special birthday present, reps from Chris’s record label surprised him at LP Field with a gold record plaque to celebrate his album, Neon, hitting the 500,000-sales mark. He just turned in his upcoming fifth album to the label. It’s due out later this year.

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