Having hosted the Country Music Association’s yearly TV Christmas card to the world for half a dozen years, Jennifer Nettles admits the special has become as much a part of the holiday for her as Santa Claus and wrapping paper.
“This’ll be my sixth year hosting CMA Country Christmas, so it has become a tradition for me. But I think for me, what is my favorite part is when I hear from fans that it has become a tradition for them and it is one of the ways that they ring in and start the holiday season with their families,” she says. “Because it does hearken back to that old variety show, old Christmas special sort of energy and vibe that everybody can come around and enjoy. And the caliber of talent on it every year just continues to elevate, so it’s a joy for me to do.”
For 2015, there is one big difference– the special was taped at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House instead of its usual home at the Bridgestone Arena. Joining Jennifer this year are a capella group Pentatonix, Darius Rucker, LeAnn Rimes, Jewel, Brian Setzer, Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, Kelsea Ballerini, Dan + Shay, Mickey Guyton, violinist Lindsey Stirling, David Nail, Martina McBride and Michael W. Smith.
After this many years, Jennifer jokes it is hard to keep coming up with new yuletide tunes for the 2-hour event. “I think we have sung all of them on this show, but– actually no that’s not true,” she remembers, “because I’m singing one this year that hasn’t been done on the show yet. So that’s not true– there will at least be that new one!”
One that’s definitely new is Jennifer’s duet with Brian Setzer on a song they came up with that’s inspired by the Flintstones theme called “Yabba Dabba Yuletide.” She also teams up with Pentatonix for “Man with the Bag”/”Jingle Bell Rock,” while violinist Lindsey Stirling joins her on “Silent Night.” She puts a holiday twist on “Celebrate Me Home” as well.
CMA Country Christmas starts at 9 p.m. ET Thursday night on ABC.
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