Monday, June 13, 2011

It’s a wrap for CMA festival, 40 years young

By Lucas Hendrickson for USA TODAY

The fans "have been wonderful," says Trace
Adkins who lost his home in a fire
June 4. (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY)
By all accounts, Nashville’s CMA Music Festival is holding up pretty well at age 40. From the return of Dolly Parton to the introduction of American Idol’s Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, country music present and future unfolded this weekend in Nashville in front of appreciative, if overheated, fans.

Ready for the ride: In preparation for his Get Closer tour, which launches Thursday in Biloxi, Miss., Keith Urban invited in several hundred fans and industry onlookers for an 11-song glimpse at Municipal Auditorium, where he has been rehearsing. The new stage set, including a huge circular projection screen and roller-coaster-like rigging above and in back of the stage with rolling lights, is a far cry from Urban’s club days coming up. Back then, “I bought four sections of prefabbed white picket fence,” Urban says. “I hung them from the ceiling and put lights through them. So to go from that, to be able to put this together, there’s no shortage of gratitude.”

Slow burn: Georgia native Jason Aldean has ratcheted his game up over the past year, and with high-profile collaborations with Kelly Clarkson on Don’t You Wanna Stay and his CMT Music Awards turn with rapper Ludacris on Dirt Road Anthem, he appreciates the doors opening up for him. “It’s cool that those kinds of people dig what you do enough to want to come in and be a part of it,” Aldean says. “And it’s a lot easier to make it happen if they’re taking your call.”

Leaving off the parentheses: Brad Paisley knew there was risk in titling an album This Is Country Music but cautions that in the end, it’s just one person’s opinion — namely, his. “I didn’t say ‘This is only country music’ or ‘This was country music’ or ‘This will be country music.’ It’s more this is what it is, for me. That’s sort of the parentheses that’s not officially on the title … ‘For Me.’”

Stuck like glue — in your head: Artists who’ve been around the creative process long enough can pretty easily pick up on how a song will hit their fans. Hence, asking Sugarland if the two knew while writing monster hit Stuck Like Glue that the song was going to be such a relentless … “Earworm?” says Jennifer Nettles, finishing the question. “Absolutely! When we were listening to it the first few times, Kristian (Bush, Nettles’ partner in the duo) was saying, ‘This makes me nervous, and I kinda like it!’” Bush remembers: “No matter how many times I heard it, I felt like I needed to hear it again. It was like good candy. You think, ‘I want another piece.’”

Meet your new Idols: Idol’s Final Two, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, were constantly on the go, starting with a cameo on Grand Ole Opry Tuesday night and ending with surprise appearances on LP Field Saturday night (he with Josh Turner, she with Martina McBride). The two acknowledged taking in advice as they met more of their music heroes. “Mainly just the simple ‘Just be you,’” says McCreery. “Don’t let Hollywood or don’t let Nashville get to you, and I don’t plan on changing, so that’s the advice I’m going to stick to.”

Hello, Dolly! Sunday’s festivities marked superstar Dolly Parton’s return to the fan festival, signing autographs for a select group of 40 contest winners — befitting the event’s 40th anniversary — as throngs of onlookers snapped photos within Fan Fair Hall inside the Nashville Convention Center. Parton had last taken part in an autograph session at the event in its earliest days in the mid-’70s.

Are you ready for some football? At LP Field, Rascal Flatts got to thinking that the NFL’s labor standoff is causing some to consider career changes. “We’re hearing that (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell just got a label deal,” Joe Don Rooney quips. Counters Gary LeVox: “He and (Tennessee Titans owner) Bud Adams are forming a band and replacing Brooks & Dunn.”

Truly touched: No one would’ve begrudged Trace Adkins if he hadn’t appeared, given that a fire June 4 destroyed his home while he was on the road in Alaska. The gritty-voiced superstar, whose presciently titled new album Proud To Be Here arrives Aug. 2, turned first to his family to make sure they were taken care of before figuring out the professional side. “All my girls are incredibly strong women, and I knew that I was OK to fulfill all my obligations.” As for the fans, “they’ve been wonderful,” Adkins says. “Just the outpouring of generosity and sympathy and well-wishes has just been overwhelming.”

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