If you missed the CMA Music Festival in Nashville last month, you’re in luck – ABC’s CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock is mere weeks away, and it packs the festival’s four days of phenomenal music into one unforgettable three-hour television event.
With excitement for the show mounting, we caught up with superstar co-host Brett Eldredge for the inside scoop. Plus we talked about life on the road, his Snapchat shenanigans, and more.
Get to know Brett, then put Country’s Night to Rock on your calendar for August 3 on ABC.
What: CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock
When: Wednesday, Aug. 3 (8:00-11:00 p.m./ET) on ABC
Performers: Chris Stapleton, Hank Williams, Jr., Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Justine Moore, Chris Janson, Eric Church, Kelsea Ballerini, Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line, Steven Tyler, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, Thomas Rhett, Chris Young, Cole Swindell, Carrie Underwood, Cam, Lady Antebellum, Cassadee Pope, Elle King, Pharrell Williams, Maren Morris, Martina McBride, and Keith Urban.
Ticketmaster: Tell us about hosting the CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock – was it an epic experience or what?
Brett: I’ve been playing CMA Fest since before I signed my first record deal. I’ve been playing it for eight years, and I’ve played everything from a small stage with an acoustic guitar and ten people in the crowd to playing the river across from the stadium. I finally got to play in the stadium last year, and after that they called Thomas Rhett and me and asked how we felt about hosting together. So I’ve literally been through every stage, and getting to host is just the cherry on top right there.
There are so many people that come to the event it’s mind-blowing. Nashville turns into the craziest country music party: down every street and side street, everywhere you go it’s a culture of country music that’s so cool. To host every night in front of all those thousands of people is just insane, because you’re hyping up a crowd. I know how to hype up a crowd when I’m playing a show, but now we get to hype up a crowd just by talking to them – that was a whole different experience, but it was amazing. We were interviewing all these different artists who are good friends of ours. For a country music fan, literally every artist was there.
Ticketmaster: You and co-host Thomas Rhett are former tour mates, and you clearly have a good time together. Tell us a bit about your history and how hosting with him compared to being on tour together.
Brett: It all started when we did a Zaxby’s Chicken commercial together in the South. We were buddies before that, but we’ve become really good buddies since doing that. You could see that our personalities connected so well on camera – as they do off camera – and we just have fun together. We love shooting commercials together, we love being on stage together, we love singing together. It’s a lot of pressure to have all these people staring at you when you’re on camera, and when you have somebody that you’re really comfortable with like Thomas Rhett to do all that with, it’s really great. We’re always rooting each other on and poking fun at each other when we screw up. We’re in it together.
Ticketmaster: You guys perform together on the show. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Was it your first collaboration?
Brett: We did a couple songs together, but we both did our own sets at the festival too. When we tour together we get up on stage every night and sing together. He sang on “You Can’t Stop Me” from my album Illinois, and we would sing that every night at the end of the show. We would also do a bunch of covers together and tell stories, and he’d give me crap on stage about trying to find the right girl. We’d tell this whole story through songs, he’d end up telling me that I’m a real bad boy but I’m a good man. We’d just kind of tell a whole story and make it theatrical but fun and real.
Ticketmaster: Was it hard to juggle hosting with performing?
Brett: Thomas Rhett and I had crazy schedules around CMA Fest. We both had shows in different states going on at the same time, so we’d go play a show and then book it back to Nashville to host another night. It was just mass chaos until that moment when I got to go on stage and then everything was just like, ahhh. And Thomas was back stage goofing around and we were just trying to make it fun. Nobody should take anything too seriously at all in life, in my opinion. I think you should laugh at the good along with the bad and just have fun with everything.
Ticketmaster: Judging from the promo clips for the show and your Snapchat presence, it seems like you’re born to do this kind of thing – do you want to do more hosting and TV gigs in the future?
Brett: I get a high from being on stage when I’m performing. There’s no other high in the world like when I get on stage. And the only other thing that comes close is being in front of the camera and turning on that excitement and getting people excited and moved to do something and laugh. That’s another kind of performance that I just love. I definitely see myself getting more into that stuff in the future, and definitely into acting as well. I want to try it all. I have a major fear of not being able to try everything in my life and see everything in the world that I can see and play for everybody that I can play for – at least to say I tried it.
You performed at CMA Music Fest before you were big, and now you’re hosting the special on ABC. Did you see any rising acts this year you think might be hosting the show someday?
Brett: I really thought it was cool when Elle King came out with Dierks [Bentley]. She’s not necessarily a country artist but she plays banjo and definitely has a lot of country roots, and I just thought it was really cool to see her style. She’s got a really cool voice and it mixes really well on that song with Dierks. I thought she was really impressive.
Ticketmaster: Were there any other performers who knocked your socks off this year?
Brett: I always love Carrie Underwood, she’s just amazing. I think her vocals are just so mind-blowing. I don’t know how she gets up there and belts it out every night, but it’s really impressive and inspiring to watch her do her thing. And people just lose their minds when they see her. I think it’s cool to see her go out there and rule the stage, she owns every single inch of that stage, and that’s awesome. I was really impressed with her show.
Ticketmaster: You’re on tour right now with Keith Urban. How’s it going so far? Any crazy stories from the road?
Brett: We’re riding down the highway in Ohio right now actually, heading to the next show. We’re about six weeks into it, and man it’s just been such an easy and relaxed time. The vibe here is so good and Keith creates such a good environment, it’s easy to get up there and do your thing. I believe in the top-down system where you hire the best and nicest and most inspiring people. If everybody else wants to be there, you want to be there even more. I want to run my team just like Keith Urban has, so I’m learning a lot out here.
Getting up on stage with him I get to run through the crowd with him, and I’ve never had people quite grab me the way they grab me running through the crowd with Keith, because people are just going nuts. One time Keith dropped his microphone and we were just ad-libbing, he started singing about dropping his microphone and then I started singing about him dropping his microphone, and funny stuff like that. We do it every night but it’s still just mass insanity every night in the most beautiful way because you realize how excited people are to be there and how much fun we’re having because they’re giving us the opportunity to go up there and perform and do what we love.
Ticketmaster: Sounds like you’re having a blast. Do you ever get homesick or tired of touring?
Brett: No not really, I’ve gotten so used to it over the years that I usually get home for a few days and I’m like – ok, what do I do now? I’m kind of out of my routine, I have to get back on the road and do my thing. So I definitely enjoy being out on the road. My band and my crew are my family, and a lot of times my real family actually comes out and visits as well, so I usually get to be right at home. On a tour bus or whatever city I’m in, I’m home.
Ticketmaster: People love you on Snapchat. What’s the best thing you Snapped at the festival this year?
Brett: Thomas and I were wearing these glasses that cover your eyes and look like fake eyes on top of your eyes. I don’t really know how to explain them, but they were disguises and they had these crazy eyelashes, they kind of look real and creepy and it freaks you out cuz these eyes are sticking out of your head. So I got some behind-the-scenes video of that and I was Snapping those.
There were tons of fans waiting outside, but we were running behind schedule so I wasn’t going to have time to stop and take pictures. So I thought, they’ll get a kick out of this if I put these glasses on and pretend I’m in disguise, but my fans know me so well that they’ll know it’s me. So I go outside and they’re looking like, “What the heck is that guy doing,” and then they figured out it was me and it was hilarious. I’m usually just goofing off in every way I can.
Ticketmaster: What’s on your personal playlist right now? Anything essential fans should know about?
Brett: I listen to a lot of Americana stuff, and lately I’ve been listening to this guy named Rayland Baxter. He’s got a lot of great stuff – Imaginary Man is the name of his new record – and top-to-bottom it’s just great, well-written songs that have a lot of soul to them, a lot of heart. And they’re very unique. He’s got his own thing, and I love any artist that I can turn on and know their voice right away and feel like it speaks to my soul in a way that nobody has spoken to my soul before. That’s the kind of artist I want to be, and I love to find other artists like that.
Ticketmaster: Which emoji best describes your personal style?
Brett: ? I’d say the face with tears of laughter coming out, because I try to find at least one point in every day where I’m laughing to the point where I’m crying. We get slaphappy on the road and hilarious stuff just happens, and I think the laugh-till-you-cry emoji pretty much sums me up.
Ticketmaster: Any future plans to work with Thomas Rhett? Can we expect the Brett and Rhett show on TV anytime soon?
We did the Suits and Boots Tour, and that was a big success – it was our first co-headlining tour together. We haven’t put anything on the books yet, but I can almost guarantee that we’ll be up to something in the next couple of years. We just have too much fun doing this stuff. I really respect him and his music, and I believe he feels the same way about me to the point where we both just really enjoy working together. And if he doesn’t feel the same way he’s just going to have to put up with me until he quits [laughs].
Ticketmaster: Your latest single is currently climbing the charts, can you tell us more about it?
Brett: My single right now is “Wanna Be That Song” and it’s definitely my favorite song I’ve ever written. I feel this will be my biggest one yet judging from the reaction I’ve gotten playing it out on the road, it’s just a special song. I shot the music video at Wrigley Field – the first-ever music video at Wrigley Field actually – and that was an amazing experience. It just came out, and I got to debut the video at Wrigley Field on the big screens and throw the first pitch and all of that. Everything’s really coming together with this song and I’m just excited for it to be my single and continue to show the world how to fall in love through songs. This is the way I portray love – through music – and that’s why it’s called “Wanna Be That Song.”
Ticketmaster: What’s next for you after the tour?
Brett: I’m writing right now, every week, always preparing for albums three, and four, and five, and six, and seven. I have a few songs that I recorded for my last album that I held for album three because I thought they’d fit album three better. I’ve got songs for album four that I just wrote recently. I never stop trying to be inspired and chase down this crazy dream and take it all the places I want to take it. I want to take it all around the world, I want to play thousands of different stages and make new fans and meet new people. I just love music, and as long as people are showing up in the crowd, I’m a happy man doing what I always dreamed of lying there as a kid staring up at the ceiling thinking, oh man, what if I get to be up on a big stage singing in front of thousands of people. And now I get to be that guy, and I don’t want to stop that anytime soon.