Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood Return to Co-Host “The CMA Awards”
By Deborah Evans Price
© 2011 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
As Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood prepare to host the CMA Awards for the fourth consecutive year, they’ve learned to expect the unexpected.
“You just keep it moving and you always have a job to do no matter what happens,” said Underwood.
The longtime friends, who scored a No. 1 hit this year with the duet “Remind Me” (written by Paisley, Chris DuBois and Kelley Lovelace), have learned to roll with the punches in juggling their hosting duties. They’ve also both become more acutely aware of the ticking of the clock.
“I had 40 seconds to change my entire outfit,” Underwood recalled of one particularly tight wardrobe change during the 2010 CMA Awards.
“She didn’t make it in rehearsal,” Paisley interjected. “She was a minute late.”
“My zipper busted in rehearsal,” Underwood explained. “I was like, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll make it work. I’ll make it.’”
And she did. She substituted another dress and the millions watching the ABC live telecast would never have known a stressful rehearsal had preceded the flawless live show.
As the three-hour broadcast neared its end, Underwood and Paisley experienced a new challenge, rarely heard of during an awards show. “We were two minutes under going into Entertainer of the Year,” Paisley said of the unexpected surplus on the clock.
“That part is scary,” admitted Underwood. “That never happens. You’re never under. You’re always over.”
“If whoever gets it just gives a minute speech, you have a minute to kill,” recalled Paisley of the discussion backstage.
“And that sounds like nothing, but a minute in TV Land is forever,” Underwood said.
Paisley nodded his head in agreement. “You can only tap dance for so long before someone changes the channel.”
The time problem was happily solved when Paisley was named Entertainer. “Luckily someone was very long winded in his speech,” he said with a grin.
Sitting in a Franklin, Tenn. recording studio, Underwood and Paisley demonstrated the easy camaraderie and playfulness during the interview that made them such a winning combination as co-hosts. “I love doing it and we’re having a great time, so I hope everybody else is,” said Paisley, who has earned 14 CMA Awards, including three consecutive Male Vocalist accolades (2007-2009).
“I look forward to that moment when we go out there to deliver the monologue,” he continued. “That’s really the thing that we spend the most time on in weeks prior. Garrison Keillor said something to me once when I went to see a production with him in New York City. He said, ‘One of my favorite moments in life is when the lights go down in the theater,’ and it’s like that. It feels like the highest stakes moment in the year for Country Music, as you hear Paul Miller’s voice, the director, say ‘Two minutes to show,’ and those lights go down.”
“It’s like a nice date,” Underwood said of the event. “I love everyone getting dressed up. I think it’s really nice seeing most of the guys cleaned up and looking good and the girls all pretty. It’s just a nice date that we’re all on together.”
Underwood has developed a reputation for being one of the best-dressed artists and her multiple wardrobe changes during the show are eagerly anticipated by viewers. “This year I’ve already decided I’m going to take a slightly different approach,” said Underwood, a five-time CMA Award winner, including three consecutive Female Vocalist titles (2006-2008). “This is going to be a different direction. I want this year to feel different. When I look at pictures, I want to know ‘That’s from year four,’ so I’ve got some ideas in mind.
Underwood and Paisley have distinct skills they bring to their hosting duties. “Brad is quick witted. He does a lot in the preparation stages as well,” said Underwood, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications at Oklahoma’s Northeastern State University. “I can deliver the news. I can say, ‘Next up.’ But Brad is quick. He’s good on his feet and he contributes a lot in the planning stages, a lot of ideas and stuff for gags and things like that.”
“She does too,” Paisley interjected. “Some of the greatest things we’ve ever had, like last year she said, ‘What if you sang Lady Gaga?’ Then the year before that there was this discussion: ‘Who do you want to talk about in the monologue?’ I said, ‘We’d love to mention Tim (McGraw) and Faith (Hill), but we just don’t know how.’ And Carrie said, ‘They both have fragrances.’ She has the best ideas of anybody.”
Both Paisley and Underwood enjoy the collaborative process on the road to Country Music’s Biggest Night. “I appreciate that it’s a team effort,” said Underwood. “Everybody brings their ideas. Nobody is telling us what we can or can’t do. We come with ideas and they do too and we kind of mesh all of it together. We’re all working towards the same goal, so it’s not like somebody says, ‘Read this and this is all you can do.’ We tell them why things won’t work and they tell us why things won’t or will work and come up with the show.”
“It’s a great team of people,” adds Paisley. “(Executive Producer) Robert Deaton is a tremendous guy, a good friend of mine now and so talented. Paul Miller has directed everything over the years and he’s smart and sharp. David Wild, who writes the show, is a well-respected musical writer in many circles. (Paisley and Wild co-authored the book Diary of a Player, scheduled to release Nov. 1.) It’s a great team of people who have become like family to us and Vicki Dummer (Senior VP, Current Series and Specials, ABC Entertainment Group) and Mark Bracco (VP, ABC Entertainment Group), who come into town work so hard on it as well. It’s neat how many people can get involved and really do put their iron in their fire and say, ‘Here’s some things that I think could benefit the show.’ I love the process.”
“The 44th Annual CMA Awards,” hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood for the fourth consecutive year, will broadcast live on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7-10 PM/CT on the ABC Television Network.