On Sunday evening (April 15th), some of the biggest stars of country music in Las Vegas gather for the 53th Academy of Country Music Awards. Billboard participated in rehearsals for the show that fly at CBS at 8:00 ET live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and talked to several artists about the event, their performance and how this year will be different from other.
What makes ACM awards so special:
Jason Aldean: It's Vegas. It's just something that seems really cool about the show. It's not stiff, it's a bit looser. You are close to L.A., so you never know who will appear. There may be someone. It's always fun for me to be like, "That's Matthew McConaughey, there's Vince Vaughan!" I've met a lot of people out there and become friends with some of them. You never know who you're going to run in here out.
Thomas Rhett: It's a part of me that feels like it's more of a relaxed environment. Even wearing it, I feel like I can be a little looser and wear different things. When you enter the environment, the environment is very relaxed and everyone has a good stress-free time. ACM has always been one of my favorite times of the year.
Dierks Bentley : Vegas is important. I got engaged here. I met my wife here at a George Strait concert. I've had a lot of personal affiliation with Vegas.
The ACMs are the first major country event in Las Vegas since October 1
Aldean: It will always be a bit strange here , but I was excited to come here for ACM and be here with all my friends and hang out with the country music community. I think that coming back as part of a collective unit with the country music industry makes it a little easier.
Rhett: It is very different this year. When I went up to talk with [festival survivors who attended Rhett’s rehearsal] I was like "What do I say they did not hear a hundred times?" Are you sitting there and saying, "We pray for you," that sort of thing? I just loved listening to them. It is obviously very sad, but so many people say that the incident united so many people and that love came through all the darkness. I can not even imagine what was in their heads so they would be there and hang with them for a second and hearing their stories was such a highlight for me.
Darius Rucker: The prize show is great, but this is the first time we have been here since October is even more special. I was not [at Route 91] but Jason [Aldean’s] one of my best friends. I know a lot of guys who were there. There is no one in Nashville who did not know anyone who was there. We want to come here and honor the people who suffered from it. It's so sad, but we have to come back and show that we are strong in the country. Vegas is Vegas strong. We will not let things stop us from being the best we can be.
Bentley: ACMs are known to be the most fun award-winning show. We all come to Vegas to party. How do we still honor these fans and their families? Reba [McEntire] is the perfect person to host her fun, she knows how to work a room, she is a professional actress but she has a warm embrace. She is the queen in some ways, she is a still hand on the shooter when we go through a turbulent time here … This is a great way to test the scene for what ACM will be because it can not go back to what it be before … when we are a few hundred yards away from one of the worst massacres in the country's history. We need to find a way to have fun, but reflect on what is still a new situation for many of our fans.
On their ACM Awards performance:
Rhett: With "Marry Me", I just wanted to tell the story of what I think my life would have been if I did not have the confidence to go up to [wife] Lauren and tell her that I basically fell in love with her since the seventh grade church camps.
Miranda Lambert : It's only time for me to do "Flammar's keeper." It's an end to the journey of this record and a journey in my life for the last three years. The feeling is, these amazing women – one of your heroes – flared a track. I wear a Jessi Colter sweater. I'm playing a guitar signed by Loretta Lynn. I think about why the reason I can even stand here and talk to you is that these women were brave. I want people to understand the purpose of the song: it's not about getting any glory. It's about how I can not believe I'll keep the torch right now, but I can not wait to send it on. I'm really just humble to be here and work with this career and live my dream and it's due to other women.
Rucker: This is the first time I play "For the first time" on a TV show. It's good to play for your peers. You listen to the radio and you know what the songs are, but you'll never see them play live except these shows. Trying to impress them is always a good thing. You look down and see someone on his phone (19459003) laughing ).
Bentley: "Woman, Amen" [is] A personal love song. It's a song about my wife. With this achievement [which highlights several inspiring women] … I just want to find a way to use social media to dig deeper. We have used social media to hear stories … These are stories of a grandmother's country that woke you up or a daughter who made a difference in your life. Everyone sent via social media and we searched through and picked up a handful that came on stage via video with me tonight.
Rhett [up for six awards]: I'll take something, but this year's album is gritty, in addition to entertainers. Entertainer is on my bucket list one day.
Lambert [Up for four awards, including ninth consecutive female vocalist]: "I have butterflies [when the best female vocalist winner is announced]. It's hard and it's not too weak in the heart and one of us deserves to win." I say Carrie Underwood is one of the best songs all the time and she's I'm a big fan of Maren [Morris] everyone in the category. I'm happy to still be in the category. I feel there are really people who validate what you do, it's "we see you" but it's okay if i do not win.
On No Female Artist Nominated For Underwriter of the Year:
Lambert: Yes, I'm sick of that shit. ass for many years, so is carrie so i'm pretty ready to change. i hoped they would let me introduce that price so i could say something about it but i do not think they will let me down. Carrie and I will just run there and start dancing. We'll fix it I'll just keep my nose to the grindstone until it's changed.