Entertainment, On A High Note

A Nashville Newcomer reflects on CMA Fest experience

CMA Music Festival is one of the biggest events to hit Nashville all year. I was lucky enough to cover this year’s festival as both a reporter for Sports & Entertainment Nashville and fan of country music, marking my first time attending the event. It’s the ultimate experience for any lover of country music, making it an essential experience for a Nashville newcomer.

Carrie Underwood performing at the 2016 CMA Fest in Nashville. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Carrie Underwood performing at the 2016 CMA Fest in Nashville. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Attending CMA Fest is a whirlwind experience, one that throws you into the world of today’s country music, along with thousands of other likeminded fans who are all more than thrilled to revel in country music’s best. The blazing heat didn’t stop the more than 80,000 fans from thoroughly enjoying the multi-day event full of excitement and music as far as the ear can hear. There is no shortage of entertainment, whether you’re catching a show at one of the outdoor stages or finding yourself enamored by an interview with some of country music’s biggest stars.

As both a fan and reporter, I particularly enjoyed the Q&As with artists Hillary Scott and Eric Paslay, which shed light on their careers and provided fans with a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the process of making music. I was fascinated to learn the story behind Lady Antebellum’s hit “American Honey” (which is also one of Hillary’s favorite songs by the band) and watch her and her family captivate the packed crowd with their incredible new gospel music.

One of the most standout elements I noticed is its accessibility. With numerous stages all across downtown, the festival puts you front and center to some of the best acts in country music. Only in Nashville can you see stars like Lindsay Ell and Kelsea Ballerini charming young fans at the Radio Disney Country stage and then watch them perform at larger venues later in the festival. A personal favorite venue was that of the Riverfront Stafe, which featured everyone from today’s hottest up and comers like Old Dominion and Cam to old-time favorites like Phil Vassar and Neal McCoy.

Sam Hunt performing at CMA Fest in Nashville, Tenn. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Sam Hunt rocks Nissan Stadium at the 2016 CMA Fest. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

But perhaps the greatest gift CMA Fest provides to country music fans is that it introduces us to some of the genre’s most promising up and coming acts. I was highly impressed by Natalie Stovall, who truly wowed the crowd when performing at Bobby Bones and The Raging Idiots & The Wonderful Women of Country, showcasing her captivating skills on the fiddle and her ability to engage with her fellow performers on stage and the audience. LOCASH and Old Dominon really worked the crowd with their performances at the Riverfront Stage, as fans sang along to familiar tunes, while enthusiastically learning some new ones.

It’s not everyday that you get to see a variety of talented artists performing in all in one place, but that is precisely what CMA Fest offers. Whether an artist or a fan, everyone in attendance appeared to be having a genuinely good time, not wanting the music to end. While an exhausting four days, CMA Fest also provides four of the most thrilling days of the year. There’s nothing quite like seeing several of your favorite country music stars performing with the backdrop of downtown Nashville, singing their biggest hits to a sea full of fans who are loving every minute of it.

To get a taste of the excitement of CMA Fest, be sure to check out the special “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” airing tonight at 8 pm on ABC.