Luke Bryan Loves the Spontaneous Moments of ‘CMA Fest’ TV Special
When you tune into the CMA Fest: The Music Event of Summer TV special on Aug. 4, Luke Bryan will be tuning in, too. The country star says he watches the show each year, hoping that his latest single will be featured. Still, he admits that some of the best TV comes from the festival's little surprises and impromptu moments.
"One of my favorite TV moments I've ever had was when Keith [Urban] came out and did a cameo in "Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin' Every Day" [in 2016]. We'd rehearsed it, but we embellished it even more onstage that night," Bryan recalled backstage at Nissan Stadium. "I had wondered, would [executive producer] Robert [Deaton], for the purpose of TV, edit some of it and chop it up? But he used the whole thing.
"I remember when I watched that moment go down ... I thought, 'This may be the best thing I've ever been a part of on TV,'" he adds with a laugh.
Bryan knows firsthand how tricky it is to create great television. A seasoned performer who also serves as a judge on American Idol, he is keenly aware of what a broad range of people he can reach through the screen, and he works hard to earn his viewers' attention.
"You gotta give 'em something to make 'em stay tuned in. That's always been my approach when I get TV moments, is just to never mail those in," the singer explains. "They're very, very important for country music, and they're obviously important for my brand. When people watch me on TV, [if they like the performance, they'll be like], 'Ooh, I'm gonna go buy a ticket, because I wanna see two hours of that.'"
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In the case of this particular special, grabbing the audiences' attention was particularly important. Getting people interested in the 2019 iteration of CMA Fest means potentially selling more tickets in 2020, thereby increasing the donations the festival can provide to benefit music education programs across the country. The artists who participate at the annual festival do so each year for free, in order to raise money for the CMA Foundation.
"I think when you look at what the CMA has been able to do, with giving back to the schools and putting instruments in kids' [hands], it's been amazing. I always think about just the growth of this week," Bryan goes on to say, recalling the early years of his career when he first participated in the event: "From when I moved to town in 2001 ... I remember my first opportunity, and they were happy to have the lower level sold out. And now? ... I don't exactly what the attendance has been this year, but I imagine they're up in the upper deck and upper levels."
Plus, he adds with a grin, anytime a festival takes place at home in Nashville, there's the convenience factor to take into account. "That's the thing: I was at my house half an hour ago!" Bryan jokes. "I drove in, got all snazzied up, and now [I get to] help the CMA and get to help a lot of other people because of it."
CMA Fest: The Music Event of Summer will air on Sunday night (Aug. 4) on ABC at 8PM ET. The three-hour even will be hosted by Kelsea Ballerini and Thomas Rhett.
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