Urban, Wilson, Big & Rich Announced for CMA Music Festival

Rascal Flatts and Montgomery Gentry Also on Initial List of Participants

Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and Rascal Flatts are on the first list of acts confirmed for the 2005 CMA Music Festival taking place June 9-12 in downtown Nashville.

The announcement was made Wednesday morning (Feb. 2) during a press conference at the Country Music Association’s office on Music Row in Nashville. Assisting in making the announcement were Steve Azar, Josh Gracin, Jon Randall and Trick Pony’s Ira Dean, who will all be appearing at the festival that’s billed as “country music’s biggest party.”

Others confirmed for the festival include Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Brad Cotter, Cowboy Troy, Billy Currington, the Jenkins, Jo Dee Messina, Montgomery Gentry, LeAnn Rimes, Julie Roberts, Phil Vassar, Jimmy Wayne, Mark Wills, Darryl Worley and Michelle Wright. Additional participants will be announced in the coming months.

Up until last year, the multi-day music festival was known as Fan Fair. The Fan Fair designation now refers to the artists’ autograph sessions at the Nashville Convention Center during the CMA Music Festival.

This year will mark the first CMA Music Festival appearances for Big & Rich and their accomplice, Cowboy Troy. It’s also the first appearance for Gracin, whose career has grown quickly after being a finalist on the American Idol 2 talent competition, signing with Lyric Street Records and completing his service with the U.S. Marines just a few months ago. He’s currently enjoying a Top 10 single with “Nothin’ to Lose.”

“This has been a huge year for me,” Gracin said. “Everything’s moved kind of fast. This means the world to me. I grew up watching the Nashville scene and was always too busy with school and everything to be down here for the actual event. Now, for the first time I’m actually going to be at the event, I’m performing onstage, and that just means a whole lot to me.”

Azar, who is working on a new album with producer James Stroud, said the festival gives artists a chance to form a stronger relationship with fans.

“I’ve been playing music my whole life, always going to everybody else’s home,” he explained. “I don’t think the relationship is really complete until they come to your house. I think that’s where that bond becomes extremely important. The CMA Music Festival … completes the journey.”

Jon Randall, who is recording a new album for Sony Music Nashville, recalled that his first single hadn’t even been released when he found himself in an autograph booth at his first Fan Fair.

“They brought this other new artist in, and I thought, ’Who’s this guy?'” Randall noted. “I said, ’Hi, I’m Jon Randall,’ and he said, ’Hi, I’m Kenny Chesney. Nice to meet you.’ And the rest is history, but nobody kind of knew who we were then.

“I think that day we signed 500 or 600 autographs. People would come up and say, ’Who are you? What’s your song?’ They’d want to know all about you. Six months later, you’d run into someone on the road and they’re going, ’I met you at Fan Fair.’ … All of a sudden, you’ve got a built-in fan base.

“No other format or any other music genre has what we have with our fans. What a beautiful thing for us to kind of get together with the fans and meet them. They know what we do, and we get to know what they do.”

Although the lineups still haven’t been announced for specific shows, tickets to the CMA Music Festival are available from Ticketmaster.

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.