OFFSTAGE: Backstage at the CMA Awards With Keith Urban and Faith Hill

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Watching the CMA Awards rehearsals is the gift that just keeps on giving. And one that I’m honored to say is part of my job. I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch country’s finest run through their performance three or four times? Or whatever it takes to get it perfect. Seeing Faith Hill belt out her new “American Heart,” dressed down in an casual oversized turtleneck, cuffed skinny jeans and glittery sky high sling backs, proved to me that her voice is really what makes her so beautiful. Then sitting in the empty arena watching Keith Urban sing his half of his duet with Zac Brown (who wasn’t there, for some reason) and play the hell out of his guitar, only taking one short break to chat on his cell phone. Then listening in on Brad Paisley‘s performance — which has some elements that are too secret to talk about — made me go hashtag crazy with things like #lovemyjob, #inpaisleyszone and #sittinginhisseat.

Then as I was leaving, reluctantly, I took a quick tour of the artist’s gift lounge in the Bridgestone Arena. Artists can just kind of roam around and shop the booths they have set up with the most amazing giveaways. My predictions for the gifts that will be snatched up the fastest: the big red box of Sephora Favorites, the Unwined Candles made from recycled wine bottles, Devicewear cases for the iPhone 5, Hick Chick baseball caps, Rosy Toes knit hats and b.belle couture baby cowboy boots. Those were so cute, in fact, that can someone please make sure Jennifer Nettles and Jake Owen each grab at least one pair of those?

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.