OFFSTAGE: Confessions of a CMT Music Awards Seat Filler

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

You’d think being a seat filler at the CMT Music Awards would be the coolest assignment a journalist could get. But, you’d be wrong. Well, half wrong. I did it at Wednesday night’s (June 5) show. And, honestly, it was exhausting. For two and a-half hours, I started to get a tiny glimpse of what it must be like to be a celebrity and have cameras on you all the time.

For a grueling half hour, I sat right behind Carrie Underwood and her husband Mike Fisher. So since the cameras were on them pretty much the whole time, I had to assume they were on me, too.

And I was under strict orders not to talk to anyone (other than telling them, “Have a great show”), so all I could do was smile, look at the stage and clap my hands. Seat fillers cannot use their cell phones either, so there was really nothing to do but sit there like a Stepford Wife until I was called to fill another seat.

Other rules I had to agree to were about what to wear (no sheer clothes or low necklines or heels higher than 2 1/2 inches) and how to act when the artist came back to his or her seat (leave promptly, do not ask for autographs and do not initiate conversation, other than the aforementioned, ’Have a great show’).

So that’s kind of the downside. But here’s the huge silver lining to that little cloud. The country artists we all love? They love each other. Not just in a fake wave-and-smile kind of way. I’m talking genuine, thrilled-to-be-together kind of way. A few moments in particular stood out to me while I was observing the stars around me.

I saw Keith Urban get down on one knee in the aisle, then realized it was to chat face to face with Dierks Bentley’s date — his 4-year-old daughter Evie. I don’t know what they talked about, but it probably had something to do with her glittery ruby slippers.

During a commercial break, Taylor Swift got out of her seat and walked (without any entourage, I might add) to the next section to talk to Kacey Musgraves for a while. She invited Musgraves and her friends to come and sit next to her in her section, which they did.

Urban was deep in conversation with Hunter Hayes. I was too far away to eavesdrop, but it looked like they were old pals having a few laughs.

Underwood sang along to nearly every song that was performed. But she really seemed to love Randy Houser’s “How Country Feels” and Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel.”

Every commercial break turned into a speedy little cocktail party. All the artists were able to move around, catch up with old friends and have a drink. (And theirs were not in plastic cups, by the way. They were allowed to have their drinks in real glasses. Oh, the perks of celebrity.)

For the couples there, it felt a little bit like date night. Brantley Gilbert, Mike Fisher and Misa Arriaga all had their arms around their respective dates — Jana Kramer, Underwood and Musgraves. Seeing that kind of romance alive and well in country music kind of made me want to write a love song.

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