“That’s always the hard thing — to take what you do on the road and then apply it to an awards show,” he said during rehearsals for the CMT Music Awards show airing live Wednesday (June 4) at 8 p.m. ET. “On the road, you’re out there, and you do the same thing every night. And it kind of gets you prepped to go, and you’re out singing for an hour and a-half. Here, you have 3 minutes and 40 seconds to get in that same spot.”
No stranger to awards shows, Bentley says the concept of CMT’s annual event sets it apart from other productions.
“What I love about the CMT Awards is it just feels like there are risks and chances being taken — different collaborations,” he said. “It’s sort of on the forefront of just trying to just go for stuff. You’re always gonna see some surprises and people from different genres of music popping in. It feels really young, and it’s a lot of fun. I love being a part of it and just being surprised.”
This year, Bentley and OneRepublic are nominated for CMT performance of the year for their collaboration on “Counting Stars” from an episode of CMT Crossroads.
“That, in itself, was one of the coolest things in my career for me personally,” Bentley said of working with the rock band. “I just loved that.
“This is all about the fans. I live for our live show and our connection with our fans and that connection. And this is one of the only awards show where they’re the ones deciding who wins what. It’s really a fan-centered awards show, which makes it special.
As for preparing for his performance on the CMT Music Awards, Bentley says it will be business as usual for him and his band.
“We try to keep the same traditions — a few red Solo cups and some music and a preshow huddle and a prayer — and go out there and try to hit it like it’s the middle of the show,” he said. “Not like it’s our first song, but with our guns blazing and try to get all the energy we can and make it as fun for those fans as possible.
“Long story short — tequila.”