Backstage Vibe at the CMA Awards

Rehearsals Are Everywhere I Want to Be

It’s stressful. It’s intense. It’s loud. It’s dark. It’s secretive. And there’s no place I’d rather be.

Because, obviously, it’s also full of country music. That’s the backstage experience at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena while our whole world gets ready for the CMA Awards .

Who wouldn’t want a glimpse into the world of artists trying to get their performances just right?

I’ve been lucky enough to sit in on the CMA Awards rehearsals, so I know exactly how great the show’s going to be Wednesday night (Nov. 5). There’s no way I’m going to give away any big reveals — and be scorned by readers who hate spoilers — but I will say this:

There will be banjo. More banjo than you’d probably expect in 2014.

There will be mandolin. Which momentarily steals the spotlight from an inebriated guy on an aircraft.

There will be artists having love affairs with their guitars.

And there will be a smaller stage behind the last row of floor seats.

Just watching folks like Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley and others get ready for a show this big makes me adore this genre even more. They’re all hell bent on getting it just right. There’s no casual, let’s-just-wing-it attitudes here. They perform a song. Discuss it. Tweak it. Perform. Discuss. Tweak. Perform. Discuss. Tweak. Until it’s showtime, and it’s perfect.

Side note on seating: As much as you want to keep your eyes on the stage, please take time to scan the audience for the chemistry between some unlikely pairings. During rehearsals, the seats are marked to show who will be sitting where, and you have to wonder what Jason Aldean and Steven Tyler will talk about sitting across the aisle from each other. Or Hunter Hayes and Meghan Trainor. Or Jake Owen and Connie Britton. Or Luke Bryan and Faith Hill. If I could sit down there with the stars, I’d be eavesdropping all night long.

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