Sunday’s (Nov. 12) Country Rising benefit in Nashville showed that philanthropy is the heart of the country music community.
The sold-out concert at the Bridgestone Arena featured live performances by Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Jon Pardi, Chris Stapleton, George Strait and Keith Urban.
Aldean said during his set, “It’s been a rough couple months for us up here, and it’s a lot of fun to get back out and play for the people who matter, which is you guys. I love getting up every day and playing music, and I’ll be damned if anybody out there will ever stop me from doing that.”
The Country Rising: Downtown Jam at the nearby Ascend Amphitheater hosted additional sets by Tucker Beathard, Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots, Bailey Bryan, Lindsay Ell, Chris Janson, Eric Paslay, Carly Pearce and Drake White. Carrie Underwood was part of the initial Bridgestone Arena lineup, but she had to cancel her performance after breaking her wrist in a fall.
Sunday’s benefit raised more than $4 million. The total reflects a $250,000 donation from Chris and Morgane Stapleton, ticket sales from two Garth Brooks shows in Spokane, WA and a $100,000 from Dollar General. Proceeds will support victims of September’s deadly hurricanes and the massacre at Las Vegas’ Route 91 Harvest music festival through the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s (CFMT) Country Rising Fund. Donations are still being accepted online through the CFMT ’s website and via text by texting “NASHVILLE” to 41010.
Backstage at the Bridgestone Arena, CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown interviewed Bentley, Hunt and Lady Antebellum about their involvement in the cause. Each act discussed philanthropy in country music and the importance of giving back to their fans.
“To get into this genre, I think it’s mandatory that philanthropy has to be part of your DNA or it quickly becomes that way because those that have come before us have made that such a priority,” Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott said. “And it’s one of the most rewarding parts of what we get to do as artists — using our platform and our voices to raise awareness for important causes.”
The Country Rising benefit was Bentley’s first performance since the tragedy at the Route 91 festival. After the shooting, Bentley flew to Las Vegas to perform for hospital staffers and 250 first responders.
“It was really powerful just to hanging out with folks who have basically been in a war zone,” Bentley said. “These are tough people who have seen a lot of things. And I heard a lot of stories, and I got the chance to talk to people, hug people and just talk about the whole situation.
“I just needed to see Vegas. That town is so important to us. I’ve spent so much time out there. That’s where I re-met my wife, and we got engaged in Las Vegas at the end of that year. It was just really important to me to be out there.”
Hunt said he believes it’s the responsibility of every American to not become complacent or desensitized by the coverage of the recent natural disasters and mass shootings.
“We obviously have to push forward,” he said. “It’s hard to make sense of the insanity that sometimes motivates evil, but it seems like a lot of times our sense of security is the No. 1 target.
“And I’ll be honest, the day after that [the shooting at the festival] I don’t normally look over my shoulder or think twice about going anywhere in my neighborhood or beyond. But that day, it did affect me a little bit. And I made a decision when I felt that for the first time that I wasn’t going to let anyone take that from us. I just made it a point to keep that sense of security in tact, keep moving forward and try to be an example for those people who have been affected in the same way.”
Full interviews with Bentley, Hunt and Lady Antebellum from Sunday’s (Nov. 12) Country Rising benefit will be featured on an all-new CMT Hot 20 Countdown airing Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 18-19) at 9 a.m. ET.
Here are pictures of the Country Rising show: