I was not about to ask the country artists who walked the red carpet at Sunday’s (April 15) ACM Awards who they were wearing.
Instead, we talked about what they were thinking.
Because while the vibe in Las Vegas is usually one of carefree celebration, this year was different; especially for anyone with ties to country music. It’s been less than seven months since the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival that left 58 people dead and 851 injured.
So as the artists were on their way into the show, they stopped to tell me how they felt about the 2018 awards weekend and how it compared to ACMs in the past. Here’s what they had to say:
Jake OwenJason Kempin/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM
“Everybody’s coming together, and stronger than ever. I don’t mean that in a cliché way. I think everybody understands what our job is now, more than ever. Before, we knew we were singers. We knew we sang songs for people on Friday and Saturday nights. But now we have to do more; we have to go forward every night, doing this in honor of those who lost their lives, and also for those who are walking into concerts every night. It’s our job to make sure they are happy and smiling and singing along and safe. This isn’t rocket science. We aren’t gonna change the world overnight. But with good music every night, we are showing people how much we care.”
Chris JansonMichael Tran/FilmMagic
“This year, I think, has had the best vibe ever. From little moments — like the way people have been showing up at the shows this weekend in droves — to the way the fans have a new sense of camaraderie and love about them. Even when we pulled up to the carpet here, it was very humbling. You can’t keep these fans down, no matter what. That’s the beauty of country music.”
Jennifer NettlesTommaso Boddi/Getty Images
“I think there is an appropriate level of awareness and of ceremony. This is almost everyone’s first time back here, and so there’s also a wonderful tone of healing. And of celebrating who we are as a community in country music.”
“I love that people are really starting to expect music to do the healing that it’s supposed to do. Because you can expect a lot from music, and it will never ever let you down.”
Granger SmithEmma Mcintyre/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM
“From last year to this year, I think the ACMs mean more. In a positive way. I feel nothing today but uplifting vibes. And that heightens the awareness of our understanding that tomorrow is not guaranteed. We only have today. We all need to remember that in a business that puts the next album, the next single, and the next show up on a pedestal, we have to know that today is the only thing we can control. The fans and their passion for the music have fueled the dream I’ve had ever since I was a little boy. It’s because of them that I get to be here on this carpet. So to see them threatened in that way is similar to a father seeing his family in danger.”
Scotty McCreeryTommaso Boddi/Getty Images
“This weekend has been the most I’ve ever seen country music come together. And coming together out of love. Everyone here is carrying on the conversation. Country music is a family, and now that family is stronger than ever, more connected than ever. And we all want the fans to know that we are still here for them.”
Russell DickersonMichael Loccisano/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM
“What I’ve seen this weekend in Vegas is a humble respect for every single person affected by it. I don’t think it has changed things in a negative way: everyone is stronger together and bonded closer together because of this. You realize what matters in life. And that we have to support each other, always. You never know what tomorrow is going to bring. There is no time to hate on each other or put each other down. Everyone has to support everyone.”
Walker HayesEmma Mcintyre/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM
“This sad, sad thing that happened in Vegas was one of the closest tragedies to hit home. A lot of bad things may happen in the world, and you hear about them on the news, but this has affected so many of us so much. But tonight, you can feel the camaraderie, the unity and the pride. And there’s a sense of not taking nights like this–or any other show–for granted. Walking off the stage and knowing that everybody’s alright matters more than ever now. We will never forget what a blessing it is for us to still do this.”
Lindsay EllMichael Tran/FilmMagic
“It’s the first time so many of us have even been back to Vegas since Route 91. So you definitely feel a little bit of heaviness in the air, because when something happens to one of us in country music, it hurts all of us. We take it as a family. I think it’s been a special weekend to be here, because it’s all about being Vegas Strong, banding together, and proving that we cannot let one person ruin the experience of live music and the sacredness of entertaining that we all hold near and dear.”
Midland’s Cameron DuddyTommaso Boddi/Getty Images
“We go out and play music for you guys seven nights a week so that we can forget about our nine to five jobs. Once you introduce fear into that equation, things go sideways. I do believe that country music is stronger and bigger than that. We need to persevere. We need to spread happiness and positivity.”
An all-new CMT Hot 20 Countdown, airing Saturday and Sunday (April 21-22) at 9 a.m. ET, will have more on all the action from the ACMs Las Vegas.