Does any other genre of music besides country have a week dedicated solely to its loyal fanbase?
We pondered this question aloud during our last conversation with Michael Ray, and both agreed, “Nope.” Country music is the big one, if not the only one.
For Ray, it’s because no other genre places such a value on fan connection quite like country music does.
“I think country music and the artists in it are the best at making that connection, one on one with fans,” the singer told CMT.com.
“Country music is fans. It’s why we have CMA Fest. No other genre has a week where you take a week out of the year to have fans come to your backyard from all over the world just to say thanks and make it their week.”
And it’s a really beautiful idea, if you think about it. Fans who flock to Nashville every year during the first week of June get a chance to get up close and personal with all their favorite artists during more intimate shows, meet-and-greets, and fan club parties. The fan-centric CMT Music Awards kick off the festivities and they’re open to the public for voting and attendance. It’s all about access—you can be right in the middle of all the action and feel like a star yourself.
Artists love it, because they know that without these dedicated followers, they wouldn’t have careers. Of course, they want to say, “Thank you.”
“I think that’s why you have these artists with such longevity like Kenny Chesney and George Strait and all these others,” Ray said. “In any of our careers, it’s fan-discovered first. They find it, they get the music and it’s their passion to be at the concert and to spread the word. So, I think CMA Fest and a week to say ‘thank you’ is why we all have such longevity.”
CMA Fest is sold out this year, but there are many shows and showcases happening throughout the festival that are open to the public and free, including the Chevy Riverfront Stage along the Cumberland’s Riverfront Park, where Ray is among those on the lineup.
CMT Crossroads will also tape an exciting episode on June 5th at 8:30 p.m. CT with Luke Combs and soul singer Leon Bridges that will be open to fans—but you’ll want to get there early. Gates open at 7 p.m. and this event on the corner of 5th and Demonbreun is first-come, first-served and standing room only.