Editor's note: CMT Artists of the Year premieres Friday (Dec. 3) at 8 p.m. ET.
As an Academy Award winner, actor and director Kevin Costner has mingled with Hollywood stars for more than 25 years. But now that he's devoting considerable time to writing songs and performing with his band, Kevin Costner & Modern West, he knows that contemporary country artists like Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and the Zac Brown Band are at the top of their game.
All five of those chart-topping performers will be honored at the CMT Artists of the Year special, premiering Friday (Dec. 3). Costner emceed the inaugural gala event taped earlier this week in Franklin, Tenn.
"It's an impressive group," Costner said. "This award, they didn't just find it on the side of the road, OK? It's not like these people just bumbled their way into Nashville. This is a journey. For some of them, it's been faster than others, but they all find themselves at this same spot. ... There are people that have had years like this before them. And there will be people that have had years like this after them. But this is their year."
In this red carpet interview prior to the taping, Costner talked to CMT Insider about his hosting duties, his impressions of the Nashville music community and his prayerful pre-show rituals.
CMT: Is hosting a gig like this more nerve-wracking than, say, acting or singing?
Costner: Oh miles, miles. You know, the curiosity factor's pretty high for everyone, including me, but they asked me to do it, and I said I would come try and do it ... . I think what'll happen is we're going to do the best we can. That's all anybody can do, and I think our sincerity level will be high. (laughs) How we stumble and bumble, we'll see.
You've probably got the best seat in the house, hanging out backstage with the performers. Is there anything you're looking forward to the most tonight?
I think you stay open. We leave that window of opportunity if something happens that no one anticipated. I think these are performers that have been followed and supported. The unique thing is that it's not dealing with the surprise -- the drama -- of who wins or not. There are a lot of people watching, going, "My horse is here," and they feel really good about that. It's somebody that they've watched early in their career and supported.
You've been hanging out in Nashville's music community. What's your overall impression?
Well, we've been coming for about three years, making our own way. We're a live band, and I'm always very grateful how we're treated and how I'm treated. It's always been about the music for us -- about playing live in front of a crowd of 50 or 5,000, it doesn't matter to us. What's been fun for me is to play music again.
Do you have any rituals before you go into a live event? Do you say a prayer?
Yeah, I do. I actually do. I've got little kids running around the world. Big kids and little kids, and I'm not there as their protector, so I want those angels around them, all over them while away from home. I want to make sure I don't get caught posing, you know? ... I want to try to say everybody's name correctly, you know what I mean? I want to do the simple things right. It's not a time to pose -- it's somebody else's night and you try to serve that.
Check out more coverage from the CMT Artists of the Year special.