Tonight on ABC, Thomas Rhett hosts the annual three-hour CMA Fest special for the second year in a row, along with his pal Kelsea Ballerini.
There’s arguably no other current artist more qualified to lead one of country’s biggest nights in primetime, when you consider that TR’s been attending the Nashville fan festival for more than twenty years.
The “Life Changes” hitmaker struggles to pinpoint the first year he came, back when his dad Rhett Akinswas on the bill.
“Probably since like 1996, I would say,” TR decides. “When my dad was singing, they called it Fan Fair, and then changed into CMA Fest. I’ve been coming to this thing as a fan for as long as I can remember.”
“I was trying to find the cheapest seats possible to get in, in high school and in college,” he remembers.”And now to be hosting and playing at it, is just kinda strange and awesome at the same time.”
In fact, the artists Thomas Rhett used to pay to see are now his contemporaries.
“Eric Church, [Jason] Aldean,” he says, recalling the highlights of his years attending CMA Fest as a fan. “This is like when they were just getting going, when Luke [Bryan] had nothing but ‘Country Man’ on the radio.”
“I’ve been coming to it for a long time and now that I get to call my idols my friends, it’s coming full circle, you know,” Thomas tells ABC Radio.
You can check out TR and Kelsea’s finest CMA Fest moments tonight starting at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. If you’d like to see them cracking up, messing up their lines, and just generally getting it wrong, you can watch some of their bloopers on YouTube now.