Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will host the 44th annual Country Music Association Awards for the third year in a row on Wednesday, and one benefit of having done it before: They go into it knowing to expect the unexpected.
Live television is stressful. The awards are timed out to the second, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that during a three-hour telecast with a load of moving parts, something will go differently than planned. A year ago, the biggest problem came when the show went a little too well.
“One thing we’ve learned is that we gotta build in the possibility that a joke will work,” Brad says. “Because that adds 10 seconds, and every time a joke works and adds 10 seconds, you could be a minute over.”
A lot of jokes worked in 2009. As a result, producers found the show was running about four minutes long by the time they’d completed two hours. Things were extremely tense in the control booth.
“They were freaking out,” Brad remembers. “They have ways to cut two minutes out of it. But they cannot cut four minutes out of it. Anyway, they’re freaking out, they don’t know what to do, and I said, ‘I tell ya what, if I win Male Vocalist, I’ll get you back some time.’”
And he did. Brad was already on stage, so he didn’t have to walk up from the seats on the floor after his name was called. That saved more than 20 seconds. Then he made his acceptance speech short and sweet and got the show back on track.
“I did a 20-second acceptance speech, came back, [and] they got back on time when I was done with it, ‘cause they had allotted several minutes for each win,” Brad notes. “I went back to the table, and [producer] Robert Deaton was there, and I went, ‘You’re welcome.’ And he did — he got the time back.”
Hard to know what will happen at next week’s CMA Awards, though Brad has one specific expectation.
“I predict Miranda Lambert is going to win something,” he says. “There’s no good odds in Vegas on that. I mean, she’s gonna win something.”
Indeed, Miranda’s up for nine trophies on Wednesday. Lady Antebellum has five nominations, and Blake Shelton and the Zac Brown Band have four apiece. The awards start on ABC — on time — at 8 p.m. ET from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.