Home / Music News / CMA Fest 2018 Backstage: Jason Aldean points out the progress, while Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini amp up the fun


CMA Fest keeps getting better. That seemed to be the first night’s theme, as country’s biggest stars prepared to take the stage Thursday at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.

Three-time Entertainer of the Year Jason Aldean couldn’t help but be struck by how far the festival has come in its 47 years. 

“I went to Fan Fair when it was still over at the Fairgrounds…” he recalled. “I went one year, and what a different vibe it was. It’s just like this little small stage, and all the record companies would go in and [it would] be their night to perform…”

“And all the artists would sit over there in the hot — no air conditioning over there were they would sign autographs and stuff…” he went on. “It was just a completely different vibe, and to come over here and play this stadium now and see what that has all turned into is just, it’s pretty unbelievable.”

Even though this is Thomas Rhett‘s third time to host ABC’s upcoming three-hour CMA Fest special, he admitted he and Kelsea Ballerini — who returns as his co-host for the second year — are working overtime to do their best.

“We both had a lot of pointers for each other,” TR tells ABC Radio. “We watched ourselves, what we did last year, the other night in the dressing room. And we both just critiqued ourselves to oblivion.”

“I was like ‘Do I really yell that bad?’ And Kelsea was like, ‘Why do I move my hands so much like this?’…Just small… things that we hope we can just fix and get better for this year.”

TR needn’t worry: Kelsea believes all the two need to do is relax.

“We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re kind of stiff. We should have more fun this year,'” she says. “So I think this year our goal is to just be looser and enjoy it more.” 

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