Home / Music News / Watch now: When you say Tim McGraw, Keith Urban remembers his first CMA Fest as a fan


As Keith Urban played CMA Fest’s main stage at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium over the weekend, he recalled his very first time attending country music’s biggest festival as a fan.

“I certainly remember the first one I went to,” he told ABC Radio backstage, “just to be on the side of the stage watching this thing called Fan Fair back in the day. Some friends of ours took us to see this ‘new artist’ called Tim McGraw.” 

He laughs, “It was amazing!”

Not only do the biggest stars in country music turn out to play CMA Fest — they do it for free. The Country Music Foundation, in return, donates all the money from ticket sales to music education. It’s a cause that’s very close to Keith’s heart.

“I was really fortunate to go to a public school that happened to have a music room and a music teacher,” he explains, “And I just thought that was a basic, standard, given in every situation. But you’re seeing it more and more where they do away with that when they’re cutting costs.”

He goes on, “It’s a big problem because it’s not some sort of fringe curriculum thing that you can just discard. You know, with so many kids who are musically gifted, that is the way in which they find their voice. And their self-esteem and identity and everything is in that.”

You can experience this year’s CMA Fest for yourself, as the annual three-hour music extravaganza airs Wednesday, August 8 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini return as hosts for the second year in a row.

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