The duo has hosted the show consecutively since 2008, and they return Wednesday for the 2017 CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
While Underwood and Paisley plan to tell jokes, watch performances and hand out awards, they also want to honor the 58 people who were killed at a country music festival in Las Vegas last month.
“We can’t ignore that, but at the same time, I think it’s our job to use this as something that’s uplifting. This show can be a combination of entertainment and therapy to some degree, and it feels like we’re going to do our best to honor those we’ve lost and also sing this music at the top of our lungs,” Paisley said.
Underwood said country music wants to pay tribute to the victims and their families.
“You just want to be respectful and do it right. They’re a part of our country music family and we want the families to know that we care a lot,” she said.
Underwood will wear several hats during the show as host, performer and nominee. Last year she ended Miranda Lambert’s six-year streak as female vocalist of the year. Both singers are nominated for the award this year, along with Reba McEntire, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini.
Nominees for the show’s top prize, entertainer of the year, include Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban, Eric Church and last year’s winner, Garth Brooks. Stapleton, Urban, Church, Thomas Rhett and Dierks Bentley are up for male vocalist of the year.
Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road,” which set a record for the most weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot country songs chart with 34, is nominated for single of the year and song of the year, a songwriter’s award. In the latter category, Hunt will compete with Taylor Swift, who wrote Little Big Town’s No. 1 hit “Better Man.”
Little Big Town is among the country stars set to perform during the three-hour show. Others include Brooks, Stapleton, Bryan, Lambert, Thomas Rhett and pop singer Pink.
The night will feature a number of collaborative performances, including Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Ballerini and McEntire, Maren Morris and Niall Horan of One Direction, Paisley and Kane Brown, and Bentley and Rascal Flatts.
Underwood said she’s most excited to see Alan Jackson, the artist she first saw live.
“I love it when legendary artists like him perform on the CMAs. I think in our world today and even in country music, it’s kind of like … ‘Who’s new? Who’s hot? Who can we get for the show?’ And it’s nice when you can have somebody that can go up there and show us how it’s all done,” she said.
But Paisley said Underwood will have the night’s brightest performance.
“I’m telling you if that’s not the No. 1 most-talked about thing the next day then I will be as wrong as I’ve ever been,” he said.
Urban will kick off the CMA Awards, airing live on ABC at 8 p.m. Eastern, with a performance featuring Church, Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker. Brothers Osborne, Jon Pardi and Old Dominion will also perform.
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