Kelsea Ballerini & Thomas Rhett Comment On Hosting CMA Fest: Country’s Night To Rock

Ballerini and Rhett offer comments on this Wednesday’s CMA Fest special.

Kelsea Ballerini & Thomas Rhett via ABC

ABC’s annual “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night To Rock” special will air at 8PM ET/PT on Wednesday, August 16.

Like last year’s show, it will feature Thomas Rhett as one of the hosts.

Unlike last year, his co-host will not be Brett Eldredge.

It will instead be Kelsea Ballerini, who will be making her first appearance as co-host.

During filming for the special (which largely took place at the actual CMA Fest this year), ABC’s media team caught up with Ballerini and Rhett. They offered brief comments about the show:

On hosting together:
Thomas – I sort of feel like Kelsea is somewhat of a sister, in a way. She met my wife first – it was on a dance floor. I kind of feel like ever since then, it’s just been a very organic friendship. It’s not a forced thing – at all. When we’re around each other, it’s always goofy, it’s always fun, always super laid back, and that’s what makes this so easy to do.

Kelsea – We’ve talked a lot about it – you (Thomas) loved it last year, right? I think I’m just excited to see what he loved about it and experience it with him. Plus, we just got off tour together, so we have fun together. It’ll be fun.

Thomas – And a huge difference from last year. Me and Brett (Eldredge) had [scheduled shows in addition to the hosting gig]. Me and Kelsea are here (hosting) every night and rocking it live. It’s going to be a little different than last year, but I think it’s going to be really cool.

On the journey to hosting CMA Fest:
Kelsea – The coolest thing about this is me and Thomas both came to CMA fest – as fans. We both remember where we sat in this stadium – as fans. To be able to go from that perspective to playing all the tents and little stages on Broadway to finally being able to play on this stage – I think it gives both of us a bigger appreciation for being able to sing our songs that have been on the radio now on that stage for all these people. Because we were one of those people a few years ago.

Thomas – I’m very appreciative of the journey. A lot of the time as artists, you want it to happen overnight. You want it fast, fast, fast, but I think if I can look back at my last five years of starting at clubs and moving to bigger clubs and then going to theaters and now, by the grace of God, playing in smaller arenas – I think looking back at those times, you actually had time to mess up a little bit. Going back and playing clubs, we didn’t know what we were doing – we were trying to play 90 minutes of a show with one song that was in the 50s. But I think it’s those times that made me a better entertainer, better songwriter.

Like she said, we both came here as fans, that’s a true story. When I was in college, being 17/18/19, and in high school, my buddies and I would all buy the cheapest tickets we could find and sit somewhere up there and get to watch Eric Church, get to watch Jason Aldean. Now those people have become our friends, and I think it’s kind of surreal. Not only being here but hosting it and being able to interview these people that we still do admire but then were just like, “Holy crap, that’s Jason Aldean” – or whoever it may be. So I think it’s weird that it kind of came full circle.

On the best part of CMA Fest:
Kelsea – I love how accessible everyone is at CMA Fest. I feel like it’s the one place where artists, fans – we’re all just together, and we’re all celebrating country music. You get to meet your favorite artists, you get to meet the people that have been the soundtrack to your life that year. On both sides of it, it’s really cool to just be that accessible.

Written by Brian Cantor

Brian Cantor is the editor-in-chief for Headline Planet. He has been a leading reporter in the music, movie, television and sporting spaces since 2002.

Brian's reporting has been cited by major websites like BuzzFeed, Billboard, the New Yorker and The Fader -- and shared by celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj.

Contact Brian at brian.cantor[at]

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