Country music fans who weren’t able to be in Nashville in June for the 50th Anniversary of CMA Fest can still enjoy highlights from the annual festival by viewing CMA Fest, a three-hour concert special airing July 19 on ABC at 8ET/7CT and available the next day on Hulu.
Hosted by Dierks Bentley, Elle King and Lainey Wilson, the television event will include performances by Alabama, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Vince Gill, Miranda Lambert, Tanya Tucker, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban and 21 more top country music stars.
“I could not be more excited to welcome Dierks, Elle and Lainey as our ‘CMA Fest’ hosts this year,” says Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “As fans experienced last year, the energy Dierks and Elle bring to the stage is palpable and will only be amplified with the addition of Lainey this year. Each of these artists have a deep passion for CMA Fest and the Country Music fans from around the globe who travel to Nashville for the event. We are thrilled to have all three of them together to help us celebrate 50 years!”
The history of CMA Fest
The night before CMA Fest airs viewers can learn more about the world’s largest country music festival via the broadcast debut of CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair, airing Tuesday, July 18th on ABC at 9ET/8CT.
Produced by the Country Music Association (CMA), the documentary spotlights the history of the longest-running country music festival, including artist interviews and never-before-seen archival content. Originally known as Fan Fair, the event was created by WSM radio and the Country Music Association to provide fans their own unique experience in hopes they would stop crashing country music’s annual disc jockey convention intended as an industry-only gathering.
Over the last five decades the event has continually grown and now attracts more than 90,000 country music fans from all 50 states and countries all over the world.
Why CMA Fest has been popular for 50 years
As someone who used to sit in the audience and dream of being a country star, Wilson is especially thrilled to be performing and co-hosting the show. “I went every year to CMA Fest from the time I was 14. My parents would take me there so literally I could go get inspired,” says the Louisiana native, who is the CMA’s reigning Female Vocalist and New Artist of the Year.
“They would make it like a family vacation really just for me. . .When I actually got to call home and share the news with my family that I was playing CMA Fest, that’s when they thought, ‘Okay she’s really doing something now!’ Being a part of CMA Fest whether you are on a small little stage in a corner or whether you are playing the stadium, that’s a huge deal.”
King, a Grammy-nominated rock artist known for her breakthrough hit “Ex’s and Oh’s,” has found a welcome home in the country music community with such No. 1 hits under her belt as “Drunk (And I Don’t Want to Go Home)” with Miranda Lambert and “Different for Girls” with Dierks Bentley. Her third album, Come Get Your Wife, released earlier this year solidified her move to the country genre.
“When I met Dierks, I didn’t know who Dierks Bentley was. I felt like I was like an ostrich and I had my head in the sand. I had no idea about modern country music,” King admits. “I felt like I was fighting tooth and nail just to be relevant or keep making music in the rock and the pop scene. It’s so cutthroat and then I meet Dierks and he shows me this wild world of modern country, which is super rock and roll.
“Everyone is really badass. They are all being themselves and living their lives. They all are really, really happy and they are all kind to each other, and they can be because people can be happy for each other’s success in country because they are happy people in their own life. It’s just a weird thing and it’s very addictive.”
Who is performing on CMA Fest 2023?
Executive produced and written by Robert Deaton, the three-hour concert special will include Luke Combs performing “Love You Anyway,” Dan + Shay singing their multi-week No. 1 hit “Speechless,” Jelly Roll delivering “Need a Favor” and Alabama serving up their beloved classic “Mountain Music.” Jordan Davis thrills the crowd at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium with his hit “Buy Dirt,” which won Song of the Year at the CMA Awards last fall. (See full 29-artist line-up and set list below)
“There is something so magical about playing for folks in a city where the music was made,” Wilson says of CMA Fest’s special allure. “There’s just something really cool about that, and it’s so cool to see people come from all different walks of life, literally coming from the other side of the world. I’ve met so many people from Australia and the UK, people who love country music and that’s why they want to be there because you feel it to your core in a different kind of way.”
Full CMA Fest 2023 song line-up
Alabama — “Mountain Music”
Jason Aldean — “Try That In A Small Town”
Dierks Bentley — “Gold”
Luke Bryan — “But I Got A Beer In My Hand”
Eric Church — “Smoke a Little Smoke”/ “Bad Mother Trucker”
Luke Combs — “Love You Anyway”
Dan + Shay — “Speechless”
Jordan Davis — “Buy Dirt”
Vince Gill and Luke Combs — “One More Last Chance”
HARDY — “TRUCK BED”
HARDY featuring Lainey Wilson — “Wait in the Truck”
Tyler Hubbard — “Dancin’ In The Country”
Jelly Roll – “Need A Favor”
Cody Johnson — “’Til You Can’t”
Cody Johnson and Reba McEntire — “Whoever’s In New England”
Elle King featuring Miranda Lambert — “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)”
Miranda Lambert and Leon Bridges — “If You Were Mine”
Miranda Lambert and Avril Lavigne — “Kerosene/Sk8er Boi”
Little Big Town — “Wine Beer Whiskey”
Ashley McBryde — “Light On In The Kitchen”
Tim McGraw — “Standing Room Only”
Jo Dee Messina and Carly Pearce — “I’m Alright”
Old Dominion — “Memory Lane”
Jon Pardi — “Your Heart or Mine”
Carly Pearce — “What He Didn’t Do”
Darius Rucker — “Fires Don’t Start Themselves”
Tanya Tucker with Elle King and Lainey Wilson — “Texas (When I Die)”
Keith Urban — “Wild Hearts”
Lainey Wilson — “Watermelon Moonshine”
How do I watch CMA Fest 2023?
CMA Fest will air as a 3 hour special July 19 on ABC at 8ET/7CT and available the next day on Hulu.
When is CMA Fest 2024?
The dates for next year’s CMA Fest are June 6 to June 9 in Nashville. For more information, contact cmafest.com/tickets.
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Deborah Evans Price believes everyone has a story to tell and, as a journalist, she considers it a privilege to share those stories with the world. Deborah contributes to Billboard, CMA Close Up, Jesus Calling, First for Women, Woman’s World and Country Top 40 with Fitz, among other media outlets. Author of the CMA Awards Vault and Country Faith, Deborah is the 2013 winner of the Country Music Association’s Media Achievement Award and the 2022 recipient of the Cindy Walker Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Western Artists. Deborah lives on a hill outside Nashville with her husband, Gary, son Trey and cat Toby.