It’s one of Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley’s most famous moments in their nine years as CMA Awards co-hosts: the time, in 2014, when Paisley told the world that Underwood, who was five months pregnant, would be having a baby boy.
But on Saturday, at a special CMA Festival event, Underwood revealed she was adamantly against the idea at first.
She and her husband, Mike Fisher, “try to keep certain things for ourselves,” she explained, “and that was kind of one of them.”
But after executive producer Robert Deaton resorted to what he described as “begging,” Underwood finally relented the actual day of the show, figuring at some point she’d blow it in an interview by referring to the baby as “he.”
So, she decided, “I guess we might as well blow it together.”
This was just one of many behind-the-scenes tidbits that Underwood, 34, and Paisley, 44, shared during a one-hour Q&A that celebrated their nine-year partnership – with a 10th, just announced, now on its way in November.
A lot can happen in nine years, and here’s more of what the duo, along with Deaton, revealed:
Underwood and Paisley didn’t consult each other before signing on to do the first show in 2008.
The two had become friends while touring together, and Underwood said, “I know his sense of humor.” (“She wanted to do it anyway,” Paisley interjected.) But, Underwood said, there was never any “I’ll do it if you’ll do it.”
Both simply considered the offer an exciting challenge. “If we suck at it,” Underwood said she reasoned, “well, they’ll just get someone next year. And it went well, and here we are.”
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They’re not just reading a script. Both are intimately involved in the writing process.
Paisley, renowned for his witty tunesmithing, of course is the one who has penned the country parodies, which were originally his idea. (“Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Kanye” was the first of many.) Paisley also said Underwood regularly bombards him with texts when she gets ideas, and she was the genius behind the 2011 show’s standout bit.
“I’ll never forget,” he said, “the simple text I got … which was, ‘Tim and Faith have Barbies!’”
Paisley and Underwood closely police which stars become the butt of their jokes. McGraw and Hill both have great senses of humor, the co-hosts confirm. “Blake [Shelton] will always laugh at himself,” Paisley said. “Luke [Bryan] will always laugh at himself. We just kind of learn who is a fair target.”
Underwood added: “You learn … which ones may not like it so much, so you just try to work with that.”
Paisley practices his parodies around his kids – not such a good idea.
Though the script is kept under lock and key as it develops, the co-hosts still have to privately rehearse. But at the Paisley household, little pitchers – namely 10-year-old Huck and 8-year-old Jasper – have big ears.
Last year, while Paisley was picking up the boys at school, one of Huck’s classmates “ran out and was, like, singing me the parody, and I realized Huck had been in school and … this is what he’s gonna do.”
A choreographer who’d worked with Michael Jackson had to be brought in to teach the co-hosts how to dance “Gangnam Style.”
Paisley estimated the unforgettable bit in 2012 actually took about three weeks of practice.
“We needed help,” Underwood allowed – though a polished performance never was the goal. “It was more like, we just want people to know what we’re trying to do. The worse we do, the funnier it would be, right?”
A planned Donald Trump appearance in 2015 got canceled at the last minute.
In response to the crowded field of GOP presidential candidates, Paisley explained, “we came up with a song parody of ‘Love Can Build a Bridge,’ and we were going to perform that with Donald Trump, who obviously was talking way more about a wall.”
Paisley actually flew to New York for the filming, playing guitar as the candidate sang the parody in his corporate conference room. But the network ultimately decided Trump’s appearance would violate equal time rules and nixed it.
Yes, Paisley confirmed, a video of the performance still exists.
“I’ve got it,” he said, adding with a mischievous grin, “There are tapes! There are tapes!”
William Shatner’s unforgettable appearance in 2015 was actually Trump’s last-minute replacement.
With five minutes cut from the script, Paisley called his Hollywood pal the day before the show and asked a favor: Could the original Star Trek captain help extend a Star Wars bit at the start of the monologue? Shatner arrived in Nashville via private jet and a police escort rushed him to the arena. There, he donned a Storm Trooper costume, rehearsed his lines a few times and was on stage moments later.
The masterful assembly of country legends at last year’s 50th anniversary show started out as a complete disaster.
Recalling the first rehearsal, just three days before the show, Paisley said whatever could go wrong did. As stars repeatedly came in at the wrong time or completely missed their cues, Vince Gill finally broke the tension with a quip to the production team, “Looked better on paper, didn’t it?”
Somehow, it all came together for what was, Paisley said, “one of the highlights of my entire life.”
Both Underwood and Paisley avidly watch the show when they’re not on camera.
It’s the only way to come up with the impromptu quips, Paisley said. “I think the quickest recipe to sort of blow it … would be to not pay attention,” he added. Of course, Underwood, especially, has to multitask behind the scenes, given all her costume changes. “We have a machine back there,” she said, referring to her dressing team. “It takes a village,” Paisley confirmed.
The first thing Paisley does after the show is watch it.
“I’ll go right to the bus or wherever I taped it,” he says. “And I’m always pleasantly surprised at how much smoother it looks than it felt.”
Underwood, though, has been known to never go back and watch it at all. “If I felt good about it,” she said, “I don’t want proof otherwise.”