In her 12th year as co-host, she's looking forward to joining Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton in a night of celebrating country's legendary women

By Nancy Kruh
October 22, 2019 12:21 PM
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Not that anyone should be freaking out yet, but when someone pointed out to Carrie Underwood at a Monday press conference that it’s just 23 days until she hosts the CMA Awards, her reaction was, to say the least, startling.

“Twenty-three …,” she said, then gasped loudly. “Twenty-three days!”

A room full of reporters watched breathlessly as the 36-year-old superstar fell momentarily silent, no doubt to consider her massive to-do list between now and Nov. 13. (For starters, she’s still touring until Oct. 31.)

“Okay …” she began, her wheels obviously turning. And then a look of supreme confidence spread across her face. “When there’s 10 days left,” she declared, her calm restored, “is probably when things really start clicking into place.”

Honestly, was there any reason to worry that country’s supreme multi-tasker — wife, mom of two, singer-songwriter and headliner of sold-out arena shows — wasn’t up to the task?

Underwood was taking questions before her Nashville celebration for yet another accolade in her much-celebrated career: her 27th No. 1, for her sunny summer song “Southbound,” which she co-wrote with David Garcia and Josh Miller.

David Garcia, Carrie Underwood and Josh Miller
Steve Lowry

And while Underwood left no doubt there’s still considerable work to be done on the CMAs, she did offer a few hints about how the show will be different now that Brad Paisley, her co-host for 11 years, has stepped back, and she’ll be joined by guest co-hosts Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton.

RELATED: She’s Back! Carrie Underwood to Host the CMA Awards with Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire

“It’s definitely gonna be heartfelt,” said Underwood, noting with delight that the evening’s theme will be a celebration of country’s legendary women. “I love the fact that there’s a theme happening. I hope that’s kind of something that maybe we adopt for future CMAs.”

Theme or not, Underwood offered assurances that the show will still offer plenty of humor. “I feel like Dolly and Reba are both so good at those one-liners that just kill,” she said. “I can’t imagine there not being some of those in there.”

So far, the three women have yet to be in direct communication, she said — a change from the back-and-forth texting that she and Paisley practiced through the years.

“I feel like there’s so much groundwork to be laid before we start getting into the details,” Underwood explained. “Right now we’re working on things musically, and I’m working on kind of our opening. … We’ve already gotten into some of the script and some of the writings, and I think it’ll really come down to the three of us getting in a room together and kind of reading through things and then being like, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t say it like that,’ and ‘Let’s change it this way,’ and ‘What about this?’”

Carrie Underwood "Southbound" No. 1 party

With three co-hosts known for their glamorous stagewear, Underwood also foresees the possibility of multiple dress changes, multiplied by three. “I would imagine there’s gonna be a lot of chaos with the clothing backstage,” she said. And she added two fashion predictions: “a lot of fringe” and “a lot of rhinestones.”

RELATED: From a Star Wars Spoof to a Naked Selfie: Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood’s Best CMA Awards Moments

For those who will miss her teamwork with Paisley, Underwood noted that she’ll appear on his ABC primetime special, set to air Dec. 3. She also promised that show will include a trademark “Brad and Carrie” moment.

“I can’t give away too much, but I think it’s funny,” she said. “I scared Brad, and we’ll just leave it at that. I taught him a thing or two.”

Underwood is nominated for three CMA awards this year, including album of the year, female artist of the year and, most prestigiously, entertainer of the year. It’s the first time a woman has been nominated for entertainer since 2016, when she was also the lone female nominee. Her fellow nominees this year are Garth Brooks, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban.

RELATED: Miranda Lambert Champions Carrie Underwood for CMA Entertainer of the Year: ‘Take It Home’

“I’m blessed and lucky to be nominated, obviously — and fantastic company,” she said of the much-coveted nod.

Yeah, but what about winning?

“It would be amazing,” she said. “It’s not the be-all end-all, but of course I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it.” She offered a hearty laugh. “Sorry, boys!”

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