Dennis van Tine/Sipa USA
October 26, 2016 05:30 PM

Jennifer Nettles will take the stage at the CMA Awards next week, and while the country star is excited, she’s more looking forward to sitting back and watching the show.

“[It’s the] 50th anniversary!” Nettles tells PEOPLE at the 4th Annual Save the Children Illumination Gala in New York City on Tuesday, where she sang three songs. “Getting to see all these fantastic performers who have won over the years, getting to see them be celebrated, getting to be a part of that celebration.”

While the 42-year-old won’t say exactly what she’ll be doing when she hits Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 2, she teased, “I’m excited about the performance and I’m excited to be there and celebrate everybody.”

Nettles is a previous CMA Award winner, taking the 2008 song of the year trophy for Sugarland’s “Stay.” Other big performers for the 2016 celebration include Kelsea Ballerini, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Tim McGraw, Trisha Yearwood and Kacey Musgraves.

• Who should win at #CMAawards50? Record a video with your vote at to be featured on PEOPLE and EW’s red carpet LIVE show, airing Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET on our homepages or the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to, or download the PEN app on Apple TV, Roku Players, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices.

RELATED VIDEO: Jennifer Nettles in Chicago

The star is celebrating another momentous occasion this week: the release of her first holiday album, To Celebrate Christmas.

She tells PEOPLE that the album is a “nice mixture” of “traditional and of the sacred tradition [songs] but also those that are current and are fun and modern.”

  • People’s Special Edition 50 Years of the CMA Awards is on sale now online and on newsstands. 
Country Music People Cover

Nettles —who will host CMA’s Country Christmas special again this year — named her vocal and piano cover as “First Noël” as a favorite, as well as a “super soulful” version of Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home.”

“I also got to do  — and was so honored — ‘Circle of Love,’ which is a Dolly Parton song,” Nettles says. “She’s never recorded it before and she let me record it for this Christmas album, which was amazing. And part of that I know is just because she and I have been able to become friends and she’s so lovely.”

The CMA Awards will broadcast live from Nashville on Wednesday, Nov. 2 from 8-11 p.m. EST on ABC.

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