From hosts to performances to nominees, here's what to expect from country music's biggest night of the year

By Brianne Tracy
November 13, 2019 04:15 PM
Advertisement

Saddle up — it’s almost time for one of country music’s biggest nights.

On Wednesday, the 53rd Annual Country Music Association Awards will kick off and bring together both legends and fresh faces of the genre for a night full of unforgettable performances, laughs and, of course, award-giving and acceptance speeches.

Here’s a guide to everything you need to know before the show:

Who’s Hosting?

For her 12th year in a row, Carrie Underwood will serve as host for the awards show. This year will be notably different, though, since her co-host of 11 years, Brad Paisley, announced in August that he’d be stepping back from the gig. Instead, Underwood will be joined this year by co-hosts Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton.

At a press conference last month, Underwood offered a few hints about how the show will work now that Paisley won’t be by her side.

It’s definitely gonna be heartfelt,” Underwood told reporters, noting 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.”

Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton
Mark Seliger/ABC

Who’s Performing?

Underwood, McEntire and Parton will head up an all-star (and all female!) opening performance that will also include Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Crystal Gayle, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles, Tanya Tucker, Gretchen Wilson and The Highwomen’s Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires. Each will perform part of a country classic as an ode to contributions women have made in country music.

Kelsea Ballerini will also join Lindsay Ell, Ashley McBryde, Carly Pearce, Little Big Town, Maddie & Tae and Runaway June for a special performance. Dierks Bentley will team up with Sheryl Crow, Chris Janson and John Osborne (of Brothers Osborne) for another special performance.

Check out PEOPLE’s full CMA Awards coverage to get the latest news on country music’s biggest night.

Along with the opening performance, Underwood will perform her single “Drinking Alone” from her latest album, Cry Pretty. McEntire will sing her 1990 song “Fancy,” while Parton will perform a gospel medley with KING & Country and Zach Williams. The trio will be performing “God Only Knows,” a collaboration between Parton and for KING & COUNTRY, her duet with Williams “There Was Jesus,” as well as Parton’s collaboration with Galantis, “Faith.”

Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire
Mark Seliger/ABC

Miranda Lambert and Morris will also show off their vocal prowess. Morris, who announced last month that she’s expecting her first child with husband Ryan Hurd, will perform her hit “GIRL” while Lambert will sing her single “It All Comes Out in the Wash.”

Eric Church will perform his hit song “Some Of It,” while the reigning new artist of the year Luke Combs will perform “Beer Never Broke My Heart.” Pink and Chris Stapleton will perform their song “Love Me Anyway” and reigning entertainer of the year Keith Urban will grace the stage with a rendition of hit “We Were.”

Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton are set to perform their collaboration “Dive Bar,” and Shelton will also perform his hit, “God’s Country.”

Halsey will make her CMA Awards debut with Lady Antebellum.

Additional performers include Brooks & Dunn with Brothers Osborne, Dan + Shay, Kacey Musgraves with Willie Nelson, Old Dominion and Thomas Rhett.

Who’s Presenting?

Bobby Bones, Blanco Brown, Hannah Brown, Deana Carter, Kristin Chenoweth, Janie Fricke, Jim Gaffigan, Kathy Mattea, McBride, Midland, Craig Morgan, Nettles, Pam Tillis, Morgan Wallen, Trisha Yearwood, Jimmie Allen, Cody Johnson, Lara Spencer, Joe Walsh and Reese Witherspoon will all present at the show.

Reese Witherspoon

Who’s Nominated?

Morris leads the pack with six nods, with Brothers Osborne (consisting of brothers T.J. Osborne and John Osborne) close behind with four nominations. Dan + Shay, Bentley, Church, Combs, Musgraves, Shelton, Stapleton and Underwood received three nominations each, while Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus‘ “Old Town Road” — which was controversially banned from the country charts earlier this year before going on to become the longest-running No. 1 single to ever top the Billboard Hot 100 — picked up its own nomination.

In a welcome change, Underwood was listed among the nominees for the top prize in the traditionally male-dominated entertainer of the year category. She’ll go up against Brooks, Church, Stapleton and Urban for the award.

See a full list of nominations here.

How Do I Watch the Pre-Shows?

ABC’s “On the Red Carpet at the CMA Awards” airs live on ABC from 7:30-8:00 p.m. Hosted by George Pennacchio and Sandy Kenyon with special guest correspondents Hannah Brown and Jason Fitz, the live red carpet show will also be livestreamed starting at 6:30 p.m. at OnTheRedCarpet.com and CMAawards.com/redcarpet.

Entertainment Tonight’s ET Live will livestream from the red carpet. Visit ETonline.com for more details.

SiriusXM’s red carpet show, hosted by Storme and MC, airs live on The Highway from 5:30-8:00 p.m. The Highway will flip to “CMA Awards Radio” beginning Monday, Nov. 11.

Tennessean’s red carpet show is hosted by Cindy Watts and Dave Paulson and will be livestreamed via YouTube and Tennessean’s and USA Today’s Facebook pages from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

How Do I Watch the Awards?

The 53rd Annual CMA Awards will air live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. Head to CMAawards.com/watch and enter your zip code to find your local ABC affiliate and a list of services that will be live-streaming the show.