CMA Fest 2018 Daily Recaps

CMA Fest brings out some of Country Music’s biggest stars and even more fans every year. The 47th annual CMA Fest drew tens of thousands of fans to the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium, capacity crowds at Chevrolet Riverfront Stage and the Cracker Barrel Country Roads Stage at Ascend Amphitheater, and largest engagement by Country Music fans in the event’s history from visitors from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and 36 international countries. Additionally, millennials made up 41% (the highest share) of new attendees and continue the trend of a growing younger CMA Fest audience which supports the growing younger Country Music audience trend overall.

The longest-running Country Music festival in the world took over downtown Nashville Thursday through Sunday, June 7-10, with more than 300 acts performing on 11 official stages and ticket proceeds going directly to helping enrich and sustain music education programs across the country through CMA’s nonprofit arm, the CMA Foundation, thanks to every artist at the festival donating their time. The festival is filmed for a three-hour special, “CMA Fest,” which will be hosted by Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini and airs Wednesday, Aug. 8 on the ABC Television Network. This year marks the 15th consecutive year of the broadcast.

Below are the highlights from each day…

Day 1

U.S. Bank and the CMA Foundation partnered together at CMA Fest 2018 to help spread awareness of the importance of music education. During CMA Fest, fans posted pictures on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #itstartswithME and #MusicMadePossible and their photos were placed in the IT STARTS WITH M.E. Mosaic Wall.

Day 2

Returning as CMA Fest co-host alongside Thomas Rhett for the second year in a row, Kelsea Ballerini introduced some of Country’s biggest acts playing Nashville’s Nissan Stadium while her brand new music video for current chart-climbing single “I Hate Love Songs” (penned by Ballerini, Shane McAnally, and Trevor Rosen) made its debut on the stadium’s big screens on Friday (6/8).

Earlier that day, she surprised her fan club as she had sets from her lovestruck music video, directed by Traci Goudie, reconstructed in the heart of Music City inside Bridgestone Arena. With popcorn popping, there was a special showing of the full-length music video with Ballerini, before she revealed such spots as the “Legends Diner” and the bubblegum pink wall covered with an explosion of streamers, balloons, and flowers. Guests were invited to walk through the sets plus snag a photo with Ballerini, before receiving a box of Russell Stover-brand chocolates as a souvenir. She also made the day super special for one fan, as she had asked to sing “Graveyard” with the Country star during the Q&A, which Ballerini made happen during her mini concert.

Day 3

CMA Fest day three kicked off bright and early, with fans packing the CMA Close Up Stage at Xfinity Fan Fair X the minute doors opened. Dustin Lynch entertained the giant crowd with a Q&A hosted by Ashley Eicher alongside Lynch’s producer Zach Crowell before performing “Good Girl,” “Cowboys and Angels” and “Small Town Boy” during the Artist of the Day session at the CMA Close Up Stage.
At Nissan Stadium, Keith Urban kept crowds rocking past midnight, Chris Stapleton delivered a powerful set, and Sam Hunt surprised fans, performing his new single “Downtown’s Dead.” Tonight’s final concerts at Nissan Stadium feature performances by Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line with special guest Bebe Rexha, Ricky Skaggs, Ray StevensCole Swindell, and just announced this morning, “CMA Fest” co-host Thomas Rhett.
Photo credit: Natasha Moustache/CMA

Garth Brooks surprised fans on Saturday at CMA Fest, to perform on the CMA Close Up Stage at Xfinity Fan Fair X inside Music City Center. Fans who packed the stage hours before Garth appeared were treated to a medley of Brooks’ hits including “Friends In Low Places,” “The Dance,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” and “The River.”  Brooks also participated in a Q&A with SiriusXM’s Storme Warren and answered questions from fans in the audience.  Brooks’ appearance, which was live-streamed through CMA’s Facebook page, has been viewed more than 72,000 times.


Tracy Lawrence brought his “Honky Tonkin’” show concept to CMA Music Festival on Saturday, June 10th, again this year with his friends; the legendary Joe Stampley, Grammy Award-winning artist Linda Davis and country artist Adam Sanders. The performance was inspired by Lawrence’s nationally syndicated radio show “Honky Tonkin’” with Tracy Lawrence, which airs on more than 80 affiliates across the country.

Photo: LEFT TO RIGHT: Chuck Pursel (Tour Manager), Adam Sanders, Patrick Thomas (Producer -Silver Fish Media), Tracy Lawrence, Joe Stampley and Steve Emley (Manager-Fitzgerald Hartley).
FRONT ROW- Linda Davis and Brandi Simms (Senior Director of Awards & Industry Relations-CMA)

Day 4

The fourth and final day saw “CMA Fest” co-host Kelsea Ballerini as the Artist of the Day at Xfinity Fan Fair X, where she answered questions from CMT’s Leslie Fram followed by a performance that included her new single “I Hate Love Songs.” Ballerini also shared the song’s brand new video with fans in attendance. Luke Bryan made a surprise appearance at the Chevy Riverfront Stage for 10 second trivia, where he awarded two winners with tickets to the Chevy suite at Nissan Stadium for Sunday’s nightly concert. Once again, the Chevy Riverfront Stage reached capacity crowds Sunday during Scotty McCreery’s afternoon set. Chris Young hosted a surprise meet and greet for hundreds of fans at his booth at Xfinity Fan Fair X, while Lindsay Ell presented a check on behalf of Cracker Barrel for $15,000 to the CMA Foundation.
Bryan didn’t want the night to end as he closed out Nissan Stadium with a stellar set, performing well past midnight. After rushing to the stage for a potentially shorter set due to incoming rain, Bryan was having so much fun he extended his set on the fly, which included a surprise serenade to Randy Travis who was in the audience before closing out CMA Fest with “Roller Coaster” alongside friend Cole Swindell. The night was full of surprises.
“CMA Fest” co-host Thomas Rhett announced early on Sunday that he’d join the Nissan Stadium performance line-up, while Dwight Yoakam joined Dierks Bentley for an incredible performance of “Fast As You” and Brothers Osbornejoined Bentley for “Burnin’ Man.” Florida Georgia Line performed their massive hit “Meant To Be” with pop singer Bebe Rexha after surprising fans by welcoming the Backstreet Boys to the stage to perform “God, Your Mama And Me.”
For the 3rd consecutive year, Miranda Lambert’s charitable organization, MuttNation Foundation, has proven that country fans have hearts as big as her home state of Texas by coming out and adopting 56 dogs during the 4-day event at the Music City Center – with over 150 MuttNation pups adopted at this event alone over the 3-year period.
Founded in 2009 by Miranda and her mom, Bev Lambert, the foundation supports and partners with shelters across the country and, since its inception, has helped thousands of dogs find loving ‘forever’ homes as well as transport thousands more during times of natural disaster.
Photo Credit: Bev Lambert (r), Vince Gill (c) and new family (1)
Emily Hackett debuted her brand new single “Good Intentions” at CMA Fest’s Radio Disney Country Stage on Sunday, June 10th. After opening the set with the witty single, Emily treated the crowd at Fan Fair X with two unreleased tracks – “Josie”, and the stringed quartet backed ballad “Once In A While“. She closed the show with the fan-favorite reprise version of “Nostalgia“.
The CMA Fest app was used by fans more than ever, with nearly 15 million scheduled events and almost 50,000 total users throughout all four days. Conversations happening around CMA Fest saw more than 225 million in social reach on Sunday, an increase of more than 42 million compared to last year’s final day of the festival.
Over the course of the four-day festival, Xfinity Fan Fair X welcomed 71,000 attendees, up 10% over 2017, and hosted 365 artists across meet-and-greets and three indoor stages in the exhibit hall, including the expanded Radio Disney Country Stage. Fans enjoyed listening to and meeting the 51 up-and-coming artists featured on the new CMA Spotlight Stage. Miranda Lambert’s MuttNation Foundation was a “pup-ular” highlight inside Fan Fair X again with 55 dogs finding their forever homes.

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