BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
NASHVILLE — No, Beyonce didn’t come back to the press room.
Neither Taylor Swift nor the Dixie Chicks, either.
But several notable names from Wednesday’s epic 50th Annual Country Music Association Awards popped into the press room to chat for a few minutes. Here is what they had to say:
Garth Brooks said when he heard his name called as the Entertainer of the Year winner – he previously scored the trophy in 1997 – “I kinda went numb…awards are for younger artists. The older you get, the more precious they are.”
Brooks also joked that he ran into Peyton Manning after coming off stage and told the Super Bowl-winning quarterback that he was “gonna make a ring out of this trophy and wear it for life.”
Eric Church, who won Album of the Year for “Mr. Misunderstood,” not only found the opening of the CMAs “mind-blowing,” but was overwhelmed by many events of the evening.
“I was backstage sitting there with Olivia Newton-John and it’s all I can do to not go into ‘Summer Lovin’. It was more than I could handle,” he said with a smile. “Across the board…being here with Dolly Parton…I had a great conversation with Vince Gill about cheeseburgers. This is surreal s*** for me.”
Valdosta native Thomas Rhett was another winner (Single of the Year for “Die a Happy Man”) who was overcome with the momentousness of the night – and not all of it had to do with winning his first-ever CMA.
“You couldn’t ask for a bigger night to win this award,” he said. “I mean, I just hung out with Jay Z for 10 minutes backstage.”
Of his career-defining hit, Rhett chalked it up to “the stars aligned at this point in my career…people get married to this song, boyfriends try to woo girls to date them with this song.”
Rhett was spotted after the show at the Big Machine Label Group party mingling and chatting with fans and industry folks.
Here he talks about what he plans to do with his CMA Award:
Carrie Underwood said that she and co-host Brad Paisley had no idea about the Beyonce/Dixie Chicks performance until Tuesday afternoon and wondered what the “TBD” performance was on their rehearsal sheet.
Underwood, who also performed her song “Dirty Laundry” during the ceremony, also said that she aimed to pack her live band with estrogen.
“We really just wanted to have a lot of women onstage. I feel like our country format could use some more,” she said. So she called up a few friends, including guitarist Orianthi, singer-guitarist Lindsay Ell and the ladies from Runaway June.
Dolly Parton smiled and clasped her Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award as she spoke of being humbled by the number of female artists who cite her as an inspiration. Hear what she had to say: