BACKSTAGE AT THE 2009 ACMA’S

I’m writing this from the production office of this year’s ACMA’s at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. Today things are a bit more hectic than previous days this week, thanks to the crush of performers coming in for rehearsals before tomorrow night’s live show. Although things will never get too over the top, thanks to the calm and steady demeanor of Executive Producer RA Clark (known to everyone as RAC). Assisting him in keeping the mood light is Producer/Writer Barry Adelman, who is constantly cracking jokes and singing the most nonsensical lyrics he can think of in current pop songs (you wouldn’t believe how many times we’ve heard the words, “That’s not my name”).

For an excellent overview of the rehearsals, you can check out Whitney Pastorek’s reports at Entertainment Weekly’s website. But my vantage point is quite a bit different. While Whitney is writing about what’s going on in the arena, I’ve been spending time watching the performers booked for “George Strait: ACM Artist Of The Decade All Star Concert” working on their songs with the house band for the show. It’s been fascinating sitting a few feet away while Jack Ingram rocks up his song or Keith Urban shows off his skills on acoustic guitar. The funniest thing is while the area around the Grand Garden Arena is ringed with fans and autograph seekers, outside the hall where they’re coming in to rehearse for our show, it’s totally free of fans.

As you know, I did phone interviews with many of the performers on the George Strait show before I got to Las Vegas, but it’s much more fun to talk to the stars face to face and tell them things I’ve always wanted to share. For instance, I got to tell Faith Hill how much I enjoy her song “Paris” from the album “Butterflies,” even though I’ve never been all that sure what it was about. Faith said she wasn’t sure what it was about either, so I certainly felt good about that. Continuing with the compliments, I told Keith Urban how happy I was that he redid the song “Got It Right This Time (The Celebration)” on his “Greatest Hits” album. Previously, he had put a demo version on a previous album and while I liked the song, I still wanted a full-blown version, which I got on “Greatest Hits.”

But the most memorable moment was getting a surprise hug from Taylor Swift. Writer Fred Bronson had approached Taylor to show her the intro that she’ll give before her song. She was very happy with it and didn’t want to change a word. Fred reminded her that she had done a phone interview with me just a week ago, so much of what he had written were her words anyway. So Taylor came over to say hello and gave me a hug. Naturally I had her sign something for my friend’s daughter, who’s a big fan. And don’t think I forgot about myself, as I also had her sign the CD cover for her latest album, “Fearless.” So far I’ve also gotten autographs from Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and Toby Keith, which probably makes me one of the most successful autograph hunters in the building. I was only stymied by Lee Ann Womack, as I didn’t have a CD cover along when she was rehearsing yesterday, something I was reminded of when she turned up in front of me when I was walking through the casino to my room this afternoon.

Okay, time to check out Tim and Faith rehearsing on the big stage!

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