With the 49th Annual CMA Awards telecast just a few weeks away, the live show’s star-studded lineup is still a work in progress. But one-twelfth of the telecast — the first 15 minutes of the three-hour event — has been confirmed and it teams a two-time Entertainer of the Year with a first-time nominee in that category. Hank Williams Jr. (Entertainer of the Year in 1987 and ’88) and Eric Church, who scored his first-ever nod in the night’s top category, will open the show with a joint performance.
Williams and Church will team up for a take on “Are You Ready for the Country,” written by Neil Young. A track from Young’s classic 1972 Harvest LP, the song went on to became a Top Ten country hit for Waylon Jennings in 1976.
Immediately afterward, co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will deliver their typically irreverent opening monologue. In years past, the comical pair has combined topical humor and songs to warm up the live audience and viewers at home, skewering fellow celebrities — and each other — and riffing on the latest national headlines. Paisley and Underwood will also be spotlighted with individual music performances during the telecast.
Eric Church tied with “Girl Crush” vocal group Little Big Town to lead the field of 2015 nominees, with both acts earning five nominations. Among other nominees, Chris Stapleton, the songwriter behind Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer” and Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn,” scored three mentions, including Album of the Year for his solo debut Traveller. See the complete list of nominees here.
The 49th Annual CMA Awards will air live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Wednesday, November 4th, at 8:00 p.m. ET.