Among the hugely popular roles actress Kristen Bell has played during her career are high-school private eye Veronica Mars, crafty management consultant Jeannie van der Hooven in Showtime’s “House of Lies,” and, of course, the voice of Princess Anna in what is now the highest-grossing animated film of all time, 2013’s “Frozen.” But playing her effervescent self is why CMT has asked the 33-year-old back to host the CMT Music Awards for a third year in a row.
After co-hosting with Toby Keith in 2012 and Jason Aldean last year, she’ll fly solo this time out when the show airs June 4th. In years past, producers have utilized Bell’s singing talents to the smallest degree and often for comedic effect. Although she remains tight-lipped on what this year has in store, it’s natural to assume that being so closely associated with what has become an iconic musical film will work its way into the show somehow. Still, she’s not about to bite off more than she can chew.
“The irony is although it’s been a big year for me musically, I am the smallest fish,” the actress tells Rolling Stone Country. “I don’t even know that I would be considered a fish in this pond. There are so many talented singers and musical acts and groups that I am more than happy taking a musical backseat to their talent. Despite whether or not I can hold a tune I don’t think I’m about to jump on stage with some of the acts that we have performing this year.”
Bell looks at the show as less an awards ceremony and more of a live concert, where just about anything can happen.
“The first time I hosted was the first time that I saw Miranda [Lambert] in concert, and she’s just effortless onstage,” she explains. “That really made an impression on me especially because that year she sang “The House That Built Me,” which is just an exemplary song, and she performs it with so much heart. I remember that being one of my favorite moments. And also last year they had Journey perform. That was such a wonderful curveball. Especially this year I feel like they’re focusing on having really strong musical acts and having a lot of them. It’s an amazing concert.”
Even if she isn’t as willing to jump on stage with the artists slated to perform, Bell has given some thought to which singers she’d love to collaborate with, and not surprisingly would welcome any opportunity to duet with Miranda. She also notes that she’d love to sing with The Band Perry’s Kimberly Perry.
“If I had to choose a guy it would be Luke Bryan,” adds the Michigan native. “His song, “Drunk on You,” is anthemic in my house. It’s one of the better songs I’ve ever heard. It just tickles me to hear that song.”
Married to actor Dax Shepard, the couple has a daughter, 1-year-old Lincoln, who prefers R&B (thanks to her dad) to country. Mom is a fan of all genres, but country blares from her speakers when she needs an escape.
“What differentiates country in the genres is that there’s so much storytelling. Each country song is really a story from start to finish, more so than other musical genres, and I think people appreciate that. The stories tend to be very relatable and they focus a little more on the comedy or heartbreak or happiness or angst in day-to-day life, as opposed to the glamour.”
She credits the biggest-selling country star of all time with her initial love for the genre.
“I think when I realized I wanted to pay attention during a country song was hearing Garth Brooks sing ‘Papa Loved Mama,'” Bell explains. “It’s really fast and it tells this crazy story that makes you want to pay attention beyond just being pleasing to the ear. I immediately had to memorize all the words because I liked the song so much.”
When it comes to two of her most recognizable characters, Bell admits Jeannie van der Hooven, as opposed to Veronica Mars, is more likely to be the country fan.
“Some of the country songs from the girls talk about how they don’t need a man to handle their business and I think that’s right up Jeannie’s alley,” she says.
Watch Bell host the CMT Music Awards Wednesday at 8:00 PM ET.