My first CMA Fest experience was so unbelievably awesome it is hard to put it all into words. Getting to watch and meet some the amazing artists that I’ve loved since I was young, discover new talent and see everything that goes on behind the scenes was super interesting and fun. The four-day festival was jammed packed with a million things going on at once. It felt great to get so much exposure to this industry and to discover what DCR, the company I am currently a social media marketing intern for, does behind the scenes at such a huge event like this.
DCR Nashville’s Director of Sales, Jennifer Moore and I stayed at The Bobby, a new hotel close to Broadway which was perfect because we could walk right to and from the festival (and Starbucks) with ease. The hotel itself was architecturally gorgeous, it even incorporated a refurbished bus on its rooftop. The food was amazing as well, I would highly recommend anyone going to Nashville to check out The Bobby.
Day 1 started out with us bringing over a suitcase full of sunscreen with DCR’s logo down the busy street of vendors, sponsors and crews setting up bright and early. I think that this was a great marketing tactic because it was insanely sunny outside. Everyone that was working on DCR’s two stages seemed to really appreciate it. We even got a few shout outs from crew members on Instagram giving their thanks! The Hard Rock Stage was really neat because it was smaller, had an outdoor bar and (most importantly) shade. The Forever Country stage was in a big field closer to the river directly behind Ascend. It was surrounded by food trucks, tents and lawn chairs that were covered. I met a lot of DCR’s crew on Day 1 and they were all super friendly and welcoming.
One of the first performers that caught my eye was Brennley Brown. She was my favorite contestant on The Voice and she sounded amazing live. Levi Hummon, an artist I’ve never heard of before, did an outstanding job as well.
We went to Soundcheck for lunch. I met a lot of different people in this industry and got to see the warehouses where they have shops, storage, big artist rehearsals and much more.
Day 2 started off with a bang on both of our stages bright and early. Tegan Marie and Kylie Shorr both definitely stood out to me immediately as two young country artists on the rise with so much talent. Also, I discovered Jordan Rager and Sweet Tea Trio, which were both super energetic and friendly on and off the stage. At this point, I could see how much dedication and passion everyone in DCR’s crew had in making sure everything sounded great. In the middle of her performance, Shorr said “thank you to all of our sound guys who do this on the fly, you guys deserve a tall drink after this”. I don’t think that the average viewer realizes how much work goes on behind the scenes to make sure a performance like this goes great, especially when it is all day back to back. It was really interesting to see all the staff in their element and doing a great job.
Jennifer, John Schirmer (DCR’s General Manager) and I walked around to some of the other stages, both indoor and outdoor’s. We went to the Chevy Breakout Stage to see one of my favorites, Jon Langston. However, I will point out you could noticeably tell a difference in the audio coming from this stage in comparison to The Hard Rock and Forever Country Stages. I could barely hear his lyrics.
At night we got to catch Tyler Farr and Lee Brice at Ascend, which was unbelievable. I got to meet and hang with a lot of new people backstage and relax after a long day of being in the sun. I quickly learned at the end of day 2 that working a festival like this was no joke. We barely had anytime to charge our phones or eat because we always had to be somewhere! It is definitely hectic but fun at the same time.
I feel like the night time concert performances have such a different, upbeat vibe about them. When talking to Gary Jannaman, Tyler Farr’s guitarist, he said “during the day you lose some of your super powers”. Going to a nighttime show, the lights, the crowd’s energy and the sound seem to be more vibrant and passionate.
Day 3 started off with Tracy Lawrence at the Forever Country stage. DCR doing the stage with all the iconic, classic old time artists and then another with the new rising stars in the industry was a great contrast to listen to throughout the day.
As far as newer artists this day, Filmore came on and they were definitely one of my new-found favorites. The main singer gave me a Sam Hunt/The Weeknd feel. He was one of the only ones that got the whole crowd super energized and dancing. I would recommend going to check out their music if you haven’t heard of them before.
Later on in the day my mom and I went to go see a few performers at Riverfront Stage. Dylan Scott, Tyler Farr and Michael Ray were all killer. We even met up with Cannan and Christy Smith, family friends that ended up being in the crowd which made it even better.
At night we got a little break from the festival and went to Arrington Vineyards with some of my moms industry friends. It was the perfect escape from the craziness of the festival streets on Broadway.
Day 4, the final day, started off with getting to see Canaan perform for the first time at Riverfront. I was having such a fun time watching him on stage, a picture of myself jamming out ended up on the Tennessean Local News (yes, it was embarrassing). The final day definitely went out with a bang on DCR’s stages. Terry McBride, Hannah Ellis, Hudson Moore, 17 Memphis and Josh Mirenda all sounded amazing live.
Then, one of the only downfalls of the festival happened. We were waiting to see DCR’s client, Easton Corbin, and the entire festival got shut down due to lightning. Sadly, we had to head out a little earlier then expected. The night wasn’t a complete waste because we ended up going to a wedding! The reception was at a whisky distillery and had Edley’s BBQ catering so I could not complain.
Overall, this was an unforgettable experience that I know I am so lucky I got to have. I want to give a huge thank you to DCR for sending me to this and a huge shout out to my mom. Honestly, the best part about this trip was getting to see what she really does with this company. This has only sparked my interest more in the entertainment industry. The people are passionate about what they do like no other. I can only hope to continue to have amazing opportunities like this throughout my life, so I can share them with others!