2016 CMA Awards: Lots of Throwbacks, No ‘Forever Country’, Says Shane McAnally
Shane McAnally says that he's been asked quite often if he had all 30 artists involved in the "Forever Country" mashup sing the entire project all the way through. But the songwriter was more strategic than that.
"Little Big Town pretty much sang the entire song, in four different ways, because I needed harmonies, and they are just amazing at covering so much ground," McAnally recently told The Boot and other reporters. "The people that came in early, like Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, they sang a lot of the song for me, because I didn’t know as we went down through the thing how much we would need to fill in the gaps and things, so I had them sing a lot, so we would be covered. George Strait was one of the last people to sing on it; there was literally, like, one place where we had kind of held a spot for him, that would be an important spot."
Together with his co-arranger, Josh Osborne, McAnally combined combined Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" into one masterpiece, to honor the 50th anniversary of the CMA Awards. In addition to LBT, Lambert, Bryan and Strait, the collaboration features Keith Urban, Reba McEntire and more.
"Luckily no one came in and said, ‘Well, that line doesn’t really work for me.’ We didn’t have that at all," McAnally says. "That’s one of the things that, initially, before I started recording it, I didn’t know how I was going to do it."
McAnally had a long list of artists he hoped to recruit for the project -- but at the top of the list were two of country music's biggest stars. Thankfully, they didn't disappoint.
"The whole thing was sort of written around the idea that [Parton would] sing a part of it," he explains. "She encompasses everything that our genre wants to represent; inside and outside of country music, she has served as a great ambassador ... But I feel like, with Dolly and Willie, and having "On the Road Again," they were the centerpieces."
Getting Strait, though, was "the biggest gift," McAnally admits, "just because he doesn’t do a lot of things."
"He’s very choosy," the producer notes.
And while McAnally has no plans to re-create "Forever Country" for the CMA Awards' live ceremony in November, he does have a few hints about what fans can expect.
"I do know there’s going to be a lot of heritage artists, so you’re going to see a lot fewer current singles being pushed," he shares. "[CMA Awards Executive Producer] Robert Deaton sat down with managers and producers and said, ‘This year, we are going to honor the history of country music,’ so everybody has kind of taken their respective hats off of trying to promote something that’s happening right now.
"That doesn’t mean there won’t be some of that," McAnally adds, "but I think we’re going to definitely see a lot of throwback, and I’m really excited about that."
The 2016 CMA Awards will air live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 2, at 8PM ET on ABC.
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