Thomas Rhett & Kelsea Ballerini vow not to be “too extra” hosting ABC’s CMA Fest special Sunday

ABC/Ed Herrera

ABC’s annual three-hour CMA Fest special premieres Sunday night at 8:00 ET with a who’s who of the biggest stars in country music, plus huge names from the worlds of rap, rock, and pop, like Lil Nas X, Joan Jett, and The Chainsmokers.

Once again, Kelsea Ballerini hosts with Thomas Rhett, who co-hosted with Brett Eldredge his first year.

“Four years — geez!” TR reflects. “This is my third year with Kelsea. Every year, I feel like we get more comfortable in front of a camera.”

“I think the first couple of years we were really learning what it meant to improvise…” he continues, “when plans kind of changed with the TV.”

Every year, TR and Kelsea review the previous show to see what they can learn. 

“We decided the first year, we were like a little too casual about it,” Kelsea reveals. “Last year, we were like like, ‘OH MY GOD! WELCOME TO THE STAGE!’ Just too extra.”

“So we decided this year just to talk like we normally would talk at a festival. We’ll see how it works next year. I don’t know,” she laughs.

Even though Kelsea and TR were friends before, they’ve become even better pals by hosting the show.

“When you spend that much time with somebody,” TR explains, “if you don’t become friends, I think you’re miserable at that point… You know, me and my wife hang out with [Kelsea] and [her husband] Morgan [Evans] quite a bit.”

“When you have…downtime,” TR adds, “you kind of just sit and talk about life and really get to know each other better. And I think that the more friends you are and the better you know somebody, it definitely translates onto the TV when you get to co-host with each other.”

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