Finally, Keith Urban hosts the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards

Reigning ACM entertainer of the year presides over event on CBS

Keith Urban hosts the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards Wednesday on CBS.

Keith Urban didn’t envision his debut as host of the Academy of Country Music Awards going quite this way.

Calling himself the event’s “longest single reigning entertainer of the year,” he notes that’s due to the coronavirus-pandemic-caused delay of the 55th edition of the ceremony to Wednesday, Sept. 16. That’s when CBS and CBS All Access will present it from several legendary Nashville locations — the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Cafe — as the show originates for the first time from the country-music capital. (It had been slated for April in Las Vegas, where Urban had started a concert residency.)

“I’m glad we’re able to have it go ahead at all,” reasons the ever-friendly Urban, nominated this time for male artist of the year. ”We have to make it work in this new rhythm that we’re all figuring out now, doing things remotely without (on-site) audiences. The word that always comes to my mind is ‘innovation,’ and that’s really what we’re all in the midst of, doing what we do in this new context.”

Not surprisingly, Urban also will perform during the awards, teaming with Pink on their new single “One Too Many.” Taylor Swift is slated to sing on the show for the first time in seven years; the opening will showcase current entertainer of the year nominees Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Carrie Underwood. Scheduled performers also include Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani (together), Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Old Dominion, Kane Brown, Trisha Yearwood, Florida Georgia Line, Kelsea Ballerini and Dan + Shay.

During the ACM Awards, Urban likely will make use of technology, as he notably did by “tripling himself” while performing “Higher Love” on last April’s multiple-network “One World: Together at Home” special. (Entering his home studio toward the song’s end, wife Nicole Kidman somehow knew which of the three was the “real” Urban to walk over to.)

Keith Urban hosts the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards Wednesday on CBS.

Admitting that he felt he was in “artistic paralysis” in the pandemic’s early weeks, Urban says he pulled himself out of it step by step, doing such things as a Tennessee drive-in-theater concert for health-care workers.  “Once I pointed myself toward the things I can do and not what I can’t do, that really was the pivotal thing for me,” he reflects. “I started to get back on the horse, as it were; then, a whole surge of creativity came.”

As the international touring itinerary he’d planned for 2020 shifted to 2021, Urban completed his new album “The Speed of Now Part 1,” which drops Friday, Sept. 18. Among its selections are the already released singles “God Whispered Your Name,” “We Were,” “Superman” and “Polaroid.”

With the ACM Awards making their Nashville debut, Urban says, “It’s much like the first time the CMA Awards went out of Nashville to New York in 2005, when I won both male vocalist of the year and entertainer of the year. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to be a part of a couple of really extraordinary moments in country-music history … but it’s amazing that the ACMs have never been in Nashville before. It’s crazy that it took a pandemic to make it happen.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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