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CMADuring CMA Fest 2018, Luke Bryan celebrated the tenth anniversary of his fan club "The Nut House," named for the fact that the Georgia native grew up on a peanut farm.

As he told ABC Radio backstage at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, “It's been a few years since I've had the opportunity to do a fan club party. So just being there with my guitar and it not being very formal, just me playing songs that I wrote five years ago that I don't even remember [and] the fans interacting with me....I mean, it was a fun moment.”

He adds, “But any time I have a guitar and it's kinda that intimate environment, I always relish those opportunities just to stand up there and kinda go off the cuff.”

These days, Luke is busy promoting his new release, “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset.”

“Anytime you have a new single out, it's always such an exciting moment,” he says. “And you know, the fans will start hearing it more on the radio and it'll just gradually get bigger and bigger, which is always fun, to watch kinda the evolution of a song.”

After his fan club party, Luke traveled to the Carolinas for a Saturday show, before returning to Nashville to close out CMA Fest Sunday night.

“It was amazing," he gushes. "There was like 30,000 people at the Carolina Country Music Festival and I played 'Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset.' And we're on the beach, and I'm playing a summer beach song, and I turned to my band afterwards and I was like, 'Oh my God -- that just felt huge!'”  

Tune in to see Luke’s closing CMA Fest performance Wednesday, August 8, when the annual three-hour special premieres at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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CMABrett Eldredge hosted one of the most unusual gatherings during CMA Fest year: a meet-up with his fans at a dog park. The Illinois native was surprised how many people showed up, though perhaps he shouldn’t be, given the popularity of his 2-year-old Weimaraner/Vizsla mix, Edgar.

So, at this point, Edgar's the most popular dog in country music, right?

“He might be,” Brett tells ABC Radio. “I was trying to think about that the other day. I mean, it's weird that a dog can be famous, but he definitely is…He hasn't got a big head about it -- yet."

As you might expect, the “Long Way Home” hitmaker’s fans love to shower his pooch with presents.

“Oh, god! Insane amounts,” Brett admits. “Like, literally, we've got boxes of toys that he gets from the fans. But the thing is, he tears up so many dog toys, that we always end up using 'em.”

“Yeah, [toys] get thrown up onstage a lot," he laughs. "Sometimes you see bras thrown onstage. I see dog toys. Rock and roll!”

You can tune in to see Brett perform his latest single, “Love Someone,” on ABC’s annual CMA Fest special, which airs August 8 starting at 8 p.m. ET.

“I'm so excited to play that song, just in time for summertime,” Brett says. “I get to sing a fun song that fits this time of year perfect and just makes you want to dance and feel good.”

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CMACMA Fest is all about the fans, and for Cole Swindell, one of the highlights of the week was his fan club party.

“You know, it's always one of my favorite times,” he told ABC Radio backstage at Nissan Stadium over the weekend. “Because you get to meet new fans you haven't met. But then there's also those familiar faces that you see. You know where they're from, but they still make [it to] shows all over the country."

“You know, this is what they look forward to all year,” Cole said of CMA Fest, “and they've got a lot of favorite artists, and they get to see all of 'em.”

Cole’s latest hit, “Break Up in the End,” just broke into the top 25, and he told ABC Radio, "It is a breakup song, but it's a love story, I think. Any kind of love that you would go back and do all over again, no matter how it ends, is pretty powerful.”

For the Georgia native, one of the best parts of meeting his fans is finding out how songs like "Break Up in the End" affects them.

“To hear the fan's stories, that's the beauty of getting to release songs,” he says. “In your meet-and-greets, the more the song moves [up the chart], you start hearing more and more stories about how people relate to it.”

It’s a phenomenon Cole first experienced as a fan himself.

“I've always been a country music fan, and that's the reason I fell in love with it, is because I could relate to it, and it helped me through times,” he reveals. “And now, being on the other side of that, getting to record songs, write songs, whatever it may be, that relate to other people, help them...that's why I moved to Nashville.”  

You can watch for Cole’s performance  of “Break Up in the End” on Wednesday, August 8, as this year’s CMA Fest special premieres at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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CMAFlorida Georgia Line celebrated the #1 success of both “Meant to Be” and “God, Your Mama and Me” this weekend with a party at FGL House in downtown Nashville.

Both Bebe Rexha and Backstreet Boys were on hand for the festivities, but even the world-famous pop stars couldn’t compete with the most popular girl at the party: Tyler Hubbard’s nearly six-month-old daughter Olivia.

Liv, as her dad calls her, smiled, cooed and demonstrated her standing-up skills as the superstars did interviews before the party.

“Yeah, she seems to be pretty outgoing, likes to be around people, but she always has been,” Tyler says of his daughter’s personality. “So hopefully that doesn't change. And she's kinda like me and [my wife] Hayley in a way. We're social people, you know.”

Next up for Tyler and Brian Kelley? The retro video for their new single, “Simple.”

“A little 1930's little timepiece there,” BK says of the song’s feel. “So we're super excited. It's really cool to see the song and the lyrics really come to life in this video.”

“I think our guy, Justin Clough, our director, he crushed it, wrote an amazing treatment,” Brian continues. “And all the actors, everybody in the band, we got everybody in there, and it looks beautiful, really true to the time. And we'll see what everybody thinks.”  

Look for FGL’s video for “Simple” to be released soon.

You can also catch their collaborations with Bebe and BSB on the 2018 edition of the annual CMA Fest special, which premieres August 8 at 8 p.m. ET. on ABC.

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Dierks Bentley's current Mountain High tour features LANCO and Brothers Osborne, and backstage at CMA Fest this weekend, Dierks told ABC Radio that choosing those acts are all a part of his philosophy of creating the most fun summer tour experience possible.

"You know I've learned a lot from my kids. They get to go to camp every summer," Dierks explained. "I'm like, 'I wanna go to camp, too!  So how do I go to camp?' And you go to camp by surrounding yourself with great people." 

"Y'know, in years past, I had Cole Swindell and Jon Pardi on a tour," he continued., "Before that, Randy Houser out on a tour. This year, to have Brothers Osborne and LANCO, it's just...it shouldn't be allowed!"

Dierks says on and off the stage, Brothers O and LANCO are ensuring that everyone has a fun summer.

"The LANCO guys have so much energy, they're ready to party every night -- we have a little backstage bar called Whiskey Row and they're always there, ready and able," raves Dierks. "And then the Brothers, y'know, [they're] two of the nicest guys, and  so it's really fun throughout their day, and after the show."

But, Dierks notes, "Most importantly for the show, these guys hit the stage hungry, ready to make new fans, ready to bring it, and that's what makes it fun for the fans, fun for me...a fun kinda camp-like experience all summer." 

In fact, fresh from their performance at Bonnaroo, Brothers O joined Dierks during his show at Nissan Stadium this past weekend to perform “Burnin’ Man.” 

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You might think playing the main stage this weekend at CMA Fest would be Brett Young’s most pressure-packed performance of the year. But you’d be wrong, because the California native recently found out his fiancée, Taylor Mills, expects him to sing at their wedding.

“If we get the venue we want on the date we want, it's gonna be [at the] end of the year,” he revealed to ABC Radio backstage. “So it's getting close.”

“And I didn't think she would want me to sing,” he continues. “She's at five shows of mine a week, and I thought, 'There's no way she's gonna want me to.'”

“And she overheard me saying that, and she goes, 'Babe, you have to sing at our wedding.' And I went, 'What do I do?'”

The issue is that Brett doesn't necessarily want to dip into his own catalogue for this particular occasion.

“I don't know what song to do, and I'm not gonna sing one of my own, unless I write it between now and then," he clarifies. “I don't get that nervous about singing very often, but at my own wedding, I'm kinda freaking out!” 

While we may not be lucky enough to see Brett’s upcoming wedding performance, you’ll definitely be able to catch part of his CMA Fest set. The annual three-hour special airs Wednesday, August 8 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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CMAJake Owen’s come a long way since the first time he attended the country festival formerly known as Fan Fair.  This weekend, he played his top-ten tribute to John Mellencamp, “I Was Jack (You Were Diane),” on the main stage at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.  Back then, he was just starting out.

“The first year I was here, [after] I moved to town, I hadn't even gotten a record deal yet,” he recalls. “So I just went over to the fairgrounds with some friends and drank some beers and watch Hank [Williams] Junior.”

“And then, the cool part was, the first year that I got a record deal, Hank Jr. played the stadium, and I was backstage,” he continues. “There was a [radio] guy [backstage]....and he said, 'Do you want to introduce Hank Jr. with me?' And I couldn't believe it, because the year before I'd seen Hank play, and then I got to introduce him. And I was a nobody.”

Jake’s latest hit -- and update on the classic “Jack & Diane -- has the Mellencamp seal of approval. And Jake admits it’s also the perfect set-up to potentially get to sing with his hero one day.

“Shoot, I sure hope so,” he says of the possibility. “I mean, I love John Mellencamp, I always have.”

“I never have and never will ever pressure or try to get him to do anything,” he adds. “He's done enough in his career and life that he definitely doesn't need me to do anything. So if he ever wanted to do something, I'd be happy to do it, but as of now, I'm just happy that I can shine a light on something like that.” 

You can check out Jake’s CMA Fest version of “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” when ABC’s annual three-hour special airs Wednesday, August 8, starting at 8 p.m. ET.

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CMABebe Rexha spent CMA Fest week in Nashville hanging out with Florida Georgia Line, attending their number one party for their collaboration "Meant to Be" and joining the guys onstage at Nashville's Nissan Stadium.  She even got her first-ever cowboy hat...from Dolly Parton's hatmaker, no less.  But while Bebe may be well-versed in country music now, things were quite different for her last year.

Bebe admits that when she walked into the studio the day "Meant to Be" was created, she didn't know much about country music at all.  How clueless was she? She thought she was about to write with a totally different act.

"I don't know why, but I thought I was getting into the studio with Little Big Town," she told ABC Radio backstage at CMA Fest. "And then I showed up and Tyler [Hubbard] was in the studio. And then I was like, 'Um, wait, where are the girls?'" And he's like, 'What girls? It's only me and BK!'"

"And I'm like, 'Wait, this is not Little Big Town?'" Bebe continues. "He's like, 'No, honey, we're FGL!'"

She laughs, "And I've told that story and now I really regret 'cause I sound so silly but it was true!" 

Bebe's debut album Expectations, including "Meant to Be," comes out June 22.

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CMAMaren Morris' bulldog puppy Pancake came to her from, of all places, Jon Pardi's mom, who's a dog breeder. According to Jon, it started out as a little fun project for her, but now it's taken over her life.

"Yes, my mom is obsessed with English bulldogs," he told ABC Radio backstage at CMA Fan Fest this past weekend. "It started off like, 'I'm gonna breed some bulldogs! It's gonna be fun!'  And it's turned into that now, she has six bulldogs...it's crazy!"

Jon laughs, "They're like miniature cows running around that slobber and fart and snore. But they're cute!"

Unfortunately, Jon says that it's not so easy for fans to purchase puppies from his mother.

"Those things are expensive! And her latest batch was, like, really expensive!" Jon admits. "Everybody likes Pancake-style puppies: affordable, the traditional brown and white bulldog. So she's learned."

When he's not trying to avoid his mom's dog pack, Jon's been working on a new album, the follow-up to his hit 2016 project California Sunrise

"We are gonna record one more session, we're not done yet, we're taking our time -- but it will be next year, new music," Jon says. 

Until then, he plans to release one more single from California Sunrise to tide fans over.

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CMAIt’s been another big year for Chris Stapleton. Since he last played CMA Fest in Nashville, he and wife Morgane welcomed twin sons, and Chris had his first number one single with “Broken Halos.”

“You know, I'd written some number ones for other people, but never had one as an artist,” Chris told ABC Radio backstage at CMA Fest this past weekend. “And it meant so much to get to have that particular song go number one, because I wrote it with my dear friend Mike Henderson, who I was in the SteelDrivers with.”

“And he's 64 years old and that's his first number one song too, as a writer,” Chris explains. “So that was a good feeling all the way around on that song, to get that kind of accolade for it.”

“Broken Halos” is just one of the songs you’re sure to hear on this year’s incarnation of Chris’s All-American Road Show. But his favorite musical partner will be missing this summer, as Morgane stays home to take care of their little ones.

“Morgane's gonna kind of go on maternity leave for this tour," Chris reveals.

“[My producer] Dave Cobb's gonna come out with us, he continues. “We're gonna maybe have some special guests throughout the year, have some different kinds of musical experiences out there. But we'll let those babies get a little bit bigger before we get 'em roadworthy, I think.”

This weekend at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, Chris gave CMA Fest fans a preview of what they’ll see during a summer that will also find him opening stadium dates for the Eagles.

“Any time you're playing for fans it's a wonderful thing,” the “Millionaire” singer said of the fan-focused gathering. “They allow us to do what most of us would probably do for free anyway… They allow us to make a living at it, so to get to come here and do things and see people smiling, enjoying what you do, it's a real treat.” 

Chris was literally playing for free on Saturday night: All the artists donate their time so the Country Music Association can give the proceeds to music education.

You can see Chris’s performance Wednesday, August 8, as the three-hour CMA Fest special airs at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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CMAMidland toured with Little Big Town earlier this year, and while you wouldn't think the two acts would necessarily mesh, they had a great time together.

"They're like family to us...Thank God that Little Big Town gets our sense of humor!" Mark Wystrach told ABC Radio. "It's an incredible way to start the year, doing an arena tour with a bunch of friends."

But in the video below, watch Mark's reaction when ABC Radio informs Midland what the members of Little Big Town had to say about them. Apparently, the guys in Midland like to take their clothes off...a lot.

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CMAAs Keith Urban played CMA Fest’s main stage at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium over the weekend, he recalled his very first time attending country music’s biggest festival as a fan.

“I certainly remember the first one I went to,” he told ABC Radio backstage, “just to be on the side of the stage watching this thing called Fan Fair back in the day. Some friends of ours took us to see this 'new artist' called Tim McGraw.” 

He laughs, “It was amazing!”

Not only do the biggest stars in country music turn out to play CMA Fest -- they do it for free. The Country Music Foundation, in return, donates all the money from ticket sales to music education. It’s a cause that’s very close to Keith’s heart.

“I was really fortunate to go to a public school that happened to have a music room and a music teacher,” he explains, “And I just thought that was a basic, standard, given in every situation. But you're seeing it more and more where they do away with that when they're cutting costs.”

He goes on, “It's a big problem because it's not some sort of fringe curriculum thing that you can just discard. You know, with so many kids who are musically gifted, that is the way in which they find their voice. And their self-esteem and identity and everything is in that.”

You can experience this year’s CMA Fest for yourself, as the annual three-hour music extravaganza airs Wednesday, August 8 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini return as hosts for the second year in a row.

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Jason Aldean's sixth-month old son Memphis has been joining him on the road recently, but it's not exactly been smooth sailing having a baby on board, the Entertainer of the Year reveals.

"He actually went out for the opening weekend of the tour. He did all right," Jason tells ABC Radio. "He's still not sleeping through the night at home, so he's definitely not sleeping through the night on the road. But, he's doing pretty good."

"I think it's going to be fun to watch him out there kind of grow up around all of this stuff...and get to live it a little bit," Jason adds. "Even though he's little, I want him to sort of have memories of that stuff. So, we'll see. I gotta get him sleeping through the night and then we'll see how it goes. It's a work in progress, I guess I should say!"

In addition to keeping him awake, the singer admits that baby Memphis' presence sure has changed things on the ol' tour bus.

"I was looking around my bus...and there's baby bottles and formula and diapers. I'm like, 'Man, that is not the kind of bottles I'm used to seeing on my bus!'" he laughs.

"I mean, my bus life has changed over the years but it's awesome. I love it."

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After Kane Brown topped the chart with "Heaven," Darius Rucker followed him to #1 with "For the First Time."  Fittingly, it was the first time in the history of the Billboard Country Airplay chart that two black artists have had consecutive #1 songs.  Kane told ABC Radio he's proud of the accomplishment.

"It's cool to me, man...it goes back to Charley Pride," Kane told ABC Radio, referring to the black country music legend.  "Before he went to the Opry, whenever he was killin' it, nobody knew that he was black or anything. So, just to be up there with Darius, just to have back-to-back number ones like that...it's hard. 'cause I feel like there's only two or three of us in the industry right now. So, for it to happen with me and him, and being great friends, it's an amazing feeling."

Kane says he's "just trying to break stereotypes as much as possible," with his music.  "We're trying to break that barrier down," he says.

Kane spoke to ABC Radio backstage at Nashville's Nissan Stadium on Thursday night, where he performed on the big stage for the first time. Kane said it "feels amazing" to be part of CMA Fest after a year in which his career exploded.

"You get to see your fans in person. And, everybody's in Nashville...so that's awesome," he told ABC Radio. "And it's cool 'cause every year that I come here, I feel that we've got some milestones. Like, the first year, there was a couple people knew me, the second year more people knew me."

"It's awesome just coming back and just seeing more people recognize you and want to take pictures with you...it just keeps growing and growing and growing."

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Kelsea Ballerini's stripped-down performance of "I Hate Loves Songs" on this week's CMT Music Awards impressed another star who was there: Kelly Clarkson.  And after Kelly praised Kelsea on Twitter, Kelsea says she freaked out.

While Kelsea's award show performances are usually big production numbers with glamorous outfits, at the CMT Awards, she wore denim, sat on a stool and just sang.  Kelly tweeted, "Nothing like a girl in jeans simply singing a great song and creating an intimate environment in an arena! My personal favorite of the night."

"I saw that tweet...and I had a panic attack!" Kelsea told ABC Radio backstage at Nashville's Nissan Stadium last night. "I mean...she's my favorite artist of all time. And she knows that, I talk about it all the time. So to have her post something like that was really cool."

Explaining the low-key performance, Kelsea says, "I do love the bells and the whistles and the glitter and all that, but I moved to Nashville to write songs, y'know? That's kind of the heart of everything that I do and I haven't really shown that too much yet. So I was really excited to try that."

In August, Kelsea will return to co-host ABC's annual CMA Fest TV special, with Thomas Rhett.  She loves the event so much because she used to attend it as a fan.

"I remember going to the Convention Center and waiting in line to meet people, and sitting in the stadium up in the nosebleeds and waiting for my favorite artists to come on stage," she told ABC Radio. 

"It's just that week where everyone's together. You feel that community...and you get to say thank you in person," she added. "It's really fulfilling and I always leave this week feeling empowered."

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This week's CMT Music Awards featured a thrilling live performance of "Straight to Hell," Darius Rucker's new single, featuring Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean.  Backstage at Nashville's Nissan Stadium Thursday night, Darius told ABC Radio he thought they sounded pretty good, considering they'd never played the song before.

"Oh yeah, that was the first time we had played it for an audience," Darius said, "We rehearsed it once or twice but that was the first time we ever played it together. And it was fun, man. That was awesome!"

Also awesome is the new "Straight to Hell" video, which was just released.  It features Darius, Luke, Jason and Charles in a Wild West saloon-type setting, drinking, gambling and generally cutting up -- until the police shut them down.  

The video also features a clever nod to Darius' other band, Hootie & the Blowfish: When Charles shows up at the door of the saloon, he's asked for the password.  He answers, "Dolphins make me cry," which is a lyric from the Hootie hit "Only Wanna Be With You."

Regarding the video, Darius told ABC Radio that he specifically asked his record label for permission to make it, no matter what:

"I went to Capitol and I said, 'You guys have to promise me something,'" Darius reveals. "And they said, 'What's that?' And I said, 'Even if it's not a single, I want to make a Western video for 'Straight to Hell.' And they were like, 'Okay, we'll do that.' And we made it and man, we had so much fun that day!" 

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Brothers Osborne are pretty busy. Last night, they played Nashville's Nissan Stadium as part of CMA Fest.  Sunday, they'll do an afternoon set at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and then return to Nashville to join Dierks Bentley for his 10 p.m. set at the Stadium.  John Osborne says he and brother TJ have attended Bonnaroo as fans, but it's unusual that they're getting to perform at both events this weekend.

"It's weird because Bonnaroo typically has been during CMA Fest, so it's hard for us to get over there and get back," John tells ABC Radio.  Also, he admits, "Sometimes the Bonnaroo experience could hinder your performance the next day because you've had a little too much fun."

But this year, he says, "This is the best of both worlds. Not only do we get to play the Stadium, but we're getting to play Bonnaroo, which is like, 'What the hell is going on?' And then after Bonnaroo, we're coming back to Nissan Stadium to play with Dierks Bentley. It doesn't get better than this."

TJ, meanwhile, points out that even though this year's edition of Bonnaroo features performers ranging from Sheryl Crow to Eminem to legendary disco band Chic, "there's hardly any country music there."

He notes, "A lot of the fans that would go there...most of them would probably say they don't like country music -- without realizing, I think, [that] they probably do and they just don't know it. And so, it's cool for us to go there, play and show them what we're doing."

"I think there's a lot of stigma, a lot of cliche around country," TJ adds. "So it's cool to go there, to a multi-genre festival, represent country music and hopefully change people's mind. Make them realize there's real music happening here."

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Last night, Thomas Rhett performed at Nashville's Nissan Stadium as part of CMA Fest, but lately, he's been on the road with his two daughters, and he gave ABC Radio an update on how they're doing.

"Willa is crazy, as she should be. She's two-and-a-half," he laughs. "And my youngest, Ada, is now starting to walk, which is terrifying." 

While TR says Ada's having a little sleeping on the tour bus, Willa's good. He laughs, "[She] thinks it's like a tent that she gets to get into at night, on that bunk!"

"But now that Ada is getting a little bit older...Willa is starting to be such a great sister to Ada," he adds.

The two sisters and TR's wife Lauren star in his upcoming music video for his hit "Life Changes."

"I've never done a live video, but my girls were out there, my wife was out there," he tells ABC Radio. "So we got a bunch of great content, from what it's like being on the bus with my girls when we wake up in the morning and then playing a show, so I think it's going to be a really cool video."

In August, TR is co-hosting ABC's annual CMA Fest TV special in August with Kelsea Ballerini, and he says it's a great event for stars and fans.

"It's a big reunion for us artists, 'cause we're always on the road. For the fans, this is the best way to see your artists in so many different environments," he explains.

"You can either see them in a gigantic setting like the stadium or you can go watch them at their fan club party, you can go watch them at a songwriters round...or an...acoustic bit, or the Riverfront stage....there's so many limitless options," he says. "I think that's what make the week of CMA Fest so special."

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It's been a big week for Carly Pearce: Wednesday night, she won the Breakthrough Video of the Year trophy at the CMT Music Awards for "Every Little Thing," and Thursday night, she played her first-ever stadium gig at Nashville's Nissan Stadium as part of CMA Fest.

Telling ABC Radio about her emotional reaction to her win on Wednesday night, Carly said, "If you notice, I don't look at anybody in the artist section because I was too freaked out, being still a fan myself. I was like, 'just keep crying and keep walking!'"

While her family wasn't there with her, Carly said, "They immediately texted and said that they were sobbing. I've got a really small family but my uncle was crying and everybody was just freaking out. My mom said she replayed it over and over and over!"

Thanks to all her success this week, Carly says she knows what she'd tell the Carly Pearce of the past -- that 15-year-old who dropped out of school to get a job singing at Dollywood. 

"I think the biggest thing I would tell her is, 'Don't worry and keep working and believe, because it's all gonna be okay!'" she laughs.

As for playing Nissan Stadium last night, Carly marvels, "I've sat in those stands at every CMA Fest until this one. And, now I get to be on the flip side and understand what it feel like to look out and see 65,000 loving, loving, loving country music fans...and that's awesome."

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CMAWatch this space!

One-on-one video interviews with Carly Pearce, Brothers Osborne, Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean, Kelsea Ballerini, Darius Rucker and Kane Brown, shot last night at Nissan Stadium in Nashville during CMA Fest, will be posted soon!

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