Academy of Country Music boss talks about ACM Awards changes

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WOWK) – Country music’s biggest stars will shine during Wednesday’s Academy of Country Music Awards. 

But thanks to COVID-19 the show will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen. 

13 News Anchor Rob Macko had a chance to speak with ACM CEO Damon Whiteside from Nashville.   

“Is this your first awards ceremony as the CEO of the Academy of Country Music?” 

“It is,” Whiteside replied.  

“You picked a great year, didn’t you?”  

“It was a strange year to walk in and be the new CEO. I started in January and right out the gate we were planning for the show in Vegas and I was all excited about it and then as this began to take hold things started to change,” Whiteside said.  

And for the first time in 55 years, the ACM awards will be held in Nashville. 

“Ultimately decided that Nashville was the right place to do it this year just for safety of the artists since most of them are based here. They can just conveniently drive down to the venues,” Whiteside explained. 

The virtual show hosted by Keith Urban will be broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Bluebird Café with mostly live but some pre-recorded performances. 

Whiteside said they decided not to have fans in the audience for the peace of mind of the musicians, staff, and crew. 

“So you’re going to see a beautiful lit Ryman Auditorium, and Grand Ole Opry House, and Bluebird that are going to be empty but it’ll be really striking and really beautiful and really touching,” he said. 

Big John hosts the “Big John and Company” morning show on 93.7 The Dawg in Huntington. 

“Performers feed off of what the audience gives them and without an audience it’s going to be interesting to watch,” he said. 

Big John says he’s been watching the ACM awards for years, but this year with the pandemic and the virtual nature of the show, he’s not quite sure what to expect. 

But he says it should be fun. 

“Artists haven’t been performing. They haven’t been out. They’re real eager to get out and perform so I think the performances are going to be really good this year,” he said. 

Big John has never been to the ACM Awards, but says he went to the Country Music Association Awards back in the 1990s.  

“They’re an incredible event. ACM Awards, CMA Awards, any of those things like that, just unbelievable the amount of stars,” Big John said. 

And speaking of local stars, Paintsville, Kentucky’s own Chris Stapleton is nominated for Male Artist of the Year.  

“As I understand it he is pretty tucked away at his farm and so I don’t anticipate seeing him around the awards this year unfortunately but I’m sure he’ll be watching from home,” Whiteside said. 

Whiteside said the show offers something for everyone and promises the home audience will have fun. 

“There’s a lot of great music and it’s going to bring smiles to faces. Fans will be dancing and singing along at home but they also might shed a tear cause there’s going to be a lot of beautiful moments too,” he said. 

Whiteside said if Chris Stapleton does win they’ll try to find a way to get him on camera to accept.     

You can catch the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on WOWK-TV 13. 

Follow Rob Macko on Facebook and Twitter for the latest local and breaking news.

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