After receiving rave reviews for their inaugural joint performance hosting the CMA Awards last year, Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning are eager to return again this year. The country music superstar and former professional football player are friends on and off stage, which is what makes their collaboration so special.
“I think this year, having a year behind us, I feel like we’ve been a little more chilled out, pragmatic, calmed down … We’re just comfortable now,” Bryan said at a press conference ahead of the ceremony. “Like, I know how he rolls. I guess our timing, we know a little bit better about our comedic timing and then how that’s gonna roll.”
“Obviously I’m honored to be back,” added Manning. “It was a lot of fun for me last year, and I’m kind of the outsider here. The music was so great, and seeing all the winners last year, the looks on their faces … this is a life-changing moment for so many of these artists. And so, I can appreciate that, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of those other life-changing moments tomorrow night.”
While the CMA Awards are known as much for the comedic banter as the performances and acceptance speeches, Manning insists that most of the jokes will be at their own expense.
“Luke and I certainly both have thick skin, and the more that the joke can be on us, we are for it,” Manning says with a laugh, “I think both of us believe in self-deprecating humor… we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But this is supposed to be a celebration. We’re not here to make anybody mad or disappoint anybody.”
Manning may not be as well known in country music, but he remains a huge fan of the genre, and is honored to be part of country music’s biggest night.
“I love it,” Manning says. “I love the stories. I love to hear where the artists have come from … and I love to know the hard work that these artists have put in to reach their dreams. It’s been a lot of fun for me, and I really do value these friendships that I’ve made, and I enjoy getting to know new ones each year.”
Bryan has been nominated for a total of 18 CMA Awards, winning two, both Entertainer of the Year in 2014 and 2015. Although he was, inexplicably, not nominated in any categories this year, the 47-year-old says he is still far from where he was when he was attending the CMA Awards early in his career.
“My first year at the CMAs. I think I was sitting behind a television camera, looking around some camera guy’s butt the whole night,” Bryan recalled. “But I was just glad to be in the room … It’s the industry that really votes you in there to win. I just remember those days for me were pretty stressful and hectic. And certainly when you win one, the after-parties are pretty fun. But I always remember being humbled and honored to be in those positions, to have nominations or multiple nominations.
“And I wake up year after year, trying to write and continue to get nominations and move the needle in my career and try to be creative,” he added.
The 2023 CMA Awards will air live on Wednesday, November 8, at 8:00 PM ET on ABC.