Why Brooks lip-synced

Los Angeles Times - - POP MUSIC - By Sarah Rod­man sarah.rod­man @la­times.com Twit­ter: @SarahARod­man

NASHVILLE — The Coun­try Mu­sic Assn. shouldn’t have wor­ried about what the press might ask artists back­stage at the 51st CMA Awards Wed­nes­day night at the Bridge­stone Arena. In the end, it was the show and the artists them­selves who broached, al­beit obliquely, the tur­moil of the last few months.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion got into hot wa­ter last week when it sent guide­lines to the me­dia warn­ing them off ask­ing ques­tions about gun con­trol, pol­i­tics or the shoot­ing at the Route 91 Har­vest Fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas, un­der threat of cre­den­tials be­ing re­voked via se­cu­rity es­cort. Af­ter chid­ing from sev­eral artists, in­clud­ing vet­eran co­host Brad Pais­ley, the CMA re­scinded the di­rec­tive.

Given that it was al­ways clear that there would be some form of trib­ute to the vic­tims of Route 91 — which came at the close of co-host Car­rie Un­der­wood’s stun­ning per­for­mance of “Softly and Ten­derly” dur­ing the In Me­mo­riam se­quence — it seemed ex­tra ab­surd to ef­fec­tively ban ques­tions about what just hap­pened on the tele­cast.

But, even as Pais­ley and Un­der­wood and win­ners like Lit­tle Big Town and Mi­randa Lambert urged unity dur­ing the three-hour show, as has been the norm in the genre since the Dixie Chicks were ef­fec­tively ex­iled from the coun­try mu­sic com­mu­nity in 2003, the talk re­mained firmly in the neigh­bor­hood of heart­felt dec­la­ra­tions about fam­ily.

Here are a few nuggets from those who did meet the press:

Garth Brooks ad­mits to lip-sync­ing and ap­plauds Mi­randa Lambert

Win­ning his sixth over­all en­ter­tainer of the year prize and sec­ond in a row, Brooks told re­porters back­stage that he was in the mid­dle of 12 shows in 10 days — “not 10 shows in 12 days” — and that his voice was gone. In an at­tempt to save it for the next show, he made a “game-time call” to lip-sync his per­for­mance of “Ask Me How I Know” “be­cause the voice was just not there and you want to rep­re­sent coun­try mu­sic the best that you can.”

He also cham­pi­oned Lambert’s per­for­mance. “She is one of the few fe­males that we play,” said Brooks, re­fer­ring to coun­try ra­dio’s hos­til­ity to­ward fe­male artists. “So you’d think she’d want to play it safe; she came out and she stuck coun­try mu­sic in all of our faces tonight, tra­di­tional coun­try mu­sic.” Chris Sta­ple­ton on a tragic year and living the dream

Win­ner of two awards, male vo­cal­ist and al­bum of the year for “From a Room: Vol­ume 1,” Sta­ple­ton said per­form­ing his hymn-like song “Bro­ken Ha­los” was the clear choice for this night — obliquely ref­er­enc­ing both the nat­u­ral and man-made dis­as­ters of 2017.

“When some of the events hap­pened this year, [the CMA awards’ pro­ducer] Robert [Deaton] called us ... and we col­lec­tively talked about it and, in light of the tragic year that we’ve had, that felt like the only thing we could play.”

Since his break­through per­for­mance on the 2015 CMA Awards with Justin Tim­ber­lake, Sta­ple­ton — a mu­si­cian’s mu­si­cian beloved by Nashville — has been sell­ing records and win­ning awards at a brisk clip.

With his wife and band mate Mor­gane by his side as he clutched his tro­phies — keep­ing the pointy ends away from her preg­nant belly — Sta­ple­ton said the rocket ride has been “an unimag­in­able fairy tale of a thing.”

Lit­tle Big Town preaches har­mony and hap­pily ac­cepts Tay­lor Swift’s award on her be­half

“I think we all need to focus on what’s im­por­tant,” said Karen Fairchild of the vo­cal quar­tet, which paid trib­ute to the late Glen Camp­bell along­side leg­endary song­writer Jimmy Webb with a shiver-in­duc­ing ren­di­tion of “Wi­chita Line­man” and scored the vo­cal group of the year award. She am­pli­fied her ac­cep­tance speech re­marks about the world need­ing to have more har­mony. “It’s the abil­ity to have a con­ver­sa­tion with­out anger, it’s OK to love peo­ple that you dis­agree with.”

The group also quipped that they would keep Swift’s tro­phy for song of the year for their sin­gle “Bet­ter Man” safe.

“We’ll take her award and put it on our shelves,” said Kim­berly Sch­lap­man. “She’s got plenty!” (The for­mer coun­try star was prep­ping for her ap­pear­ance on “Satur­day Night Live” when she got the news of her win.)

Broth­ers Os­borne shout out “badass” coun­try song­writ­ers un­afraid to speak the truth

For the sec­ond straight year, the vol­u­ble Mary­land sib­lings copped the vo­cal duo award; they also nabbed the mu­sic video prize for “It Ain’t My Fault.”

When asked about coun­try mu­sic be­ing a venue for artists speak­ing their minds on cur­rent events, front­man-gui­tarist T.J. Os­borne re­sponded with an “Oh, hell yeah,” cit­ing “badass” out­spo­ken coun­try pi­o­neers like Merle Hag­gard.

“They said things that mat­tered to peo­ple and I think ab­so­lutely that’s the coolest thing about coun­try mu­sic. It’s been a lit­tle lost lately, we hope we can bring it back,” he said of the sense of ten­ta­tive­ness among much of the artist com­mu­nity.

“Hon­estly, walk­ing the [red] car­pet that was com­ing to the fore­front of both of our minds tonight, es­pe­cially with the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate com­ing out of a lot of con­tro­versy around gun con­trol and Route 91 and all the high feel­ings that sur­round all of that, we are ob­vi­ously all very sen­si­tive for very right­ful rea­sons,” he said.

The duo per­formed at the first night of the Las Ve­gas fes­ti­val, the evening be­fore the tragic shoot­ing. “Me and my brother, have been on an emo­tional roller coaster since that event, even still I al­most broke out in tears on the car­pet, even right now just think­ing about how crazy that is,” T.J. said.

“In coun­try mu­sic, or re­ally any genre, artists are sup­posed to speak for peo­ple, they’re sup­posed to be a re­lease for peo­ple,” he con­tin­ued.

Mean­while, out­side the arena…

One per­son un­afraid to get overtly po­lit­i­cal was Amer­i­cana artist Sturgill Simp­son, who set up shop out­side the show.

The win­ner of this year’s Grammy for coun­try al­bum for his ac­claimed “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” livestreamed him­self busk­ing and tak­ing ques­tions with his Grammy tucked into his open gui­tar case.

With a sign that read, “I don’t take re­quests but I take ques­tions about any­thing you want to talk about… be­cause fas­cism sucks” — tak­ing a jab at the CMA’s re­scinded guide­lines— Simp­son played a few songs and proved an ex­cel­lent pre­dic­tion maker. Among the artists for which he was root­ing were Lambert, Ur­ban and Sta­ple­ton, all of whom walked away with tro­phies.

Rick Di­a­mond Getty Im­ages

EN­TER­TAINER OF THE YEAR Garth Brooks, who’s in the mid­dle of a busy tour, elected to lip-sync his song “Ask Me How I Know” at the CMA Awards.

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