For Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley is more than just her close friend and frequent duet partner. He's like a big brother and her own personal Conway Twitty.
“We just work as a team,” Underwood said in a recent phone interview. “If you think about — and I mean, I'm not meaning to like compare us to these people at all — there's so many good teams in country music over the years, you know, George (Jones) and Tammy (Wynette) and Conway and Loretta (Lynn).”
“It's great for me to have my own Conway and have my own George, you know,” she added with a laugh.
While the Checotah native and her fellow country music superstar have recorded two popular ballads together — including last year's chart-topper “Remind Me” — their most high-profile collaboration is co-hosting the CMA Awards. They will emcee the Country Music Association's 46th annual soiree for the fifth straight year at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show will air live on ABC.
“It's more of like big brother-little sister kind of connection that we have. We pick on each other. I feel like we have the same kind of sense of humor. We're both pretty dry. He's a little more sort of smart-alecky than me,” Underwood said. “It just works. I don't know, there's no ego involved, nobody's trying to upstage the other ... we're so happy to celebrate each other's success and work together. And I love his family, and he's buddies with my husband. It all works.”
The show is also hard work for the pair.
Along with co-hosting the three-hour event, both will compete for prizes and perform on the CMA Awards. Underwood received her seventh nomination for female vocalist of the year, a trophy she claimed in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
She won't be the only star with Oklahoma ties who shines during Thursday's ceremony. Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Vince Gill also are included on the performance lineup, while Reba McEntire will appear as a presenter, the night before her new sitcom “Malibu Country” premieres on ABC.
Plus, Shelton, Lambert, Thompson Square and Toby Keith are among the CMA Awards nominees.
Tishomingo residents Shelton and Lambert will compete for four awards each, and the couple is nominated together for song of the year for Lambert's heartbreaking hit “Over You.” The song of the year prize is awarded to songwriters. The pair, who wed in 2011, penned the emotional ballad about the death of Shelton's older brother Richie in a car accident.
Plus, Shelton has a shot at the CMA Awards' top prize, entertainer of the year, along with Paisley, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney and current titleholder Taylor Swift.
The Ada native also is nominated for male vocalist of the year, an award he won the past two years, and single of the year for his chart-topping ballad “God Gave Me You,” produced by fellow Oklahoma native Scott Hendricks. Plus, contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Dave Barnes received a song of the year nomination for penning “God Gave Me You.”
Along with singing solo on the show, Shelton will join Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Lady Antebellum in performing a special tribute to Willie Nelson.
In addition to her song of the year nomination, Lambert is nominated for music video of the year for “Over You,” directed by Trey Fanjoy. The Texas native also will vie for female vocalist of the year, an award she earned the past two years, and album of the year for “Four the Record,” produced by Frank Liddell, Chuck Ainlay and Glenn Worf. Her previous album, “Revolution,” won the category in 2010.
Thompson Square, another husband-and-wife team with Oklahoma ties, received two CMA Awards nominations. Miami, OK, native Keifer Thompson and wife Shawna are nominated for the second straight year in both the vocal duo and new artist categories.
Norman resident Toby Keith garnered his 28th career CMA nomination in the music video of the year category for his viral smash “Red Solo Cup,” directed by Michael Saloman.