In honor of the 50th CMA Awards in November, country singers ranging from Country Music Hall of Famers Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire to reigning New Artist of the Year Brett Eldredge joined a chorus of 27 of their contemporaries to record “Forever Country,” a mash-up of three beloved country songs.
“On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver and Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” comprise the medley, which was painstakingly produced to make listeners feel as if “they have a moment with each artist,” said producer Shane McAnally.
Directed by Joseph Kahn, the video debuted Tuesday night on “Dancing with the Stars.”
“It is a love song to country music, and that’s how everybody approached it that came in,” McAnally said. “Sometimes you just can’t put your finger on why something works so well. You don’t want to mess with it. God intervened and those three songs worked perfectly.”
McAnally recorded each of the 30 artists for the song, which also features Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, CMA Awards hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Alabama, Kacey Musgraves, Darius Rucker, Martina McBride, Ronnie Milsap, Charley Pride, Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Vince Gill, Brooks & Dunn, Trisha Yearwood, Nelson and Parton.
“You want songs that everybody knows, and to me, just picking songs that represent 50 years was a big weight,” Underwood said. “I think it elevates the CMAs. This year is like, ‘Oh, this one is special.’ I think that was what it was all about.”
For the video, Kahn traveled to Nashville and shot many of the artists on a green screen so he could manipulate the backgrounds as the video came together. He dispatched photographers around the country to take photos of different scenes and then stitched everything together to create a scenic, multigenerational country family reunion.
“I had to design it all in the studio and then I have to integrate it and make it look like they are standing in these environments,” Kahn said. “I would love for people to (take away) a more of a historical context of country music.”
Paisley couldn’t be happier.
“That thing felt really cool,” he explained. “The CMA has been very focused on how to market and brand this year, being that it’s the 50th. They have really every step of the way erred on the side of class.”
“Forever Country” is available at digital retailers now. For more information, visit ForeverCountry50.com.
Paisley and Underwood will host the 50th annual CMA Awards at 8 p.m. ET Nov. 2 on ABC.