Tracy Lawrence Added To CMA Fest’s Nissan Stadium Lineup, Talks About The Changes He’s Seen In The Festival Throughout His Long Career

Tracy Lawrence country music

Bringing some of that iconic ’90s country to the Nissan Stadium.

Country music’s biggest festival is just a week away as Nashville gears up to host CMA Fest, featuring four days of country music across multiple stages and venues around the city.

The massive event started as Fan Fair back in 1972 as an opportunity for fans to be able to get up close and meet some of their favorite artists. And since then, it’s morphed into a massive event in the heart of downtown Nashville that draws hundreds of thousands of people a year from across the country.

CMA Fest announced today the addition of several artists to the nightly shows on the main stage at Nissan Stadium, including names like Jo Dee Messina, Tanya Tucker, Josh Turner and Tracy Lawrence.

And ahead of his appearance on the main stage, Tracy sat down for an exclusive interview with Whiskey Riff to talk about his memories of CMA Fest – or Fan Fair, as it was known back when he first appeared on the lineup:

“It’s always such a joyful time for everybody. I was much more engaged back in the ’90s when it was still Fan Fair, before it became CMA Fest and they moved everything down, because everything was pretty much held at the fairgrounds. And they had all the old fair barns out there.

They would take those big fair buildings out there, and it was such a big competition. The labels would work on doing their booths, every artist would have a booth and it was the big thing to design your booth every year so it had personality.

People were trying to put TVs and run their videos – everything’s so much more compact now with digital and streaming and all that stuff, but these were big elaborate productions that we would go in and spend tens of thousands of dollars on to create something that really stood out and gave the fans an experience.”

Tracy also talks nostalgically about the experience and the energy of the old Fan Fair, not only for fans but for the artists who spent time at their booths – and with each other:

“I remember some of the most fun times. I remember one year I think Kenny Chesney’s booth was right across from mine, we had a silly string war. We just had a good time with all of it. It was so much fun.”

He even recalls one year getting surprised with a pretty special gift when he was on stage:

“The year my album had gone gold in 1992, when CMA Fest was there, I remember them rolling out this little Harley Davidson. They gave me a motorcycle on stage, which was real cool.”

Tracy admits that since CMA Fest has moved downtown and become such a massive production, it’s lost some of the charm that made it such a special event:

“After it moved downtown, it lost some of that charm to me. I think I did a booth for a couple years but that whole vibe was gone when we got into the renaissance downtown, and I don’t think it’s ever come back since then. It’s not the same as it ever was…

It seems like it’s become more corporate. It’s just kinda got that feel.”

But despite the fact that it’s not as up close and personal for the fans as it was back when guys like Tracy and Clint Black were ruling the radio, he says it’s still an honor any time he gets asked to play:

“If you get a chance to get on the big stage I think it’s an honor. Especially the guys from my era that are not releasing current stuff on the radio.

There’s a handful of us that are blessed enough to be relevant and cycle through, and every year that I get an opportunity to do it I feel very thankful just to still be in the game.”

No doubt there are a lot of fans who are still thankful Tracy’s in the game too, because it won’t get much better than hearing “Paint Me a Birmingham” in a stadium full of country fans.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock