Nash Nights Live co-host Elaina Smith added a noteworthy achievement to her already-impressive résumé by joining Shawn Parr as the live voiceover team for the ACM Awards on April 15.
While 2018 marked Shawn’s 24th year as announcer for the awards show, it was Elaina’s debut, adding a charming and talented female voice to the ACMs for the first time as more than 12 million people watched at home on their televisions.
NCD asked Elaina to chronicle her ACM Awards experience. In her own words, here is Elaina’s whirlwind story.
I have been attending the ACM Awards since 2014 on behalf of Cumulus, Westwood One and Nash Nights Live. It’s always been a crazy four-day experience, interviewing more than 100 country artists and entertainers on radio row, working the red carpet as a journalist and recording a five-hour companion show for radio. But this year was a completely new experience.
In February, I received a phone call from Rac Clark, the executive producer of the ACM Awards—he’s also Dick Clark’s son. He explained that the ACMs wanted to add a female voice for the first time this year and my name had been thrown into the ring. My NNL co-host, Shawn Parr, has been the voice of the show for 24 years, so the team at Dick Clark Productions was familiar with my voice from listening to our show.
However, I still had to go through the audition process, and I recorded a series of liners for Dick Clark Productions. Two weeks later—spoiler alert—they asked me to join the team! I had to keep it a secret for almost a month, so you can imagine my relief when it was formally announced on March 9.
That’s how it happened, now here’s how it went down. The process of getting the show ready is fascinating. They begin writing the script months before. Shawn and I were already recording packages for the show in early March. They are constantly changing things, adding artists, adding segments, taking things away. It’s chaotic, but it’s organized chaos.
As soon as we landed in Las Vegas on April 12, we went backstage at MGM Grand Garden Arena so I could start to get a feel for the process. There were a bunch of different offices set up backstage with all of the different departments. Everyone was working long hours to bring you the best show possible. In between radio row and label events, we would go back and forth to the announcer booth for rehearsals. This also meant I was far exceeding my steps goal every day.
By the way, rehearsals are intense. The artists have to show up and go through their performances several times for camera blocking and to take notes from the producers and their team. One of the coolest experiences was seeing Carrie Underwood’s rehearsal. It was a closed rehearsal because no one was allowed to see her until the big reveal on Sunday night. As we all know now, Carrie looked and sounded amazing. During rehearsal, she was wearing workout clothes, very little make-up—she still looked gorgeous—and the heels for her performance. She sang “Cry Pretty” SIX TIMES—full voice. Each performance was better than the previous one. She worked SO HARD to get that performance perfect, and it showed!
Sunday, April 15, was insane. I knew in addition to my new ACM Awards show duties, I’d be hosting the red carpet for radio, so I had to get red-carpet ready before the 9 a.m. full-show run-through. The day of the show, everyone does the entire show TWICE. There is a full dress rehearsal in the morning that runs through from beginning of the show to end, and EVERYONE has to be there. Then we all got ready for the big show. I had to get in my dress in our tiny booth and head to the red carpet. I conducted interviews for two hours on the red—actually, it was blue—carpet and ran right back to the arena to do stage announcements with Shawn. Side note: I had to take the same entrance as all of the artists going into the show . . . and they have to have actual tickets to get in. That was super surprising to me.
Now, being onstage was quite an experience. We basically warmed up the crowd of 18,000. I looked down and saw some of the biggest names in country music . . . not intimidating at all (HA)!
After warming up the crowd, we literally ran back to the booth—in my heels, nonetheless—so we could go live in one minute. The vibe backstage during the show is pure adrenaline. And of course, nothing goes as smoothly as planned. People don’t show up, acceptance speeches go long, Reba thinks of new jokes, whatever it may be—the show is constantly changing as it’s happening. In my headphones, I hear EVERYTHING from the director, producers and camera crew, and we have to announce on live TV while they’re in our in ear.
Finding out about Chris Stapleton’s twins was an exciting moment. They were calling for Reba to try to time it out with the award. One of my favorite backstage moments was when they were trying to find Brothers Osborne to acknowledge their two previously announced wins . . . but they couldn’t. I’m guessing they were celebrating at the bar because they won TWO ACM Awards and those boys know how to celebrate! Once the show wrapped up, I basically collapsed with happiness and exhaustion and floated off on cloud nine. The set was down before I even got my first glass of champagne!
Honestly, I’m still processing the whole experience. We made history that night by adding a female voice to the show, and I am so proud to have been a part of that, especially working in an industry that is often criticized for it’s lack of female representation.
The conversation is shifting, and it’s an exciting time to be a part of country music.
My ACM Awards experience would not have been possible without Rac Clark, Ryan Marie Smith, Sacha Muller and the ENTIRE team at Dick Clark Productions, as well as Shawn Parr and Nash Nights Live producers Brian Egan and Ryan Kershner for going above and beyond to work around my schedule. Thank YOU!