Although the CMA Awards' first soiree in New York will be peppered with cameos by Elton John, Billy Joel, Donald Trump, James Gandolfini and Bon Jovi, don't expect Nashville's influence to be diluted in the process.
"I think they're going to come in there and try and make it as country as we can," country singer Pat Green said of Tuesday's ceremony at Madison Square Garden.
The Country Music Association uprooted the awards show from its traditional home in Nashville to shine in New York's international spotlight. While country generates plenty of multiplatinum superstars and New York is one of its top markets in terms of album sales, it lacks a major presence here, including a radio station devoted to the genre. It's something the CMA hopes to change with a one-time stint in New York, airing live on CBS. (The show will return to Nashville for its 40th anniversary next year.)
But producer Walter Miller promises there won't be a change in the show's accent: It will retain its country twang.
"We want them to see exactly the way we do it in Nashville — there's no reason to change," said Miller.
Indeed, the pop and rock acts who will perform on the CMA awards will conform to the flavor of the evening — even John.
"Elton John's song is a country song," he said of "Turn the Lights Out When You Leave," which John is scheduled to perform at the CMAs. "It's still a country flavor. We're not doing anything that still doesn't smack of country."
And for all the hoopla over its location, once the show begins, the focus will be squarely on its nominees.
Lee Ann Womack and Brad Paisley are the leaders with six each, while other multiple nominees include Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson and Toby Keith.
Paisley, whose latest album "Time Well Wasted" has already gone platinum, is nominated for entertainer of the year, song and single of the year for his wry hit "Alcohol," as well as for music video of the year, male vocalist of the year and musical event of the year for his duet with Sara Evans.
Womack, whose album "There's More Where That Came From" marked her return to her traditional country roots, is nominated for album of the year and female vocalist of the year. Her song "I May Hate Myself In the Morning" was also nominated for single of the year and video of year, while she was nominated twice for musical event of the year.
Besides Womack, nominees for album of the year were "Be Here" by Keith Urban; "Feels Like Today" by Rascal Flatts; "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw; and "Somewhere Down in Texas," by George Strait.