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Opinion: Kelly Sutton's Favorite Red Carpet Moments

By Kelly Sutton

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The music industry loves award shows. But, as we gear up for the Academy of Country Music Awards this weekend, there’s one important element of the event that won’t be taking place: the red carpet.

Sure, there may be a virtual version of the press line, but there won’t be a ton of reporters and photographers all crammed together trying to get soundbites and angles for their outlets. That is where I would be. I am one of those reporters - and boy do I miss it.

What does it mean to work a red carpet? It has a beautiful connotation to it…

Gowns, glitz, and glamour all come to mind when you think about the red carpet. But when you take away the tulle and tinsel, it’s a fast-paced, rapid-fire interview session that is more like a TikTok dance than a waltz. These moments are never poignant or in-depth – instead, they are fun, frenetic and, on many occasions, have become some of my favorite memories; simply because they are so unpredictable.

So, whilst we wait for them to make their long-awaited return, Holler asked me to reminisce on some of my favorite red carpet moments.

Tanya Tucker Crashes Brandi Carlile Interview at The Americana Awards

The Americana Awards truly are the most laid back of all the red carpets. Everyone is chill, everyone is a fan of the other artists and most of the people walking the red carpet don’t really care if they win an award. Also, you never know what is going to happen. Case in point: I had the chance to talk with Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth (affectionately referred to as "the twins") before they walked into the Ryman for the ceremony. In the middle of our interview, Tanya Tucker, wearing rose colored glasses and pink contact lenses, crashed our chat along with her dog, Stella Quaid (remember how I mentioned it was a relaxed red carpet?) This was only fitting because Brandi had co-produced an album for Tanya and the two were also touring together. Seeing the mutual admiration and respect these two powerful women have for each other was one of the best moments of the night.

Papa Osborne Tells Family Stories at The ACMs

When artists are new to the scene, it’s not unusual for them to bring a family member to a red carpet event. TJ and John Osborne were on the rise as Brothers Osborne when they brought their father with them to the ACM Awards. Papa Osborne (also known as Big John) was wandering down the carpet when I spotted him and waved him over. Not only was he excited to be interviewed, he loved telling stories about his kids. He laughingly said his son John was a bit a nerd growing up and that the whole family was clumsy. The boys’ Mom had actually gotten lost backstage and made Luke Bryan take her back to her seat. When I asked Big John if he was worried about her getting too “close” to Luke Bryan, he quickly told me they were divorced and that he was totally okay with it. There were more stories flowing when John found his dad and scooped him up to take him inside the arena. This was the day I became an unofficial member of the Osborne family. I have since done more interviews with Papa John and each time it gets even better.

Lionel Ritchie at the Kenny Rogers Farewell Show

While working the red carpet for Kenny Rogers’ farewell tribute concert, I had the chance to talk to Lionel Richie. He and Kenny were friends for decades; the bond forming after Lionel wrote ‘Lady’ for Kenny in 1980. It was how that song came to be that was the best interview of the night. I had heard a version of the story from Kenny but wanted Lionel to confirm it. He not only confirmed it, but embellished it with even more detail. ‘Lady’ was written by Lionel and was pitched to Kenny. When Kenny showed up to record it, they realised the song was not completely finished, so Lionel hid in the bathroom to finish writing the second verse. Kenny slid notes to Lionel, scribbled on toilet paper, asking him if he was finished with the song yet. Nobody tells that story better than Lionel Richie.

Dolly Parton at the ACMs

You just need one. One great interview can make your whole red carpet a success. I got that interview when Dolly Parton showed up on the ACM red carpet. She is the Queen of Country music and EVERYBODY wants a moment of her time, so you have to get in as many questions as you can before she is pulled away. With Dolly, you never feel like she is thinking of the next interview or the next person. She is always present and always so fun to talk to. This particular year, Dolly was given the Tex Ritter Award and was performing on the show with Katy Perry. Those were the expected questions and answers. But when Dolly started talking about her movies, her love of the cheap food in Vegas and the reason why she doesn’t gamble... well, those are the kind of answers that make you fall in love with her all over again.

The 56th Annual ACM Awards will take place on Sunday April 18th on CBS and Paramount+ - broadcasting from several iconic venues around Nashville. Go listen and subscribe to Holler Weekly to hear Kelly and Baylen's predictions for this year's awards.