November 10th, 2010
06:30 PM ET
Nashville is always buzzing the week of the CMA Awards, but this year, the star power has been kicked up a notch.
It started with Monday night's premiere of "Country Strong," which was filmed in Music City earlier this year with Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw and Leighton Meester.
Then on Tuesday, the stars of the movie held court during joint media interviews at Union Station, a 19th century train depot that's been restored into an elegant hotel. Guest rooms are featured in the picture, and a dramatic press conference scene was shot beneath a giant clock in the lobby.
Although McGraw doesn't sing on camera in the movie, you can hear him in a duet with Paltrow called "Me and Tennessee" that runs over the end credits. Rumor has it that the track was penned by Paltrow's husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.
"I don't know," Paltrow said coyly. "It's a mystery who wrote that song. It just showed up." (Insert wink here.)
"Country Strong" opens wide in the U.S. on January 7th.
Meanwhile, down the road at Bridgestone Arena, rehearsals were taking place for today's CMA Awards. As Lady Antebellum left the stage, Keith Urban walked on. The New Zealand-born superstar will be showcasing "Put You in a Song," the new single off his sixth studio album, "Get Closer" - which hits stores next Tuesday.
After three run-throughs of the tune, Urban swapped his t-shirt and jeans for a suit, and high-tailed it over to Music Row for the BMI Country Awards. There, he picked up a ribbon for co-writing his 2009 hit, "Kiss a Girl," while 20-year-old Taylor Swift became the youngest-ever recipient of the "BMI Country Songwriter of the Year" trophy. The genre's current golden couple, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, also caused quite a stir - especially with the paparazzi.
Lambert goes into tonight's 44th Annual CMA Awards with a leading nine nominations. Shelton has four.
It's also Lambert's 27th birthday, but if her fiancé is planning a big celebration, he isn't letting on. "To me, Miranda doesn't really deserve a party or a present for turning 27. That's kind of a piece of crap age, honestly,” Shelton confided to CNN with a straight face. "Eighteen’s a big deal, 30's a big deal. 27 is the I-40 between Nashville and Memphis - there's really nothing and it takes forever. So I don't think she really deserves anything for turning 27."
Hmm. Maybe he's throwing her a victory party after the CMAs, instead.
CMA-eve closed out toasting marshmallows and making s’mores at a giant bonfire on Dierks Bentley's property in Leiper's Fork. Guests were loaded into pick-up trucks lined with hay, and shuttled up to a rustic barn at the top of the hill. One of the drivers was the former pedal steel guitarist for Brooks and Dunn.
Bentley - who's up for four awards at the CMAs - often retreats to this hideaway to write music. On this particular night, guests could grab a cold beer out of the trunk of a vintage Dodge, but the dessert bar was the place to be.
In between bites of cherry pie, Bentley, Austin-based singer-songwriter Jack Ingram and Capitol Nashville chief Mike Dungan told stories that made you laugh at the absurdities of the country music business - and make you love it all the more. Dungan even poked fun at himself for wearing a nude-colored hoodie with the Capitol Records logo splashed across the front.
"I had it custom made for Trace Adkins, but it was so ugly, I couldn't give it to him," he laughed.
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