Do you have a bucket list? Is it filled with things you think you can’t accomplish or things you think you can accomplish? Well here’s a story of the time I checked something off my bucket list that I never in a million years thought I would ever do.
If you ask anyone that knows me they would tell you that I’m a big fan of music and live entertainment. When I go to a concert, am I in awe of the stage setup. I immediately look to see where the soundboard is and how big it is. I look to see how the speakers are hung. I wonder what is going on backstage. What is the band and crew eating? How many trucks are on the tour? I think about stuff that I’m sure most people could careless about.
I love the production of concerts and music festivals. So much work goes into putting something on that makes people happy. When I was a child I told people that I was going to work the Grammy’s or some sort of big Awards show one day. Having the opportunity to work with major acts all in one show would be such a thrill for me! So I put it on my bucket list…
Little did I know that years down the road that opportunity was going to become a reality for me. On December 14, 2014 I was on a plane headed to Nashville, Tennessee to volunteer backstage at the American Country Countdown Awards (ACC) which was airing live on FOX the following evening. I was fortunate enough to score this opportunity by networking with people on LinkedIn and in Nashville when I was trying to land a job in the area a few months earlier (that’s a post for another time). I connected with a wonderful woman who worked for the Public Relations company that was helping to produce the awards show and she invited me back for the show.
When I landed in Nashville, I met up with an old friend for a quick dinner and headed back to my hotel to get a good nights sleep. I had no idea what I was doing the next day so I knew I needed to be well rested. I had already gotten a few emails that give me a glimpse of what the next day might be like, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
How the day went down
The next morning my phone started ringing at 6am. I was getting calls from Access Hollywood and national TV News stations asking me questions about how to get their credentials. For a second I felt like a bad-ass knowing that I had control over Access Hollywood’s credentials but I quickly snapped out of it. “Be professional Michelle, you have no idea what you are doing today.” I took their names down and told them I would get back to them.
At 8am I walked down to the Music City Center in downtown Nashville to meet up with the PR group I was working with. I picked up my credentials and waited for the person I was meeting. I’m usually not a fan of wearing name tags but I wore this one proudly.
According to the emails I received before I arrived in Nashville, and the phone calls I got that morning, I thought I was going to be working the credentials table but things changed. We had a few hours before our first meeting so we headed into the room where the show was going to be taking place that night to watch some of the rehearsals and kill some time. Everything was set up for that night. Jason Aldean was on stage with his band rehearsing. I think I heard him sing Just Gettin’ Started about 20 times that day. They were working on trying to get the sound and lighting perfect.
A few hours later it was time to do a walk through with the PR company, FOX networks and Dick Clark Productions on how the show was going to run. The big focus was security and making sure we kept all our clients happy. I was put in charge of taking care of Country Weekly Magazine but they were pretty self-sufficient. They told me they had done this a time or two, but I let them know I was there for them if they needed anything.
Mid-day it was time to get the red carpet set up. We started printing out all the names of the television networks, newspapers, magazines and yes even bloggers that were going to be on the red carpet that night. We did this in the mini-office the PR company had upstairs and then went downstairs to lay them out on the red carpet.
I didn’t get to see everyone walk the red carpet that night because I was back stage during that time, but I know it was crowed just by how we positioned the names of the groups on the carpet. Add lighting, cameras and reporters and the performers are lucky if they were able to take two steps from each group. If you look at the picture above you can see the names taped to the floor to the left of the red carpet before everyone arrived. Not too much room between each of them.
The next thing I know it’s go time! We all got headsets and went to our stations. I was stationed backstage at the editorial tent during the red carpet. This is where all the photographers and editors from TV networks and websites go to send in the pictures they took on the red carpet. I was there in case they needed anything and to make sure they got dinner when catering came (very important!). The red carpet lasted for about two hours. On my headset I could hear when every big celebrity was arriving. “Luke Bryan just arrived, Vince Vaughn is pulling up, Carrie Underwood is here and skipping the red carpet” – Carrie was pretty preggers during this time. After the stars walked down the red carpet most of them headed back stage to get to their seats or to touch up their make-up. This was my chance to get a glimpse of everyone and yes, I was pretty star-struck but I stayed professional.
When the show started I was moved to the Country Weekly booth backstage where I was responsible for helping grab the celebrities off stage for pictures. Again, I wasn’t really needed here but it was great being so close-up to all these celebs and to see how they interacted with a news magazine. Turns out Country Weekly is a respectable magazine because everyone was happy to stop by.
Being so close to people you only see when they are in front of the camera is a really cool experience. I didn’t talk to anyone specifically because I wanted to be professional and stick to my job but I was very observant. I can’t say I saw anyone who was a diva. One person that really made an impression on me was Reba McEntire. She was genuinely nice to everyone, even to a fan who came up and asked her for a picture backstage. I was happy to say that Luke Bryan and I made eye contact. 🙂 He was walking out of the Country Weekly booth, grabbing a piece of candy that was on the table, looked at me and said “everyone needs a piece of candy!” I now tell everyone that story and exaggerate a little by saying we became friends over a piece of candy. 🙂
The night ended like every big event ends. Everyone was relieved and celebrating a job well done. I did not see any of the show but the joy of me being able to say I was part of the production of a live nationally syndicated show definitely out weighed that.
My thoughts on the experience
I think part of the reason I was able to have this experience was because of luck, and part of it was because of my networking skills. I really wanted to meet the woman that worked for the Public relations firm that was working with the ACC Awards. However, I had no idea when I met her months prior to the show that the ACC’s were one of her clients. You might call it being at the right place at the right time. I learned a lot that day. I learned a lot about myself and I learned that no matter how hard I had to work and how sore my feet were, my passion for music and concert production is still there even 17 years after I produced my own concerts in college.
Have you been able to check something off your bucket list that you thought was going to be impossible? If not, don’t put it on the bottom of your list because I’m here to tell you it can happen with a little bit of determination.
What’s my next big bucket list item? To buy my favorite musician, Dave Matthews a beer….Cheers!