RAJ KAPOOR: STACKING THE STARS, MAKING THE ACMs SHINE

ACM chief Damon Whiteside, Reba, Kapoor and Patrick Menton

In conversation with Raj Kapoor a week before the ACM Awards is livestreamed on Amazon Prime and its platforms, it’s readily apparent the Emmy-winning producer and showrunner is psyched about this year’s lineup.

This is the ACM’s third year partnering with Amazon Prime for the first live awards show to go to a livestreaming platform and the second staged at the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility in Frisco, Texas, imbuing this year’s awards show with a cohesion that’s inspiring the man who realized Ryan Gosling’s seeming “Night of a 1000 Kens” on this year’s Academy Awards.

Now, Kapoor’s stacked the ACMs’ deck too. He’s teamed up with multiple Emmy nominee Patrick Menton, his collaborator on multiple Grammy and American Music Awards telecasts, and music is their lingua franca. Because deep relationships with talent and managers are their signature, after confirming that an invitation was extended, he laughs when he’s asked, “So have you spoken to Beyoncé’s camp more than twice?”

It’s some lineup.

The lineup is one of things I’m most excited about. Last year people loved the scale of the show, and since we have very little commercial time and this many performances, we want to really make everything count. I want everything to fit organically, and even though there are so many pop performers, it makes sense.

Noah Kahan’s never been on an awards show—just Saturday Night Live—so “Stick Season” this beautiful, artistic collaboration with Kelsea Ballerini, who’s such a songwriter too, made sense. Gwen and Blake? Any time they’re onstage together, their energy and charisma create such excitement.

And there are firsts.

Yes. Take someone like Nate Smith, who’s having this huge hit. He’s so big already, but then pair him with Avril Lavigne, whom we’ve seen for so many years. Both big vocalists, so their chemistry is strong.

And we do have all these world premieres: first time music from Lainey Wilson with a new album; Jelly Roll; Kane Brown is going to have a very cooking moment. Thomas Rhett with a new record; Miranda Lambert with the first music from her new record deal.

Post Malone after slaying Stagecoach.

Post and our team go back. We don’t always know until the last minute, but he’s sent us three songs from his [country] record, and they’re all great. As a songwriter, he’s always had a high level of authenticity, whatever he does. Some are very big, some absolutely beautiful.

Obviously, there’s a buzz on Post’s duet with Morgan Wallen.

For our show, I think it’s going to be a solo Post performance. You could tell he loves [country music]; that really came across in his Stagecoach performance.

Equally buzzed about: Beyoncé.

Any time we can have Beyoncé, we just love her creativity. An invitation was extended, beyond that I can’t…

Several artists, including most-nominated female Megan Moroney, can’t be there.

We have people who have dates because these tours book so far in advance. We don’t do pre-tapes or remote acceptances, because our show is so much about being in the room, capturing that energy that’s created live.

There are so many people who want to be on the show; we had a hard time narrowing down the performers we do have. We are personally invested in so many of these artists, their achievements and music. With the choirs and string sections, this year’s show will be the fullest we’ve ever had; a lot of musicians, background vocalists, really big things in terms of performances.

What is it about country music that you like in producing this show?

How we pull on people’s heart strings a little bit. More than even the music, which is fantastic, it’s about the connection. That’s special.

Is there one performance you’re really looking forward to?

One of them is Chris Stapleton. We have such a long relationship; he’s like family. He’s our Entertainer of the Year and wasn’t able to perform last year, so this will be a celebration. He hits home for a lot of people, and any time Chris is on the show, it turns into something so special because of his musicality, his team, his band and the way they put things together.

But honestly, everything... That’s what makes these shows so much fun.

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