CMA Awards 2019 Will Celebrate the 'Year of the Woman,' Previews EP

Mandi Bierly
Preview ABC/Mark Seliger

"It's the year of the woman, and not just in country music," says Robert Deaton, executive producer of the CMA Awards.

So it's fitting that a genre that was built on the guitar pickin' of "Mother" Maybelle Carter and early recordings of the female-dominated Carter Family will use its biggest night to celebrate the ladies who have contributed to its longevity.

The evening's theme will be clear from the start, when a starry array of women representing different eras will gather onstage. "You need to be in front of your TV when that happens," Deaton teases.

Then there are the hosts: Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire. All three have emceed before — Underwood for the last 11 years with Brad Paisley — but only the two icons have been crowned Entertainer of the Year. Could it be nominee Underwood's time to take home the top prize? "It would be an amazing moment," Deaton admits. "We'd have to carry Carrie out of the arena."

As always, the performances are the real reason to watch the live telecast from Nashville. Parton will take part in a gospel medley with For King & Country and Zach Williams; McEntire is prepping a special rendition of her signature '90s hit "Fancy"; and Underwood will belt her bluesy tune "Drinking Alone."

The American Idol winner's fellow Female Vocalist of the Year nominees will take the stage too, including Maren Morris ("Girl"), who leads this year's nominations with six, and Kacey Musgraves, who will partner with her pal Willie Nelson. "If there's a Mount Rushmore for country music, Willie Nelson is on that," Deaton says, adding that the duet "should be magical."

CMA Awards 2018 Hosts Carrie Underwood & Brad Paisley on Taking a 'Non-Political' Approach

CMA Awards 2018 Hosts Carrie Underwood & Brad Paisley on Taking a 'Non-Political' Approach

The duo reflect on their experience hosting country music's biggest night over the last decade.

Also on the bill: Chris Stapleton and P!nk, Keith Urban, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert and Luke Combs.

And, Deaton says, thanks to a chat he had with Halsey at May's Billboard Music Awards (seems the CMAs are on her bucket list!), the electro-pop vocalist will join Vocal Group of the Year contender Lady Antebellum for a mashup. "She was like, 'I have a chance to sing with those harmonies? I am in.'"

The 53rd Annual CMA Awards, Wednesday, November 13, 8/7c, ABC