'CMT Crossroads' EP Margaret Comeaux Shares Memories From 70 Episodes
Some of the biggest country superstars have shared the stage alongside representatives from other genres to make beautiful music together over the history of CMT Crossroads. It’s a rich legacy of the series that goes back to 2002 with Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams.
And for the upcoming 70th episode, strong female voices Halsey and Kelsea Ballerini continue the tradition by bringing an unforgettable mash-up outdoors at the Ascend Amphitheatre. Executive producer Margaret Comeaux, who has been there since the show’s inception as a vision realized by creator Bill Flanagan, calls the latest pairing one of her all-time favorites.
"It represented the evolution of the show musically from the beginning. We had so much fun putting it together,” Comeaux said. “It was a rainy night in Nashville. Normally, we produce these things inside. All the things that could potentially happen kind of happened. The fans sat in the rain and waited, so Halsey and Kelsea wanted to give those fans the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. It was amazing.
“You can’t buy the special effects that happen on camera when you watch the show. They are soak and wet. Their hands are wet on the guitar. All of it. It was a magical night. As one of the producers, you couldn’t ask for more. It’s what we all love about music. It’s what we all love about producing television shows. It’s incredible.”
Comeaux remembers the show’s humble beginnings of an idea born out of wanting musicians and artists to tell their stories. They found those who wanted to collaborate with each other and others that, although appear different, bring similar music sensibilities.
“We wanted people to come out and perform each other’s songs and collaborate,” she said. “The show is always best when the artists dive into each other’s music and bring a sound we’ve never heard before...You go to concerts and there rarely isn’t one where an artist isn’t paying homage to one of their musical heroes. We really view Crossroads as a great place to make that sort of happen.”
There have been existing bonds that shine through like Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire. Others might not be a normally natural pairing, where Def Leppard and Taylor Swift. Every instance has given unique and entertaining results.
“There were many artists I grew up listening to and were on my bucket list. Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers was an amazing one for me,” Comeaux said. “ We shot it at the Ryman. One of the few we shot there. Those were really special. Early on, Dolly [Parton] and Melissa Etheridge was a great moment. The Dixie Chicks and James Taylor was one they spent so much time wanting to get it right.
“They are so much about the craft and the collaboration and wanted everything to be spot on. They rehearsed for days. They wanted it to be the best show it could be. There were some amazing musical moments. When I close my eyes and you say Crossroads, there are definitely a few scenes that are part of my memories. One is watching the Dixie Chicks and James Taylor stand in the hallway before going out on stage and doing a final rehearsal. Glad it made it into the show.”
The longtime CMT EP also believes an important aspect of Crossroads has been the sit-down conversation and documentary portion. A segment that has evolved over the years.
“What happens before the audience is amazing, but as producers, we get to sit back and listen to these artists talk. You hear what brought them together, where are the common threads in their history, it’s all really interesting,” Comeaux said.
“I look back at Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr., where we went to Hank’s farm and there was a firing off of a cannon. All kinds of pieces of fun you don’t really get to see. I think about Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, where there are so many of these whether the conversation started because we wanted to do a Crossroads together or an album that came out together for them. It’s amazing to watch the connections form.”
Comeaux is proud of how the series has become part of a performer’s story. She believes with CMT being a music channel, being part of that process is crucial. As for the future and what’s on the wish list of someone who has seen so much already, it’s hard to say.
“There are so many new artists coming on to the scene every year that I think the answer changes year-to-year. What has been great about this show is we visit classic rock, current bands, it can go wherever we want it to go,” she said.
“There are some amazing artists we are honored to have on our stage. Part of the fabric of Nashville. Every now and then you’ll go to a show and hear an artist from the stage, I’ll get a text saying this person just called out they want to do a Crossroads with so and so.
"It’s great to know artists understand what this show is, and why it’s something they would want to do. I think it speaks to its longevity and why it continues to be around and is such a viable flagship program for us. Music is the constant in everyone’s lives, and as long as that is still there, we’ll keep producing these Crossroads.”
CMT Crossroads: Halsey and Kelsea Ballerini, Wednesday, March 25, 10/9c, CMT