Leave it to a country-music channel to know how to throw a party. On Monday, April 16, starting at 8 pm/ET, CMT presents the 2007 CMT Music Awards, the annual event honoring the best in country-music videos. With a loose, friendly feel and a stellar lineup of performers (including Carrie Underwood, Sugarland, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and Bon Jovi), the show once known as the Flameworthy Awards has become what the MTV Video Music Awards used to be: fun. TVGuide.com spoke with Big Kenny of nominated honky-tonk duo Big & Rich as he prepared for an acoustic showcase in support of their forthcoming CD, Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace. Check back Friday and Monday for Q&As with nominee Taylor Swift and Johnny Cash Visionary Award recipient Kris Kristofferson.
TVGuide.com: Big & Rich are up for Duo Video of the Year for "8th of November." Do you enjoy making videos?
Big Kenny: Yeah, I love the creative process of it. I like to come up with ideas and make sure it looks good. I'm very involved. I had a lot to do with "The 8th." All in all, this was the most important piece of work we've done to date.
TVGuide.com: Tell me a bit about the story behind the video.
Big Kenny: It's the story of Niles Harris, a soldier we met. It goes back 40 years to when he was 19 years old on his first hump in Vietnam, and follows through to how that has affected him to this day. And it relates to all the young soldiers who are coming back today. To them, their 8th of November could have been two weeks ago, in Fallujah.
TVGuide.com: What's the response been like from soldiers, especially those of the 173rd Airbone, which is mentioned in the song?
Big Kenny: It's just unbelievable, dude. [The song and video] have opened up a dialogue and created so much healing among them. Every show we play, there are 173rd Airborne members who show up and thank us. You realize how important their mission is to them and how much they deserve our utmost respect.
TVGuide.com: Kris Kristofferson, who will receive the Johnny Cash Visionary Award at this year's ceremony, appears in "8th of November." How was it working with him?
Big Kenny: It was like being around history. Kris is one of our heroes, and he's just such a cool guy, a humble, wonderful person. He flew from [his home in] Hawaii to Nashville to come in and do the song's spoken intro in the studio. To me, he represents a Renaissance man. He's an incredibly interesting cat.
TVGuide.com: What recent videos have you especially liked?
Big Kenny: I like Hank Williams Jr.'s "A Country Boy Can Survive," where he's floating down the river on a barge. That's a cool piece of art. And I thought there were elements in Faith Hill's "Mississippi Girl" video that were just beautiful, like the butterflies around her.
TVGuide.com: You're often photographed in a T-shirt that says "Love Pirate." Clarify this for me: What exactly is a "love pirate"?
Big Kenny: It'd be the opposite of a typical pirate, who takes things. The love pirate is one who gives, but he still lives a bit of the pirate life. We're out here on the road in buses, traveling the country. This is our fleet. Our buses are our sailing vessels. And it's my personal mission to love everybody.