Keith Urban always knew Taylor Swift would have a big career. ET’s Rachel Smith spoke to the 53-year-old singer and his Academy of Country Music Awards co-host, Mickey Guyton, ahead of Sunday’s ceremony, and Urban recalled having Swift open for him during his Escape Together World Tour in 2009.
“She was a blast on the road,” Urban said of Swift. “People have asked me, ‘Could you sense that she was going to be who she became?’ And I was like, ‘I think everybody knew that.’ You could see it clearly.”
“She was playing way past where she was,” he continued. “She was way into the future. You could tell.”
During that time on the road with Urban, Swift was in the midst of her Fearless era. When Swift decided to rerecord her Fearless album, which she titled Fearless (Taylor’s Version), she asked Urban to sing on two of the new-to-fans tracks, “That’s When” and “We Were Happy.”
Urban told ET that he first heard Swift’s then-unreleased songs when he was shopping in a mall during the Christmas season.
“I get a text from Taylor. So I go over to the food court and I’m sitting in the food court and she’s like, ‘I’ve got a couple of songs that I want you to sing. Do you want to hear them?’ And I’m like, ‘Sure,'” he recalled. “So I’ve got the AirPods in and I’m sitting in the food court with everybody walking around me and I’m listening to these two unreleased Taylor Swift songs. I’m like, ‘This is crazy.'”
Urban noted that he “was thrilled” about Swift asking him to sing on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and “loved getting to do” it. “The fact that they’re both unreleased was very exciting for me,” he added.
Now that Urban and Swift’s collabs are out there, Urban has turned his attention to hosting the ACMs with Guyton from Nashville on Sunday.
“Mickey is going to be my good luck charm this year,” Urban said, before Guyton admitted that she’s “at a 10 of nervousness” over the gig.
“Unfortunately, we are not really going to have that big of an audience, so that takes some of the pressure off, and that’s helping,” she said. “I still can’t believe I get this honor. I’m just so excited. I don’t take it for granted… I just can’t even comprehend how beautiful this moment is.”
While this is Urban’s second time hosting the show, it marks Guyton’s first, and is another step on her rise to the top of the country music scene.
“I have been pursuing country music for 10 years. For so long I was just trying to fit in. The moment that I just let go of all of those limitations that I set on myself… everything just turned around,” she said. “Now I’m here, in this moment, and I just want to break down those doors and open them for everybody who wants to come through.”
“Country music is such a beautiful genre. There’s a reason why two outsiders like Keith Urban and myself fell in love with it, because the music is truly beautiful,” she continued. “I just feel honored.”
In addition to hosting, both Guyton and Urban will take the stage during Sunday’s show; the former will perform “Hold On,” and the latter “Tumbleweed.”
“I’m a little nervous about it because, typically, we should’ve been out there playing this song many nights a week since it came out in September, and now we haven’t done one show,” Urban said of his performance. “… I’ve never played this song with my band outside of the studio, so I’m a little freaked out, but, at the same time, a bit giddy about getting in there and figuring it out.”
The 56th ACM Awards will air live from Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium and Bluebird Cafe, Sunday, April 18 at 8/7c on CBS. Here is how to watch the ACM Awards.