CMA Fest: Lindsay Ell Surprises Audience to Sing Duet With Brantley Gilbert

Lindsay Ell marked her debut performance at CMA Fest to sing the National Anthem during Friday night's (June 7) Nissan Stadium concerts. She later returned to the stage to surprise the audience by joining Brantley Gilbert for their "What Happens in a Small Town" duet.

"I have not played CMA Fest before, so this is my first time," Ell shared with and other media backstage at CMA Fest. "I'm singing the anthem of course, and then making a surprise performance with Brantley later, so I'm really excited."

Ell was not only eager to sing during the concert, but also to watch some of the other performances over the four-day event, including Underwood's performance with Jett.

"It seems like CMA Fest gets bigger every year, too. And I think they have more special guests, which are my favorite thing. Especially, I mean, seeing Joan Jett," Ell said. "It's kind of cool. I think it does a lot for country music, of bringing in other listeners, of maybe fans who hadn't listen to a lot of country music in the past. And they can check it out and be like, 'Oh, this isn't what I thought country was.' So I think it's honestly really good for the format."

Jett surprised the fans by joining Carrie Underwood on stage, singing a medley of Jett's hits, including "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," "Bad Reputation" and "I Hate Myself for Loving You."

"Joan Jett is so inspiring to me," Ell said. "The way she just does not care what anybody thinks. I mean, watching documentaries of The Runaways and I got to see her play, at the [Ascend] Amphitheater, when she was here in Nashville a few months ago. She just gets onstage and she's so authentically her. Even at this point in her career, she's been doing this for decades, and she gets onstage and you just know that she's like, 'This is me. Take it or leave it.'"

Ell takes a lot of inspiration from Jett, especially as she continues to forge her own path in country music.


"Some of my favorite artists have that kind of mentality," Ell explained. "You just get so honest with yourself and you're like, 'Well, I'm just going to get up there and do my thing. And if people like it, great. And if people don't, great.' And so when I watch Joan play, that's what I love about her. It's infectious to me."

Photo Credit: Getty images / Terry Wyatt