Before he took the stage as a performer, Dierks Bentley was working the CMA Awards backstage. As an intern he was one of the crew members wearing a headset, helping stars like Shania Twain get on and off the stage.

The "Different for Girls" singer admits that getting to sing his song with Elle King at the 2016 CMA Awards would be an all-time CMA high for him, but many of his fondest moments thus far come from his pre-fame days.

"I remember the Dixie Chicks came — like everybody had their limos that dropped them off, but the Dixie Chicks came in three really cool old-school cars and kind of broke the rules," Bentley recalls. This was back when the awards were broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry, their home until 2005 when the show moved to New York City and then Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.

Helping Twain back to her bus after her performance one year was also a definite highlight for young Dierks Bentley. "She had a like a leather jacket, midriff," he says, reciting the memory to assorted media and Elle King, who was sitting next to him to discuss his most recent No. 1 hit. King didn't seem to appreciate his fixation on her outfit.

"It was pretty cool."

Rehearsals with Alan Jackson and the backstage view as Garth Brooks won were a few other highlights. A more recent memory came in 2015. Everyone knew the Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton performance would be great. Bentley says he was preparing to stand up at the top of the song, but ...

"Keith (Urban) jumped up like 20 seconds early and looked back at me like, ‘You might as well get ready!'"

This year Bentley is nominated for four awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year. He's also a scheduled performer, but it's not clear if he'll sing "Different for Girls," his Vocal Event of the Year nominated song with King. Both singers say they're really, really hoping it happens.

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