Dierks Bentley and Elle King have made a strong case for themselves as the ultimate buddy team-up in country music: With not one but two duets now under their belts, they're gearing up to co-host the CMA Fest TV special for the second year running.

But that's not all: This year, the party's getting even bigger, with Lainey Wilson joining King and Bentley as a third co-host. Wilson's an artist that both King and Bentley know well: She's one of country music's fastest-rising stars and an in-demand duet partner, teaming up with Cole Swindell, Hardy and Lauren Alaina over the past few years.

Bentley has even worked with Wilson as part of a new Hot Country Knights song called "Herassmeant," but King jokes that if he's hoping that the CMA Fest co-hosting gig will be a chance to talk to her about singing together under their own names, Bentley needs to get in line.

"Dierks ... needs to get out of the way! I would like to do that first," she told press backstage at the Nashville-based CMA Fest in June.

"I like Lainey. I would do anything with Lainey," King continues. "She's funny, and she might be the most country person I've ever met in my life. She's just a bada--. I won't wear tight pants next to her, but I would sing with her."

For his part, Bentley says he feels "really lucky" to be paired up with King and Wilson for the CMA Fest hosting gig. Not only does he have "tremendous respect" for both singers' musical output, but he says they're simply just the kind of people he likes to call his friends.

"They're both very funny in completely different ways," Bentley explains. "I had a great time [with King] last year. I love a good bit, and she's good at gags. And Lainey, it's fun to be around an artist like Lainey, who's been coming here since she was 14. She's been a huge fan of CMA Fest, and she's kind of on a rocket ship right now, so it's just fun to be around those younger artists who are blowing up like that.

"It feels very easy to be hosting when I've got such talented co-hosts," he adds.

King admits that there were a few changes she's making this time around, after learning lessons the hard way while hosting CMA Fest in 2022. "I know not to wear a suit this year. Too hot," she says. "... Don't stick my tongue out."

But all in all, the singer says she's grateful for the chance to do it all again — especially as someone who transitioned to country music relatively recently.

"I'm shocked every time they ask me to do anything like this. But it's an absolute joy," she goes on to say. "I love it, and I get to go home to my house 'cause I live here now, and it's just beautiful. It's exciting, and you get to hear bada-- music for quite a few days. It's cool."

The CMA Fest special will show all the highlights from the 2023 festival. Tune in to watch on July 19 on ABC.

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