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Jennifer Nettles has fond memories of the holidays of her childhood and can still see the yellow Daisy bike that was waiting for her one year under the tree. “It had the banana seat with flowers on it. I loved that thing.” Almost as much as she loved the karaoke machine she got another year. “A giant speaker with two cassette tape options and you can throw in a microphone? Puh-leeze, in heaven,” says Jennifer with a laugh.
All the Sugarland singer wanted for this Christmas was to return as host of ABC’s CMA Country Christmas. Well, she got her wish. Jennifer will emcee for the fourth time tonight, welcoming a star-studded roster of artists including Trace Adkins, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Sheryl Crow, Jake Owen, Hunter Hayes, Rascal Flatts and Mary J. Blige, all singing songs of the season.
“I’m super excited because I do ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ with Mary J. Blige,” says Jennifer of the R&B star, who joined the country crowd at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. “It was a joy to be able to sing that with her.”
She also says Duck Dynasty fans should be on the lookout for a “particularly fun” performance by Willie Robertson and Luke on “Hairy Christmas.”
In addition to being a fan of variety shows in general, Jennifer is that girl who revels in Christmas. “What I love most is the time with each other and the time for family, that’s my favorite part,” she says.
She also loves to cook and to "feast." “I mix it up, although my mom does tend to look to me for vegetables and specifically my roasted brussel sprouts. They’re usually a really big hit. And to think that I hated them as a kid!”
Jennifer may have some competition in the kitchen this year though. “My mom, I have to say, is showing out. I joked with her that after becoming a grandmother she’s trying to up her culinary game. She’s always been a good cook and she just seems to be getting into it more and more. She made a little trial run just this last week with something called a cinnamon-roll cake. Dear god, it was the most decadent, rich, delicious, salty, sweet, middle-of-the-cinnamon-roll-thing–without having to eat the dry outsides--that you’ve ever had.”
When she’s done eating and spending time with family, including nearly year-old son Magnus, Jennifer will hit the road in 2014 to promote her forthcoming solo album, That Girl, due out Jan. 14.
But she promises to make time next year for CMA Country Christmas should they ask her to return: “One never wants to outstay her welcome, but at the same time I love what I’ve been doing there so I hope I get to do it again.”
CMA Country Christmas airs tonight (Monday, Dec. 2) at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.