While country music lovers from around the globe flocked to Nashville, Tennessee, for the 2016 CMA Music Festival, it was clear that the devastating killing of The Voice finalist Christina Grimmie was weighing heavy on the hearts of many of the artists present.
Both getting their start on a reality television singing competition, Chris Young and Cassadee Pope addressed Grimmie's untimely death with media, including Womanista, backstage Saturday night at Nissan Stadium.
Young won Nashville Star on USA Network in 2006 and said, "It's so incredibly sad that something like that happened," in regards to an artist being fatally shot during a meet-and-greet post-concert.
He went on to share how whether it was on social media, or even talking to other artists and fans, that gut-wrenching feeling was mutual. "It’s just such an unnecessary loss of someone’s life,” Young added.
Pope, who like Grimmie rose to fame on The Voice, took home the title for Team Blake (Blake Shelton) just three years prior to Grimmie's season six blind audition. Grimmie went on to be the third runner up for Team Adam with her coach, Adam Levine. As previously reported, Levine has kindly offered to pay for her funeral expenses.
“I’m performing on her behalf tonight,” Pope sweetly shared of her surprise duet, "Think of You," with Young.
“My heart goes out to her family and friends,” she continued. “I met her a few times and, obviously, I’m a fan of what she did and her work, so it’s just a really sad day for everybody.”
Pope admitted that she's never questioned her own security, as she'd just signed autographs and posed for photos with fans for 45 minutes the night before. “I had nobody checking bags or anything before they came to meet me," she revealed.
Grimmie, 22, lost her life to 27-year-old heavily armed gunman, James Loibl, who shot and killed himself after being tackled by her brother, Marcus, at The Plaza Live in Orlando, Florida, late Friday night. She had just performed as the opening act for the band Before You Exit.
“Things like [what happened] last night remind me it’s possible it can happen,” Pope added. “I think there’s a certain level of safely that we need to think about, but it’s impossible to foresee any of that happening.”
Before they took the stadium stage together, Young surprised Pope with a special plaque to celebrate "Think of You" being certified gold.
The CMA Music Festival began as a small local "Fan Fair" in 1972. Since then, it's grown to amass more than 87,000 fans (a day) from every state, in addition to two dozen foreign countries, as stats show in 2015. This year, the four-day super fan experience included a record-breaking daily attendance of 88,500 fans, with more than 500 artists across 11 stages.
Watch the emotional music video for "Think of You" below! Our continued thoughts and prayers are with Christina's family and friends.