By Vernell Hackett
(NASHVILLE –November 6, 2014) Luke Bryan had still not grasped the fact that he was the newest Entertainer of the Year when he came backstage at the CMA Music Awards Wednesday night.
“How do you even compute that your first CMA award is Entertainer of the Year?” Bryan asked in answer to a question about what it meant to him to receive this award. Although the singer has been named the Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, he says he has longed to have the recognition from the CMA as well.
“I have sought for many years to get one of these in my hands, to get the respect of the CMA Board and its voters,” he continued. “It’s a ginormous deal, something I was unable to express when I was onstage accepting it. I am really humbled. I think of the hard work it has taken to get here. I am so blessed. I will never take a second of it for granted. From the bottom of my heart, I go out on stage every night and try to sing and entertain like it’s my last. Certainly it’s hard to describe.”
Garth Brooks presented the award to Bryan, and he was also in awe of that happening. “I’ve never met Garth before and to think he handed me the award – that is just crazy to me,” Bryan said. “As a kid he was somebody that when you saw how he put on a show, it was undeniable; you wanted to put on a show like Garth.”
Miranda Lambert was the top winner of the evening, taking home four trophies including Album of the Year for “Platinum.” She and hubby Blake Shelton walked away with Male and Female vocalist honors for the fifth consecutive year.
Blake tied with Vince Gill and George Strait in the Male Vocalist category. He called that fact “just stupid,” then dedicated his win to his favorite country singer, Earl Thomas Conley. He later took a moment in the press room to mention some of his heroes who had never won this award. “ It was alarming to me realize that Earl Thomas Conley, Dan Seals, John Conlee, Conway Twitty … all these guys names weren’t on the (award winners) list and here I am standing up here with one. It freaked me out a little bit.”
Blake has had some down times in his career, so riding at the top now is just that much sweeter. He admits to hoping that “this is like the second quarter of my career right now, not the end. I can’t stress enough how excited, surprised and shocked that all this is happening in my life in my late 30’s. I’ve been doing this in my early 20’s. I think I was 24 the first time I was on this awards stage.
“To know I’m hanging around after all this time and still have a home here is hard to explain. It’s easy to say it’s happening because of “The Voice” but on the other hand “The Voice” is because of the music and they have gone hand in hand.
“This is beyond a dream come true. I could not be a happier human being the way this night has gone. For me and my family this maybe the biggest night of our lives as far as the music goes.”
Miranda passed Reba McEntire in the number of CMA awards she has won, which is 11. “I don’t even know what to say about that. When I’m around her I just shut up and listen because I know I can learn from everything she says and every move she makes. She is part of the reason I’m standing here right now so I’m very thankful to know her a little bit.
“I really love my job and I love music and I love country music. I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t doing this and it makes me feel really good that people are paying attention.”
Kacey Musgraves won Song of the Year honors for “Follow Your Arrow,” which she co-wrote with Brandy Clark and Shane Mc Anally. She performed “You’re Lookin’ at Country” with one of her heroes, Loretta Lynn, during the show. Backstage, Musgraves said she wanted to keep the duet a secret because it was such a special performance for her. She said that “Follow Your Arrow” was much like the songs that came from Lynn and others from her era, who wrote about what was going on with them on a daily basis that their fans could relate to.
Little Big Town and Florida Georgia Line repeated their wins from last year as Vocal Group of the Year and Vocal Duo of the Year, respectively. It was the third straight win in the category for Little Big Town and the second straight win for Florida Georgia Line.
Brett Eldredge won New Artist of the Year. In the press room, he admitted he had not even had the chance to talk with his mother, who was his guest at the awards show. Admitting his love for Frank Sinatra and acknowledging that his tuxedo was a tribute to the crooner, Eldredge said he loves country music and that is where he feels he belongs.
Guitarist Mac McAnally won Musician of the Year for the seventh time, continuing his streak of most consecutive wins in that category.
Vince Gill was presented with the Irving Waugh Award of Excellence during the awards show. He was visually emotional during a video salute from friends Rodney Crowell, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Taylor Swift, James Taylor, and Keith Urban.
Backstage, Gill, who the night before had been named a BMI Icon, said there wouldn’t have been a CMA awards show without Waugh, who was an instrumental part of the show team for many years. “He put the show on and class was always the ultimate to him. He wanted the men to dress up.”
The Irving Waugh Award of Excellence is awarded to an individual who is the originator and caretaker of demonstrated ideas and actions that have dramatically broadened and improved Country Music’s influence on a national or international level for the benefit of the industry. These ideas and actions should run a course of years and shall have a proven historical impact on the format.
Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood hosted the show, with skits running from everything to an impromptu baby shower for Carrie to a song bidding singer George Strait goodbye, despite the fact that he was in the audience and a performer on the show with Eric Church. Other performances included appearances by Dierks Bentley, the Doobie Brothers, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban.
The awards show was once again one of the most watched show of the evening, with ABC ranking No. 1 in each half-hour. The show was Wednesday’s most social broadcast, with over one million tweets.
A complete list of CMA award winners follows:
Entertainer of the Year
Album of the Year
Automatic, Miranda Lambert
Female Vocalist of the Year
Male Vocalist of the Year
Song of the Year
“Follow Your Arrow,” by Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally
Single of the Year
“Automatic,” Miranda Lambert
Vocal Group of the Year
Little Big Town
Vocal Duo of the Year
Florida Georgia Line
New Artist of the Year
Music Event of the Year
“We Were Us,” by Keith Urban featuring Miranda Lambert
Music Video of the Year
“Drunk on a Plane,” Dierks Bentley
Musician of the Year