When Lee Ann Womack picked up five Country Music Association award nominations Tuesday (Aug. 1), she realized that she should relish the recognition of her peers, that she had achieved a career milestone, that she would never forget the day.
What made the morning all the more special was sharing it with family, friends, colleagues and well-wishers who turned up at Nashville’s Adelphia Coliseum to hear the nominees read by Womack, Brad Paisley and Lonestar.
The music business crowd broke into applause and cheers each time Womack’s name was announced. As her tally grew, Lonestar frontman Richie McDonald asked if she had brought her own cheerleading squad.
“You bet I did, baby!” Womack quipped.
Following the news conference, Womack explained that she enjoys celebrating such moments surrounded by those who mean the most to her. “The fans at home [watching the show] only see one person, they hear one name being read. There are so many people that are responsible for those nominations, including the booking agent, the record label, the management team, the band that’s out there on the road with me, and on and on.”
I Hope You Dance is her third CD, but Womack never has won a CMA award. This year she will compete for Female Vocalist of the Year and I Hope You Dance will vie for Album of the Year. The title track, recorded by Womack with Sons of the Desert, is up for Single, Vocal Event and Video of the Year. The video features Womack’s daughters, Aubrie, 9, and Anna Lise, 19 months.
Her husband, Frank Liddell, heard his own name read as a nominee, in his role as producer of three tracks on I Hope You Dance. Just as Womack praises others for her success, Liddell gave his wife credit for his achievement and downplayed his nomination. “It’s her award,” he said. “I produced a few things on the album and helped find songs. I’m very proud of it and I’m very excited, but I’m more excited for her.”
To Womack, though, it was important that she share a nomination with Liddell. “I really wanted to get the video nomination and the album nomination, because they include Frank and the girls and me,” she said. “So, now we’re all nominated.”
Paisley captured six citations, including Male Vocalist of the Year and Horizon Award, an amazing feat for an artist on his first album. He also seemed as excited for his family of friends, co-writers and musicians as he was for himself. “He Didn’t Have to Be” is up for Single, Song and Video of the Year. His debut album, Who Needs Pictures, is up for Album of the Year. “I’m ecstatic for my band and my producer and my engineers and the guys who worked on this record with me,” Paisley said. “It’s a lot of new people. We didn’t know what we were doing when we made this album, so I’m excited.”
Paisley knows first-hand that recognition on a nationally televised awards show provides a career boost. He felt the impact immediately when he took trophies earlier this year at the Academy of Country Music Awards and Country Weekly Presents the TNN Music Awards. Crowds on the West Coast swelled because of his new notoriety.
“Last night I talked to a couple of my co-writers and my producer [Frank Rogers],” Paisley said. “They were kind of nervous, hoping to get some kind of nomination for these songs and this record.
“I said, ’You know what? The bottom line is that the record we made is the same exact record, whether it gets recognized or not.’ If we hadn’t gotten any nominations for it, it doesn’t change a thing about what we’ve done. Awards are not the big thing. It’s about making the art that we hope to make, writing good songs and being true to ourselves. Once we do that, it’s a great feeling when people recognize us for it.”
News of the nominations rippled out quickly through the ranks of country music artists. Those who landed nominations found their day brightened when word reached them. Here’s a recap of some of the nominees who contacted country.com with their reactions:
Like Paisley, Faith Hill polled enough votes for six nominations including Female Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year. “Breathe,” the song, and Breathe, the album, did well for her. “This is just incredible. I am overwhelmed,” she said in a statement. “I am so grateful to all of those that nominated me and it is a thrill to be able to share these nominations with all of those people who worked so hard on Breathe. Look forward to seeing everyone at the show.”
On the same day that her third album, Burn, came out, Jo Dee Messina, reigning Horizon Award winner, received a nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year. “I have been blessed in so many ways,” she said in a statement to her publicist. “I am thrilled to be included in a category with so many talented voices. I’m honored that my peers have nominated me for this award. I never think of myself like that, so it’s something that I would never take for granted.”
Chely Wright picked up her second consecutive Horizon Award nomination. She got the news while on tour in the Pacific Northwest. “Over time I’ve read comments from those who say nominations mean nothing to them, that they simply love what they do,” she said. “Well, I love what I do, too, and I love getting nominated — it just warms my heart in a way and makes me feel great. To think that others in this industry think enough of my work to single me out and make me a part of the final five on the ballot means a lot to me.”
Sons of the Desert earned their first-ever nomination, Vocal Event of the Year, for handling harmonies on Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” Because Womack is the principal artist, she does not share the Single of the Year nomination, the CMA explained. Sons of the Desert vocalist Drew Womack (no relation), on a bus in Montana, sounded grateful for the nod. “It’s an honor to be part of a song whose impact is so far reaching,” he said. “’I Hope You Dance’ is the kind of song that only comes around every 10 years or so, and we were thrilled to be asked to be a part of it. We congratulate Lee Ann on all of her well-deserved nominations and are so proud our first nomination.”
Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, up for Vocal Group of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year (“Roly Poly” with the Dixie Chicks), was playing golf at Barton Creek Country Club in Austin, Texas. “It’s been 25 years [actually 13] since our last Vocal Group of the Year nomination,” Benson told his publicist. “The last time we were up [for Album of the Year], it was ’94 and when they rolled Lyle [Lovett] and us out on a riser, the rollers just kept going. Literally, we went crashing into the lights, but the TV guys were so smooth, the cameras just stayed with us and no one at home knew that Lyle and I were almost in the audience.”
Vince Gill who has 48 career CMA nominations, second only to George Strait, is again up for Male Vocalist of the Year, an award he has won five times. He will host this year’s CMA Awards show. “My congratulations go out to Brad Paisley,” he said. “I know how neat it feels. I appreciate the recognition after all these years.”
The Kinleys, Heather and Jennifer, were home in Nashville when they found out about their mention for Vocal Duo of the Year. “Our dream, from childhood on, has been to be the reigning duo of the year, and with some hard work, the right songs, the retirement of Brooks & Dunn, and help from above, we hope to see our dream come true,” they said to their publicist, in what presumably was a joint statement. “In the meantime, getting nominated again by our peers feels very warm and satisfying. Thanks everybody!”
Kenny Rogers last won the CMA’s Single of the Year Award in 1977, for “Lucille.” His last CMA nomination came in 1986 for Vocal Duo of the Year, with Dolly Parton. Tuesday, his recording of “Buy Me a Rose” put Rogers, who turns 62 on Aug. 21, back in the hunt. “When I called him this morning he was on cloud nine,” said Jim Mazza, Rogers’ co-manager and president of Dreamcatcher Entertainment, who spoke to Rogers at his home in Georgia. “He was up there and pretty excited and saying that he didn’t realize until it happened just how special an event it was. He was off the ground.”
Mazza says the nomination “contemporarizes” Rogers and his recent work. “You have to make great music and not lean on the past,” Mazza said. “You have to stay contemporary and competitive against the Faith Hills and Tim McGraws of the world. Kenny’s a great singer, in great voice, and there’s no stopping us now.”
Jay Orr contributed to this story.