NEW YORK – - Juggling her three trophies and a grin as wide as Texas, Lee Ann Womack couldn’t help bragging on herself a little bit backstage at the CMA Awards on Tuesday night (Nov. 15) in New York City. She greeted the room full of reporters with a big “Hey!” and kept on rolling from there. It was quite a change of scenery from last year when she watched the awards at home in her pajamas. This year, she moved from her couch to the front row.
With six nominations, Womack captured the evening’s most awards, winning for album (There’s More Where That Came From), single (“I May Hate Myself in the Morning”) and musical event (with George Strait, for “Good News, Bad News”).
“I was very, very anxious to bring my version of country music to New York to show people — the whole world watching — what country music is to me,” she told the room full of reporters. “I think it is kind of ironic that we bring it to the big city, and then the album of the year is There’s More Where That Came From. What I’ve found in this city is that there are a lot of people who love real music. My dad told me one time, ‘There are two kinds of music. There’s good and there’s bad.’ As long as I’m on his good side, or he thinks it’s good, I think I’m doing all right.”
Although “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” didn’t even come close to hitting No. 1, its twin fiddles and cheating lyrics earned her an invitation back into the fold of traditional country artists. And she is clearly thankful for the flattering reviews and grateful fans.
“Really, all I know is that I’m glad I’m the one that gets to walk off with the single of the year award for a song like ‘I May Hate Myself in the Morning.’ I’m very, very proud of that kind of music. When I first heard that song, I thought, ‘That’s country music.’ That’s what we remember as country music. That’s what other people will think when they first hear it. It took me back to a place where I felt safe and comfortable, and it felt like home to me when I heard it.”
She later added, “I was kind of lost. I made an album called Something Worth Leaving Behind, and I loved it and I was very, very proud of it. It didn’t do that well commercially. I took a couple of years off. I was really, really kind of confused because of the things I was hearing on country radio. I was like, ‘OK, I’m not sure exactly what that is, but I don’t know that what I do fits in with that.’ (Song publisher) Frank Liddell, my husband, walked in the front door one day and said, ‘I have a song for you.’ He played ‘I May Hate Myself in the Morning’ and immediately it was like the light bulb went on over my head again. I thought, ‘This is what I love. This is what I need to be doing. This is it.’”
A reporter asked if she would have been satisfied with the evening if she had won only the award she shared with Strait.
“I still could have gone out and celebrated. Definitely,” she answered. She looked around the room and confided, “And by the way, I will be celebrating. I’ve got a couple of friends here who know what that means. Tonight I’ll be throwing down.”
After a few seconds of laughter, she said, “I grew up in Jacksonville, Texas, and I would sneak away on weekends. I was a cheerleader at the high school, and I would tell my mom, ‘I’ve got a game, I’ve got practice,’ or whatever. My girlfriends and I would load up in the car and drive to wherever to see George Strait in concert. I would sit there in the audience, and I would tell my girlfriends, ‘Just watch. Someday, I’ll sing a duet with that guy.’ So, you can imagine how I feel to win an award with George Strait.”
The musical event award was presented about 15 minutes prior to the telecast. Despite her glamorous gown and high heels, Womack scrambled to the stage in the massive Madison Square Garden just as the presenters started to carry the trophy away. The press room roared when she shouted across the stage, “Bring that back! I’m talkin’!”
Once at the podium, she said, “I might not win another one tonight, and I just had to say I grew up in Texas, and I told everybody all I want is to sing with George Strait. I did it and thank you very much!”
Womack co-wrote “Good News, Bad News,” as well as “Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago,” which she performed during the ceremony.
Asked about her sudden prominence as a songwriter, Womack answered, “I wrote a lot of songs. I was a songwriter at Sony Tree Publishing for a couple of years before I got a record deal. I’m not going to say I was a great songwriter or that I am a great songwriter. I didn’t get a lot of cuts, I got a few. But I just think knowing country music the way I do and having studied it for so long, I have something to bring to the table, to people even like Dean Dillon and Dale Dodson, who are great country songwriters.”
She added, “One day I was in my office with my assistant, and there was a picture of me in a swimsuit that was 20 years old. She asked me, ‘When was this taken?’ I said, ‘Oh Lord, honey, I don’t remember. That was 20 years and two husbands ago.’ That’s where the song was born. Country songs are about real life. They come from real life experiences and I think a lot of times, that’s what I bring to the table.”
That, and a devotion to the CMA Awards throughout her life. Womack is only the fourth female artist to win for album (behind Anne Murray, Patty Loveless and the Dixie Chicks), something she hadn’t realized.
“You would think I would know that because I have watched CMAs every fall for my entire life,” she said. “The entire highlight of the year — of my life — has been watching the CMAs. I feel very, very honored to be one of those [women who won album of the year]. Those are some good women. I’m in good company.”