LAS VEGAS — Taylor Swift was thinking about her mother, the members of Lady Antebellum were in disbelief and Jack Ingram was in a reflective mood after winning in the new artist categories at Sunday night’s (May 18) Academy of Country Music Awards.
In accepting the top new female vocalist trophy, Swift acknowledged her mother, Andrea, during her onstage acceptance speech and elaborated more about her feelings during a visit to the backstage pressroom.
“My mom is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met,” she said. “My family has been just so amazing. When I begged them to move to Nashville and they saw that it wasn’t just a phase — that I really was completely in love with country music and wanted to make it happen — they just jumped. They just moved across the country.
“I don’t know how I got a family like that, what I did to deserve an amazing family like that. My mom has gone through a lot. It’s not her dream to do this, but she sacrificed so much that she loved because it was my dream.”
Just a few months ago, nobody had heard of Lady Antebellum, the trio featuring Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood. Their debut single, “Love Don’t Live Here,” was released in October and is now spending its fourth week on Billboard‘s country singles chart. Their self-titled debut album, which premiered at No. 1 on Billboard‘s country singles in April, is likely to see another sales increase after their win for best new group or duo.
“Everything that’s happened over the past year has just been unbelievable — playing the Opry, going out on tour with Martina McBride and putting a record out,” Kelley said. “To be here now is just the icing on the cake. It feels incredible.” Collecting his thoughts before speaking, he added, “I wish I had something better prepared.”
Scott, the daughter of country singer Linda Davis and musician Lang Scott, was surprised at winning the award, but she wasn’t surprised that she became emotional after hearing the news.
“I cry at Hallmark commercials,” she said. “I have a huge family. There’s like 30 people at my parents’ house viewing the awards show. Knowing all of them are there — my grandparents, my family from Texas — it’s just an overwhelming feeling. And knowing that I’m doing this with two of my best friends in the entire world, it does not get any better than this.”
Ingram has traveled a longer road in achieving his status as the ACM’s top new male artist. The singer-songwriter first hit the country singles chart in 1997, but he had been a major act in his home state of Texas for several years before that. Ingram finally got country radio’s attention with “Measure of a Man,” “Love You” and the No. 1 single, “Wherever You Are.”
“It’s been a long road to get to be a new male vocalist, which I think sometimes is lost in the story of all these new artists around town,” Ingram told reporters backstage. “Sometimes it takes a long time, and that’s my story. To be here tonight, I’m grateful, I’m honored and I also own it. I’ve put in a lot of miles and hard work, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far in my career. Hopefully, it just took a long time to get to the starting line and we’re off to the races.”
Having recorded for other Nashville-based record labels, he credited Big Machine Records for getting radio airplay for his music.
“It took a long time to get the right recipe for me at the label side of things, to find somebody who was willing to let me be myself and willing to put their money where their mouth is as far as doing what it takes to get an artist heard,” he said.
Ingram also acknowledged he had also stopped viewing his artistry as being “precious” and adopted an open mind about being able to create radio-friendly music that still maintains a high level of substance.
“I realized that I’m just myself,” he said. “When I open my mouth, it sounds like Jack Ingram. Once I accepted that, it opened up a lot of avenues for me to get heard down the mainstream pike. It wasn’t that hard of a transition. I don’t think I’ve changed that much. I think I just opened myself to some opportunities I might have scoffed at before. And now I say, ‘Yes. Let’s give it a shot and see what happens.’”
Ingram said he has benefited from years of encouragement of fans and those in the music industry and media, but there are still moments that provide a reality check.
“It seems glamorous,” he said. “And you think when you have a No. 1 hit, the world changes. But the fact is that it doesn’t. We’ve shown up in Wisconsin sometimes and there’s 37 people to see us play on a Saturday night. And it’s a punch in the gut. You feel like your world is about to change … and it’s not the case. It still takes a lot of hard work, and often times it feels like you’re pushing a train uphill.”
Ingram says he never had any huge career expectations when he started playing music and writing songs.
“I didn’t choose to do this necessarily,” he explained. “I played music and it hit me like a bug that just won’t go away. I started out playing the corner of a sports bar with no amplification or anything. Just my guitar. And I made money that night. They gave me a free meal and free beer and a couple of bucks, and I walked home better off than I was when I walked into the bar.
“Through all the tricks and turns that this business will take you on — and it will — I know at the very end of it, I have something they can’t take away from me. I can walk into a bar and tell some stories and sing some songs and make what I need to make to move on down the road.”