Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn Visit ACM Awards Pressroom

Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins Also Chat With Reporters in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Lady Antebellum’s crossover hit, “Need You Now” picked up two Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards for single and song of the year on Sunday night (April 18), but the trio told reporters they didn’t realize what they had on their hands when they finished writing it.

In the ACM pressroom, Charles Kelley gave credit to producer Paul Worley and Nashville studio musicians for shining up the song from its raw demo. Hillary Scott also gave a shout-out to Josh Kear, who co-wrote the powerful song with the band.

“You never know where a song is going to take you, and tonight is probably the pinnacle of our career,” Kelley told reporters. Lady Antebellum also won an ACM award for vocal group of the year, ending a seven-year winning streak by Rascal Flatts.

“We have so much to be thankful for,” Scott noted. “I’ve been crying the whole time.”

“It just keeps getting better,” Kelley continued. “Seriously, after all these things, we look at each other and we’re like, ’This is it, guys. We’ve got to remember this.’ … We’re very fortunate, and we’ll see where the road takes us.”

“We really do get along, the three of us,” Scott added. “That makes it so much sweeter because we will go out tonight and celebrate together because of the friendship that we have, which is really rare and special.”

Addressing a question about their crossover success, Dave Haywood noted, “If we can bring people to the country format, that’s a win for us.”

Brad Paisley told reporters that winning a record-breaking four consecutive trophies for male vocalist was “mind-blowing.” By the time he came to the pressroom, the singer was pretty much dry after plunging into a water tank at the end of his ACM performance of his new single, “Water.” Expressing his gratitude that he didn’t have to stand there soaking wet and then lose the award, Paisley said, “It was one of the most fun things I have ever done.”

Keeping with the “Water” theme, Paisley’s H2O World Tour will set sail in Virginia Beach, Va., on May 21.

“I love the way that country music excels at painting the picture of pastimes, of recreation, of summer stuff — and ’Water’ is all about that,” he said. “I really hope that people leave there thinking that they got 10 times more than they bargained for.”

Brooks & Dunn collected their 27th ACM award — the most by any artist in history — with their latest win in the vocal duo category. Their trophies include entertainer of the year (three times), vocal duo (16 times) and top new vocal duo or group (presented in 1992). An all-star tribute to the band, presented by the Academy of Country Music, was filmed in Las Vegas on Monday night (April 19). George Strait, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw were among those performing their versions of the duo’s hits.

“I can honestly say, for several reasons, it is the most special and, to me, the most humbling thing that we’ve ever done,” Kix Brooks said of the taping. “To think that it means enough to them that they’re willing to do our songs or music that we make, that’s incredible.”

Ronnie Dunn added, “I can remember the first ACM that we won. We grabbed it, ran offstage and got on the bus and took off to go do 150 dates in a row. I barely remember it. It’s a blur. So we’re at that point where we can step back for a few moments and assess.”

Blake Shelton said he was “shocked and amazed” to win the ACM award for vocal event with Trace Adkins for their hit, “Hillbilly Bone.” Asked how he managed to secure a performance introduction from Cher, Shelton deadpanned, “I just called her.” After the laughter subsided, Shelton admitted, “No, I don’t know. They told Trace and I that there was a surprise person who was going to introduce us, but they wouldn’t say who it was. So all day long, I was trying to figure out who it was. I thought it might be somebody that I knew, like my mom or something like that. I’ve never met Cher — and I probably never will — but she said my name on national television, and that’s bad-ass.”

Later, Shelton declared it was the first time he had been nominated for anything in 10 years. Adkins grumbled with a grin, “You’re going to lose a lot more than you win.” And when Shelton was asked if he was really drinking during the “Hillbilly Bone” video shoot, Adkins jumped in to intone, “Yes, he was. Prior, during and after.”

Luke Bryan clowned around for months in a campaign for the top new artist award — at one point even wearing a leotard in a viral video — and it worked.

“In the end, it just shows the crazy little goofy side that’s always lingering,” he told reporters. He also emphasized that his hometown of Leesburg, Ga., could not have been more supportive of his quest to win.

“There were little ladies at the courthouse standing at the intersection holding signs up for months, guys,” he said. “For months, they were out there — and weekends. We had signs on peanut wagons at the peanut mill. So many people rallied behind this cause. It’s been a blessing and a gift from up above.”

Bryan explained what the award meant to his family and how it brought to mind his two older siblings. His brother, Chris, was killed in a 1996 automobile accident and his sister, Kelly, died in 2007.

“I see their faces and I know what their expressions would be right now,” he said. “It’s a pretty amazing night. Honestly a lot of people deal with hardships — people who lose loved ones prematurely. These families don’t necessarily ever have anything to help them get over stuff like that. So any time something like this happens to my family, it’s just another thing where we can say, ’Life is good tonight.'”

Check out more coverage from the ACM Awards.
Craig Shelburne has been writing for since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.