Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton Clink Their CMA Awards

Engaged Couple Collect Female and Male Vocalist, Album, Video and Vocal Event Trophies

Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton clinked their glass trophies together when their paths crossed in the backstage pressroom at the CMA Awards on Wednesday night (Nov. 10). Along with posing for photos and a few quick, sweet kisses, the engaged couple spent a few minutes fielding questions from reporters about their multiple wins.

Lambert stepped to the podium first, temporarily relieving herself of the hardware by giving them all to a stage manager.

“I didn’t realize how heavy CMAs were!” the Texas native said. “I’ve never won a CMA.”

However, her total career CMA nominations reached 16 this year, and she took home statues for album (for Revolution), female vocalist and video (for “The House That Built Me” ). She accepted the female vocalist award onstage from Loretta Lynn, shortly after performing “Coal Miner’s Daughter” with Lynn and Sheryl Crow.

“Today’s my 27th birthday,” Lambert told reporters. “It’s my 10th year making music for a living. I started my first band when I was 17 and got paid $50 a night to play in a bar. And now here I am with three CMAs in my arms. I really feel more levelheaded than I thought I would because I hope it’s the beginning. I hope that I’m here 40 years from now, handing out an award like Loretta handed to me.”

Lambert was also nominated this year for entertainer, single (for “The House That Built Me” and “White Liar” ) and vocal event (for appearing on Dierks Bentley’s “Bad Angel,” along with Jamey Johnson). “White Liar” also secured nominations for song of the year (with co-writer Natalie Hemby) and video. With nine nominations for the latest awards, she was this year’s leading nominee.

Addressing a question about the banner year she and Shelton have both enjoyed, Lambert noted it’s been “kind of a whirlwind” and added, “I’m looking forward to the holidays where we can sit down and look at each other and go, ’Holy crap.’ We got engaged, and then our careers have just taken off. I couldn’t even be happy for myself for winning album of the year until right now because Blake won male vocalist of the year. He is so long-deserving of that. Seeing his face and seeing what it meant to him was really, really touching.”

She also praised Allen Shamblin and Tom Douglas, writers of “The House That Built Me,” which won a CMA award for song of the year.

“I’m so happy for them,” she said. “I kind of knew it would [win], and I can say that because I didn’t write the song. It’s an amazing song, and I just got my little hands on it, thank the Lord. But the three awards I won myself were handed to me by friends of mine — Little Big Town, Kellie Pickler and Loretta. It meant the world to me. With Lady Antebellum, I beat them in album of the year, but they couldn’t get to me fast enough to hug my neck. And me, the same for them. [Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” won single of the year.] It’s really cool the way that country music embraces each other. It’s really special. There’s no other thing like it.”

With a good-natured laugh, Lambert confessed, “I am headed to pizza immediately following these interviews.” She’s been working with a personal trainer lately and stated she’s paying more attention to health because she’s entering her late 20s and getting married next year.

“I just figured I should start making it a lifestyle instead of crash dieting every time there’s something important,” she explained. “I’ve really enjoyed it, actually. It’s helped me to clear my head and learn what it’s like to focus on something because fitness is not my favorite thing — at all. But it’s been worth it, and it feels good to get onstage tonight and feel confident.”

When Shelton stepped to the microphone in the pressroom, Lambert was being hustled off to the next stop. Following their temporary farewell, Shelton greeted the reporters warmly, many of whom he’s known since his debut single, “Austin,” landed in 2001.

The Oklahoman had been nominated for the Horizon Award for new artists in 2003, in addition to a vocal event nod for “The Truth About Men” with Tracy Byrd, Andy Griggs and Montgomery Gentry that same year. However, he didn’t receive any additional CMA nominations until this year when “Hillbilly Bone,” his collaboration with Trace Adkins, earned nods for single, video and vocal event (winning the latter) and Shelton earned his first male vocalist nod.

Asked about the personal meaning of the male vocalist award, Shelton replied, “I don’t know what this has to do with singing. I don’t know what it has to do with record sales or hits or ticket sales. All I know is, I’ve been sitting in that audience out there for 11 years. I counted them. Watching three different groups of popular artists come and go in that amount of time, and I was never one of them, you know?”

He continued, “I know this stuff is political, and that’s my favorite thing about it right now because that’s a hard thing to accomplish in this town — to get people on your side. I love what I do, and you’re not going to see anybody get up on this stage tonight and talk that loves country music — and I’ll even say who knows more about it — than I do. I love what I do, and I hope that I’m standing up here 20 years from now, like George Strait, talking about that same freakin’ piece of glass right there and what it means to me then.”

Lambert and Shelton are the first country couple to collect male and female vocalist trophies in the same year since Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in 2000. When the statistic was brought up, Shelton said, “I’m sure that Tim and Faith never set out to be the country couple. I think what they probably found out was that they were attracted to one another, and they met because of what they do. That’s kind of Miranda and my situation. It’s unique and it’s odd that our careers are kind of peaking at the same time.”

When another reporter suggested that so many positive things were happening all at once, also alluding to the singer’s Grand Ole Opry induction last month, Shelton said, “You kind of start looking over your shoulder. I was excited for a while this year. Then it got into early fall, and I got kind of cocky. And now I’m kind of feeling guilty. It gets to the point where you just go, ’I don’t know what to say.’ I don’t know what to say anymore about any of this stuff. I’ve used up all of the stupid things I always have to come out here and say to y’all. Little comments and smart-ass things that most of you all have known me for. I don’t have those tonight.”

Then his thoughts turned to his childhood.

“One day I was sitting in my bedroom in Ada, Okla., and I said to myself — and I walked into the living room and said to my dad — ’I want to be a country singer,'” he said. “That was a proud moment for me to know what I wanted to do. I have that same feeling tonight, standing up here talking about winning CMA male vocalist of the year.”

Approaching his 10th year as a recording artist, Shelton acknowledged his career has had its share of ups and downs. He spoke of a time about five years ago when he was getting divorced, battling his record label and switching management. That was when he met Brandon Blackstock, Rascal Flatts’ former road manager who was about to join the family business. (His father is Narvel Blackstock, whose most famous client is his wife, Reba McEntire.) The younger Blackstock was persistent until Shelton finally gave in. And when Shelton’s name was called in the male vocalist category Wednesday night, McEntire was caught on camera openly weeping.

“I finally just decided that kind of passion is what I needed in my career, a guy like [Brandon], and the power of a Narvel Blackstock and the power of a Reba McEntire,” Shelton said. “When I decided to do it, what I found out was, yes, they are a company, but they’re a family. When you’re brought into that, they treat you like family.

“I’ve been with them for five years now, and it’s been a battle. Every day has been a grind. It’s just not been easy. Tonight, it was like when you’ve been pushing on that wall and pushing on that wall, and there’s that moment when it finally hits the ground. That’s what it felt like tonight, even for Reba, Narvel and Brandon. It’s awesome.”