ACM Awards: What the Winners Said Backstage

Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band Chat With Reporters

LAS VEGAS — Just moments after winning their latest ACM awards on Sunday night (April 3), Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum, the Zac Brown Band and other country stars made their way to the pressroom to field questions about their memorable night.

Paisley claimed his fifth male vocalist award and told reporters, “This one felt almost like that first time. For me, there was this peak. The first time is this massive, amazing experience — you never thought you’d win the award. The second time, a little less so. Third time, a little less so. Fourth time, it came back up because I thought, ‘Last year, I thought I wouldn’t win it.’ Then this year, I’ve lost a lot of money — and not at the gambling tables. I really thought, ‘That’s it — four.’ That’s really amazing to think about.”

Earlier that night, Paisley brought out the three founding members of Alabama to help him perform his latest single, “Old Alabama.” He said the band’s frontman, Randy Owen, was surprised by the concept of the song.

“I told him, ‘I’ve got this idea. The song’s all about a girl who’s in love with that old sound. I want to use the bridge from ‘Mountain Music’ in it and throw some titles in there,’” Paisley said, adding, “it’s our way of sampling here in the country world.

“He said, ‘You know what? I think that sounds great. And I had no idea that anybody cared anymore.’ He chuckled and I told him, ‘Well, you’re about to see how much they care.’ For me, I hope this makes their iTunes songs spike a little. … They’re the coolest band we’ve ever had.”

As for his upcoming album, This Is Country Music, Paisley said writing the title track “gave me a mission statement.” He said the project spans from cheating songs to an upbeat tune about working on a tan.

“It’s my way of doing an influences album without covering material,” he noted. Guests on the album include Clint Eastwood (who whistles on a Western number), as well as Sheryl Crow, Carl Jackson, Marty Stuart, Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood.

Lady Antebellum, who won ACM trophies for their Need You Now album as well as top vocal group, told reporters they’re between halfway and two-thirds of the way done with their next album.

“Hopefully in the near future, we’ll have a single out. That’s the goal,” Charles Kelley said. “We’re just listening to the music and trying to decide what’s the first statement we want to make.”

Asked about any upcoming tour preparations, Kelley added, “We’re in the process of working on a record and letting it all happen organically. We’ve been throwing out some ideas, but right now we have a bunch of fair and festival dates this summer, so we’re just trying to finish up the record. Our goal is to build the show and put on a big-time show.”

The trio said they would be leaving the following night for an Australian tour with Keith Urban.

This is going to be an adventure for us,” said Hillary Scott. “To meet the people, see the fans and hopefully make some new fans, we’re really looking forward to it. And then the obvious. I’m going to feed the kangaroos and pet a koala bear.”

Scott also emphasized she is not engaged, despite the sparkling bauble on her ring finger.

“Whenever you wear fancy jewelry like this, you just put it on the finger that fits. And this is the finger it fit on!” she exclaimed.

Winning their second vocal duo award, Sugarland didn’t visit the pressroom, only because they were about a mile down the road headlining the ACM Fan Jam. Still, they called into the pressroom via speakerphone.

“We’ve been touring with the Incredible Machine tour with this particular set that we designed for it,” said Kristian Bush. “We’ve been trying to find a way to get it on television, and this was a great opportunity to see what it is we’re doing — touring around — and what kind of show we do.” Bush added that the duo wanted to show the fans how much they are valued in country music.

During their visit to the pressroom, the three siblings in The Band Perry elaborated on their gratitude toward their parents, who were the first people they thanked from the podium when they accepted the trophy for best new artist.

“We are a labor of love!” Kimberly Perry stated. “Our dad has always been about asking questions. We had no clue what we were doing when we got started 13 years ago. He was our surrogate booking agent and our biggest question-asker. [Our mother] is our detail lady. She knows how to keep us in the right headspace and to keep us at our best, which is quite a chore. She’s the referee.”

The band also revealed they’re writing material for their next album.

“Maybe it’s because we want to keep our creative muscle flexed,” Kimberly said. “Our debut album, which recently went gold, only came out in October, and I feel like it still has a lot of legs left. But, yeah, the songwriting process is absolutely fascinating, and we’re covering songs daily — and when I say ‘covering,’ we’re in a space right now where it feels like the songs already exist and we’re sort of excavating them. We’re digging them up and finding new pieces every day.”

The Zac Brown Band won an ACM award for their vocal event award with Alan Jackson for the No. 1 hit, “As She’s Walking Away.” Jackson introduced Brown during the ceremony, along with the group’s latest duet partner, James Taylor, for a medley of “Colder Weather” and “Sweet Baby James.”

After the show, it was Brown who ushered in Taylor for a backstage visit with reporters. Although he is typically stoic in interviews, Brown gushed about singing with his musical hero, telling reporters, “It’s the all-time best musical moment of my whole career.”

Brown and Taylor connected through a mutual musician friend, Dobro player Jerry Douglas (who also plays with Alison Krauss). When Taylor accepted the offer to perform “Colder Weather” with the ensemble, Brown flew to meet him and to determine which of Taylor’s classic songs would best complement Brown’s moody tune.

Fielding a question about his influence on country artists, Taylor remarked, “There have been a few people who have gotten in touch. … I look at it as validating. It’s the way you live on.”

Brown wrapped up the interview session by talking about his vision for live performances, from the jam sessions with his opening acts to the catered food he feeds his audiences.

“Our goal is to super-serve the fans and to really give them an experience, so when they go see other people’s shows, they feel like they got ripped off,” he said, causing a round of laughter among reporters and musicians alike.

View photos and more coverage from the ACM Awards.