Jason Aldean, The Band Perry, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum and Sugarland had reason to celebrate after winning CMA Awards on Wednesday night (Nov. 9). But before uncorking any bubbly wine, they all dropped by the backstage pressroom to answer questions from reporters.
Asked about his feelings after winning the awards, he replied, “Man, it’s crazy. With the success of the song we had with Kelly, I felt like we had a decent shot of winning the award for that song. But as far as album goes, that’s something I wasn’t expecting at all. To pull that in was cool. And the fact that I got a chance to get up there with my producer tonight, who’s the guy responsible for me even being here in this town … I thought that was a pretty cool moment.”
However, he shrugged off the notion that winning would make him reevaluate his next album.
“What got us to this point and winning this award was doing things the way we always have, which is trying to find great songs going in and trying to make them sound like me,” he said. “I feel like on the next record, we’ve already found some great songs and the ball is rolling now. I love the way the record is shaping up.”
He also confirmed the album category is coveted among country artists.
“I definitely think album of the year is a big one,” he said. “There are a lot of people who work on these records — from the guys in my band who play on every song, to my producer, to the record company and management. There are so many people involved in making one of these records. To win something like this, it’s cool simply for the fact that you get to share that with everybody. It’s a group win. So, to me, it’s big. This album is hopefully going to be around long after I’m gone. And the fact that we were able to make something that turned out this cool and people liked it this much, it’s a good feeling.”
The Band Perry claimed the most awards of the night. “If I Die Young” won in the single category, and as the songwriter, Kimberly Perry earned the song award. The sibling trio also picked up the new artist trophy.
When it was pointed out that very few songwriters in Nashville compose their songs alone, Kimberly Perry recalled how the song came about.
“I remember that the song only took one day to finish,” she said. “But I got about halfway finished and I played it for my mother and swore I was going to bring it to town to co-write. And she said, ‘You know what? You really need to finish this one all by yourself.’ So I went back upstairs and knocked out the back half. It was a special day.”
When one reporter mentioned the crossover success of “If I Die Young,” Perry noted, “We feel like we’re part of the country evangelism team. We love to hear country songs on pop radio. It just proved to be a song that had really long legs. We knew when it lived as an acoustic [instrumentation] and vocal that it was a special song that connected with so many different people. So whether there are fiddles or an electric guitar on that bridge, it was something that meant something to folks. We were so honored to be a part of that.”
Reflecting on the night, she added, “The CMAs have always been the Super Bowls in The Band Perry household, so we feel like we’re walking away with Super Bowl rings tonight. We’re fans, first and foremost, and it was an amazing show. We got to meet Kenny Chesney, who we hadn’t gotten a chance to meet before. It was great to be a part of the country music family tonight.”
Like The Band Perry, reporters also had a chance to chat with Chesney, who won the video of the year award with singing partner Grace Potter and director Shaun Silva. Although he’s a four-time winner of the entertainer award, this is the first time Chesney has won in the video category.
Chesney mentioned that he only knew Potter through her music when he asked her to sing on the poignant track, “You and Tequila.”
“I knew about Grace’s music, and I knew her voice, but to me, this goes to show you the power of music,” he said. “Grace and I had never met before we went into the studio to record this song. I knew of her and her great band. But I knew this song that Matraca Berg and Deana Carter wrote was such a tortured-soul song. It was obviously about being addicted to tequila but also about being addicted to that person you know is no good for you but you keep going back for some reason.”
He continued, “So when I recorded the song, I felt like I needed the other side. I felt like I needed the female perspective also. I heard Grace sing a song called ‘Apologies’ that she wrote when she was 17 years old. That song killed me. I said, ‘That’s the voice that I want.’ Like I said, we never met before we went into the studio, and the chemistry was evident from the moment we stepped into the studio. Shaun caught that chemistry in a couple of days in Southern California, and here we are.”
Asked about her impressions following the first time she watched the video, Potter replied, “I was like, ‘Why am I in my panties?’”
After everyone in the pressroom shared a laugh, she continued, “I personally was thrilled. I think the video is an unbelievable illustration of a song about subtlety and longing and that aching feeling you get when maybe something’s not quite right. But Shaun got it right. And I think that’s the first thing that crossed my mind — that he just got it.”
Silva added, “I keep talking about the chemistry. If she shows up on the first day of the shoot and they don’t connect, it’s not the video you see. There’s a natural chemistry there and respect there. It was fun for all of us for two days.”
For the third consecutive year, Lady Antebellum earned the vocal group trophy. During their acceptance speech during the show, Charles Kelley encouraged fans to catch them on tour.
When the subject came up backstage, Hillary Scott told reporters, “We’ve actually been in rehearsals for three weeks, which is the longest we’ve ever had. It felt like a luxury. I think more than anything, we’re just really excited. As for the stage, we helped come up with the whole idea behind it with our stage designer, and we drew out the first design on a paper plate. So to go from a paper plate to walking into a room and seeing it all lit up, it’s such a tangible combination of what the last five years have been like for us. We’re looking forward to it and it’s all about the fans.”
With an even longer winning streak, Sugarland picked up its fifth consecutive trophy in the vocal duo category. One reporter asked if they automatically expect a victory every year.
Jennifer Nettles, who attended the event with boyfriend Justin Miller, blew off the suggestion.
“Please, girl, you can’t expect anything in this industry. If you do, you are setting yourself up!” she answered with a laugh.
Kristian Bush added, “We know how much work it takes because we’re still working hundreds of days a year. And we appreciate all the work that all the other acts put in — in all the categories. So just to be invited here and sit in the room is a big deal. It’s really fortunate that we get to get up and accept an award, but being in the room matters.”Check out CMT.com’s full coverage of the 45th annual CMA Awards.