ACM Winners React to Their Latest Victories

CMT Hot 20 Countdown Captures Backstage Excitement

Little Big Town, Cole Swindell, Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan were among those who headed to the pressroom after accepting trophies at the 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. CMT Hot 20 Countdown was there Sunday night (April 19) to capture the winners’ reactions.

Little Big Town’s vocal group of the year win was no huge surprise, especially given the success they’ve enjoyed during the past year with the release of their Pain Killer album and the hotly-discussed single, “Girl Crush.”

The support of the country music has been humbling for the four members of Little Big Town.

“I love being backstage and seeing Thomas Rhett right before he goes on, and him saying, ‘Say a prayer,’” Karen Fairchild said. “I said, ‘No, you say a prayer for me.’ And I love that. I love the nurturing aspect. Like Garth (Brooks) said, our mamas raised us to do certain things, and we cultivate that in this little subculture that we’ve made. It makes me really, really proud.”

Swindell said winning the ACM’s new artist of the year award felt like another warm welcome into the country music community.

Sara Kauss/WireImage

“Going into it, none of us would have been in the category without phenomenal years,” he said. “You hear people say, ‘No matter what, we love you. You’re a winner either way.’ But you know you want to win this thing, and I wanted to win it for everybody that’s supported me.”

Admitting he feels “a little more accepted,” Swindell added, “I don’t feel like I should be sitting with Alan Jackson and those guys, but getting a chance to sing with him last night and meet him … it makes you feel included. I just wanted a chance to represent country music as the best new artist. And I got it, so I will never take it for granted.”

Even with her latest victories for female vocalist, song of the year (“Automatic”) and album of the year (Platinum), Lambert doesn’t take awards for granted.

“I do think every single time that my time has passed and that I enjoyed it,” she said.

Sara Kauss/WireImage

Other nominees in the album of the year category were Jason Aldean’s Old Boots, New Dirt, Little Big Town’s Pain Killer, Dierks Bentley’s Riser and Eric Church’s The Outsiders.

“I’m so thrilled that Platinum won album of the year,” Lambert said. “But, man, it was tough, though. … I own all those records and they’re all great, so it’s those kind of categories where you feel really honored to be there because everybody there really worked hard to make their music reach you — and it does.”

The entire award show was an exciting experience for Bryan, who won entertainer of the year honors for the second time. Even before the televised portion of the awards show began, he and two of his friends had already won the vocal event of the year trophy.

“The energy was amazing,” Bryan said. “The night was amazing. And to have the opportunity to win an award before I got onstage — with Florida Georgia Line and ‘This Is How We Roll’ — and then to win entertainer was a very special night.”

Bryan had set his priorities for commemorating his latest achievements.

Gary Miller/FilmMagic

“I don’t think it’s a time for me to be cool,” he said. “I don’t think it’s time for me to suave. I think it’s a time for me to jump up and down celebrate! These are the days. And, you know, when I’m an old guy in a rocking chair, I’m going to look back and go, ‘You had a dadgum good time with this stuff!’”

For more on the 50th annual ACM Awards, including red carpet highlights and backstage interviews, don’t miss an all new episode of CMT Hot 20 Countdown this Saturday and Sunday (April 25-26) at 9 a.m. ET/PT.