On Chris Stapleton, who won best new artist, album of the year for Traveller and male vocalist of the year, he said “It’s so fun watching the birth on an artist happen like that. Like a coming out party. We know Stapleton,” Bryan said of the man who is known so well inside the music world, “but when he gets that opportunity for it to get launched like just happened, that’s so fun to watch. It’s so deserving. And for Timberlake to come in and stamp his flag and showcase him was an amazing moment.”
On Little Big Town, who won song of the year and single of the year for “Girl Crush,” as well as vocal group of the year, Bryan said “I told them backstage, ’If you guys keep winning awards, we might have to flip flop this dadgum tour,” he said of his next tour’s opening act. “Just hearing Karen on ‘Girl Crush,’ she’s one of the finest vocalists on planet earth.”
On Garth Brooks, who was nominated with Bryan for entertainer of the year, he said “Garth rewrote the book on entertainment. I mean, he caught a lot of flak for that. But he truly changed the game of how a country music artist entertains. And I was a 14-year-old kid caught up in it as much as anybody in this whole world. Nobody was more caught up, nobody watched the Garth Brooks specials and studied them more than me. I just pray that he knows that his contributions are what pushed me.”
When Bryan finally did get around to talking about his win – his second entertainer of the year award – he said it felt insurmountable this year, and thus was such a blessing.
“I put so much pride in giving all I’ve got every night, performing and literally getting off the stage with ice packs on my knees and out of breath: that’s just the way I go about that,” he said. “And this is a night where I can just go, ‘Gosh, people are paying attention to that.'”