(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that's happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
Tuesday night's (Dec. 13) CMT Artists of the Year special was an hour and a-half of country music love. I loved that. But if I had to pick one part that stood out to me, it was getting to know Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley a little better. Like when they showed the clip of him calling his mom from his cell phone after the Grammy Awards while he was still in his shirt and bow tie. "We won two awards already, mom. We have two Grammys," he proudly told her. And then during the Avett Brothers performance of their fiery "Laundry Room," Kelley was watching so intently, he even put his glasses on, perhaps so he wouldn't miss a minute of the song. I also loved Kelley's example of the perfect country music sampler. When he was accepting the group's Artist of the Year trophy, he said, "If anybody ever was to say, 'Give me five songs to give me a little taste about what's going on in country music,' I'd give them 'Love Story,' I'd give them 'You and Tequila,' I'd give them 'Dirt Road Anthem' and 'This Is Country Music.' And one of our crappy songs." Then later, when Taylor Swift was accepting her trophy, Kelley laughed at her joke about how she'd had an epic dance party with Lady Antebellum and she thought that was what they'd written "We Owned the Night" about. It was nice to see this other side of Kelley. To me, he's always been this soulful frontman. But after last night, I can see that he's also a son, a friend, a fan and an all-around nice guy.