Last year in New York City, Carrie Underwood turned heads at the CMA Awards with a powerful rendition of her debut single, "Jesus, Take the Wheel." The country music industry apparently noticed. This time, she's nominated for female vocalist and the Horizon Award, and she also received single and video of the year nominations for "Jesus, Take the Wheel." The song, which became Underwood's first No. 1 hit, is also nominated for song of the year, a category which recognizes songwriters.
Underwood received the good news Wednesday (Aug. 30) in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she was scheduled to perform at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo tonight.
"This is my first time to be nominated for the CMA Music Awards, so to be recognized for four is a big surprise and an amazing honor," she said. "I'm extremely excited and can't wait until November." Next month, she'll open a series of concerts on Brad Paisley's Time Well Wasted tour.
Paisley and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles announced the first round of CMA nominees on Good Morning America. Paisley found himself in six categories, including entertainer, album, male vocalist, single, video and musical event. This brings his career total of CMA nominations to 33, with five wins. After the TV appearance, on his way to the airport, he simply stated, "This is great, I'm excited!"
Little Big Town announced additional nominees Wednesday morning in Nashville and also secured two nods for themselves -- for the Horizon Award and vocal group.
"There's so much new, great music out there and artists that are having great years and selling a lot of records," said group member Jimi Westbrook. "To be pulled out of that and acknowledged -- wow, it's amazing. We're very grateful and feel blessed for that, because the company was unbelievable."
The group is opening a show tonight for Dierks Bentley in DuQuoin, Ill. Bentley was just getting off a plane in Illinois when he was announced as a nominee for male vocalist. "I'm honored and humbled at the same time," he said. "There are heroes and friends in this category. A big thanks to everyone that voted for us." Bentley will release his new album, Long Trip Alone, on Oct. 17.
Having won 15 CMA Awards in their career, Brooks & Dunn secured six more nominations. They're up for entertainer, album (Hillbilly Deluxe), single ("Believe"), video ("Believe") and musical event ("Building Bridges" with Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill). "Believe" also resulted in a song of the year nomination for Ronnie Dunn and co-writer Craig Wiseman. Brooks & Dunn will also host this year's CMA Awards, which will air live from Nashville on Nov. 6 on ABC.
Kix Brooks said, "[We] feel like we got some fresh wind in our sails -- been a long time since we had this kind of fun -- and a magic song like 'Believe' is the kind a career like ours can only dream of. Thanks, Ron and Craig and the Man Upstairs, for that one. Doesn't hurt to have Vince and Sheryl, two of the greatest talents on the planet, on our current single, either."
"It's good to feel the love out there," Ronnie Dunn said. "I guess you might think that it would work the other way, but the longer that we're in this business, the more humbling it becomes. Kix and I realize how privileged that we are to be accepted by the fans and the people that surround us within the industry."
A fellow nominee in the entertainer category, Kenny Chesney also earned nominations for male vocalist, single ("Summertime") and album (The Road and the Radio).
"We work so hard on this music, and it's always humbling when your peers hear something in your music that you were trying to get across," he said. "I make this music about who I am, for sure, but it's also a lot about the lives the people coming to our shows live. So, in a lot of ways, recognizing The Road & The Radio is telling the people who love this music that their lives are the things that matter."
Rascal Flatts, the reigning CMA vocal group of the year, gained another nomination in the category along with an album of the year mention for Me and My Gang and a nomination for entertainer of the year.
"This is our first recognition from the CMA in the entertainer category, and it is such an honor," said band member Jay DeMarcus. "We have worked so hard the last few years to deliver great albums and to give back to our fans with our live shows. We appreciate that our industry of peers is patting us on the back with these acknowledgements."
Nominated for vocal duo, Big & Rich also find themselves in the video of the year category for "8th of November." In the category designated for songwriters, the song about a battle during the Vietnam War resulted in nominations for Big Kenny and John Rich. They were recording Wednesday in a Nashville studio but issued a joint statement noting, "This is the most important piece of work we have ever done." They referred to it as a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for us as songwriters and artists to be able to pay a debt of respect and gratitude to all of our veterans, especially the Vietnam vets."
Big & Rich's MuzikMafia cohort, Gretchen Wilson, gathered two nominations, including one for female vocalist, an award she won last year. Wilson and Merle Haggard are nominated in the musical event category for "Politically Uncorrect." Wilson said, "I'm always shocked and humbled to hear my name in a category alongside such talented women. I still can't believe I got to sing with Merle Haggard, and I'm so proud to have my name beside his in the event category."
The Wreckers received their first CMA nomination -- for vocal duo -- the same week their debut single, "Leave the Pieces," hit No. 1 on the Billboard country chart.
"This is a huge honor for us," Michelle Branch said. "We are so excited to be sharing the category with the other talented duos and even happier to represent the category from a female perspective." Jessica Harp added, "A No. 1 single and our first CMA nomination in one week? It's unbelievable. Michelle and I really set no expectations for this project, so when things like this start happening, it is so exciting. It's a blessing, and it makes all the blood, sweat and tears that went into everything worth it. And I also feel it's an affirmation that M and I were supposed to work together."
Miranda Lambert celebrated two nominations. Asked about the Horizon Award mention, she said, "I think this category is even tougher than last year. I definitely gotta bring my 'A' game. I have to say I am such a fan of the other nominees, it could be anyone's big night. I've been a fan of Little Big Town from the very beginning, and Sugarland puts on such great live shows and great albums. It's going to be tough!"
Lambert's video, "Kerosene," also earned a nomination. "It's such a big deal to me that I'm in a category with artists I have been a fan of for years," she said. "[Director] Trey Fanjoy did such a fabulous job with the 'Kerosene' video, and I'm very proud of it."
Harold Bradley, Sonny James and George Strait will also be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the awards ceremony. Bradley and James attended the Nashville press conference. Although Strait was not present, he did offer his thanks in a prepared statement.
"I'm very honored, of course, to say the least," he said. "I've tried to think of something good to say. So many things have happened in my career. I get asked sometimes, 'What's the highlight of my career?' because I've been doing it for so long. I always have a hard time coming up with something because so many good things have happened. But I think this is, without a doubt, the most special thing that's ever happened, and I don't know how anything could top getting put in the Hall of Fame. It's just the very highest honor you can get in this business."