Honorees Dan + Shay opened the 2019 CMT Artists of the Year with their intoxicating "Tequila." And the crowd was there to drink it all in.
With Shay Mooney on lead vocals and Dan Smyers on guitar, plus a four-man backing band, they had the audience at the ceremony -- packed with their friends, fans and wives -- singing along within minutes.
This year's show on Wednesday night (Oct. 16) at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center was a special one, since it's the 10th anniversary of the night dedicated to celebrating the biggest artists in country music.
Radio host Bobby Bones was there to set the stage for the night. "Nashville! It is so great to be here and to celebrate country music in 2019," he said. "The great thing is, CMT honors these artists each year because they dominated country radio, they toured on the road, and the music was streamed by millions online. And so they have earned this right to be called CMT Artists of the Year."
All the artists have one thing in common, he said, and that is their love for country music.
When he called Tori Kelly to the stage -- to present Dan + Shay with their award -- Bones called the singer/songwriter/producer an extended member of the CMT family.
"The duo I'm here to recognize may fall on the modern side of country, but they are old school when it comes to work ethic. From writing to recording to touring, they've built their career one brick at a time. And when they finally dropped that one song you just heard, 'Tequila,' all that work paid off," Kelly said. "I'm talking about my good friends Dan and Shay."
The well-loved duo made their way to the stage, and Mooney started with, "This is truly hard to put into words how much this means to us. I look around and it's truly inspiring. I'm getting a little choked up just looking around. Country music has done so much for us, and being on this stage does not seem deserving in my mind. We are so thankful. That's all I'm gonna say before I start crying."
When it was Smyers turn, he thanked their wives, their team, their fans and everybody at CMT. "You guys gave us our very first award ever and this is a full-circle moment," he said, "so CMT, thank you for believing in us and changing our world in a bigger way than you know."