Wednesday's (Oct. 17) CMT Artists of the Year ceremony was everything we wanted it to be and more.
From the dynamic and star-studded performances to the fashion on the red carpet, the entire evening was positively magical, with everyone reveling in the spirit of female empowerment that brought the country music community together.
And the chatter on the carpet reflected the powerful and excited mood. Singer-songwriter and Next Women of Country artist Kalie Shorr saw the night as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with her sisters in music.
“I’m so excited to get to celebrate not just women I’m a fan of, but my friends.”
“As much as I talk about how often it sucks, at the same time the biggest light I’ve found in all of this darkness with the situation with women in country is that I’ve had to step up and work harder and so have all of my girlfriends. And we’ll talk, and be like ‘You know what? We’re better artists because of it.’ We’ve never once been able to phone it in. We’ve had to step our game up, we’ve had to find ourselves, we’ve had to find our lane, and we’ve had to do it in high heels. And I think that’s amazing.”
Tori Kelly, on hand to perform with honoree Hillary Scott and gospel legend Kirk Franklin, was thrilled to be back in Nashville for the occasion.
“It’s so special and empowering to be surrounded by these talented, rock star women," she told CMT.com on the red carpet. "I love it. It’s an honor to be a part of it.”
Motown legend Smokey Robinson was thrilled to back in Nashville after a stellar CMT Crossroads with Cam in March. But tonight, Robinson's vocals got a chance to rest, except to introduce Maren Morris and Brandi Carlile. He told CMT.com that he was honored to be a part of such a special ceremony.
“First of all, I’m proud to be here because I love country music. Country music is some of my favorite music of all time since I was a child. I’m happy for that. I’m gonna see some great talent, gonna hear some great music, I’m gonna kick back and enjoy myself. I’m giving Maren Morris an award. I’m looking forward to it!”
And he got to visit with Carrie Underwood, too.
Dressed in a sharp blazer with a man's tie in her hair, Next Women of Country star Danielle Bradbery said she could feel the energy the moment she hit the carpet. For her, being there for her girls and having their support in return is priceless.
“We’re like one big army," she said. "As soon as somebody puts something out, one of us girls, we’re all jumping to repost it. It’s amazing. I’m very lucky to a part of this group of women.”
Country star Sara Evans talked at length about her concerns with lack of women on country radio, and the importance of the evening.
“It’s been so disappointing to see what’s happened at country radio," she said. "I grew up singing and listening to country, and listening to some of the best music in the world by people like Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, the Dixie Chicks. So, it’s devastating to see what’s happened. I’m so thankful to CMT and to Leslie Fram for doing everything they can to help turn it around because it has to turn around.”
But the power in the room last night was palpable, not only to Evans but also to duo Maddie & Tae.
“Oh, I feel the power,” Maddie Marlow told CMT.com.
The girls got a double dose of girl power last night when they joined their future tourmates Runaway June and Carrie Underwood onstage for the final medley of the evening.
Tae Dye said singing with Underwood is an otherworldly and incredible experience for the two as artists.
“Just being in a room with her just her presence is so uplifting and encouraging," Dye told CMT.com. "And I think that’s one of the reasons she’s so successful is because she’s always been so supportive. You need to cheer other people on. Singing with her is such a confidence boost.”
The whole night was a big boost for womankind in country music, and we've got the highlights for you below. Until of course, you have time to watch the entire show for yourself, which we highly recommend.