Blake Shelton was absolutely shocked to win CMA Entertainer of the Year given the stiff competition he faced in that category. "There's Taylor Swift right there. I mean, really? This is pretty dumb that there's anybody else nominated," Shelton said backstage Thursday night.
Shelton's big win came in large part because of the massive exposure he's gained as a coach on NBC's "The Voice," but he stressed that country music is still his first priority.
"I've got so much more I want to do," Shelton said of his music career. "I'm still trying to figure out how to even schedule all the things that I want to do."
Though being on "The Voice" takes away from Shelton"s tour schedule a bit, he said, "That's about it, you know. I still make records, and I still tour as much as I can."
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Miranda Lambert shared the CMA Song of the Year trophy with her husband Blake Shelton for co-writing "Over You." The song was inspired by Shelton's late brother, who died in a car accident many years ago. Lambert has always wanted to win in that category and she wasn't shy about proclaiming it either.
"I spoke it out to the universe, I would love to take it," she said backstage.
Shelton isn't as bold though.
"He has this thing where he won't say it because he thinks you're hexing it or something," Lambert said with a laugh.
Lambert also took her third straight Female Vocalist trophy Thursday night, and she's enjoying this stretch of success while it lasts.
"I feel like there's a time for every artist to have their time, and you don't know when that time's gonna be over or when it's gonna happen," she said.
Lambert took time backstage to explain why Shelton truly deserved the Entertainer of the Year trophy too. She did a lot of research on that category when she was nominated for it a few years back.
"I realized that it just meant not only touring numbers, not only ticket sales or how much production you have, but the way that you represented country music within a year," Lambert said.
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Little Big Town won their first CMAs Thursday night for Vocal Group and Single of the Year with "Pontoon." The wins come 13 years after they first got together as a band, and they've overcome a lot of struggles in that time.
"We just really always kept showing up and believing and dreaming and working really hard and it happened, it's happened for us," Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild said backstage. "You never know what's around the corner."
Little Big Town hopes their current success encourages artists following in their footsteps too.
"We're like every songwriter and struggling artist and person that's out there singing and trying to make it - we're their story," Fairchild said.
Eric Church's "Chief" was named CMA Album of the Year Thursday night, and he thanked the country community for giving him a home during his acceptance speech. Church's brand of country has a prominent rock element to it, and he thinks country music's cool factor is definitely on the rise.
"Whatever's happened over the last five, six, seven years, that's all I see now," Church said. "Frankly, I think country has always been the coolest format. I just think that's now it's in a great space creatively."
Speaking about "Chief," Church said, "We kinda had nothing to lose when we made this record. We let creativity be the driver, and in doing that, in doing it that way, I think that's hopefully how you end up with something like this."
Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney won their second Musical of the Year trophy Thursday for "Feel Like a Rock Star." They actually took that trophy in 2007 with Tracy Lawrence for "Find Out Who Your Friends Are," and this win comes more than two decades into McGraw and Chesney's friendship.
"We'd sit back in our apartments back in the old days, we would never dream of this. Well, we'd dream about it," McGraw said backstage.
Thompson Square won their first Duo of the Year trophy, breaking Sugarland's five-year streak in that category. The duo's Keifer and Shawna Thompson just built a new house down in Alabama, and Shawna Thompson said, "We have some nice bookshelves to put 'em on."
"They're empty right now, so this would be a great space filler," Keifer Thompson said.
CMA New Artist of the Year Hunter Hayes also performed on the show for the first time, and admitted singing in front of his country music peers was nerve-racking.
"I'm a huge fan of so many people sitting in this room, and I respect them so much, and I just want them to like me," Hunter said with a laugh of his first CMA performance. "I want to do a good job."