CMT has long sought ways to honor the biggest names in country music as well as a new generation that is well on their way to success. In addition to their year award show, CMT’s Artist of the Year gives the network a chance to single out musicians who are having their best moments. For this year’s presentation, they have assembled a group of performers that cross the spectrum of country’s past and future.
The singer is far from an overnight success, instead, it took years of hard work for the performer to gain 3 Platinum albums. Speaking about the honor “I never wanted to assume that I would be an Artist of the Year,” he says. “When I was first starting out, I looked at Miranda and I looked at Dierks and I looked at Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line and all these people that I’d opened for, for so long, and it was like thinking, ’I’m always just gonna be here. I’m always gonna be opening for somebody.’ But in the last couple years since we’ve transitioned from the opening slot to headlining the same arenas that I was playing in with Jason and Luke and FGL, it’s weird to view yourself as on the same playing field.”
Underwood has been a growing force in the industry since her debut on American Idol. She talked about where this year had taken her in an interview with CMT. “There have been so many moments this past year that have been just felt really great in all that we’re doing,” she says. “We did get to play Glastonbury, which isn’t something that’s necessarily offered a whole lot to country music artists. I loved the randomness of the lineup and I feel like people were curious what we’re we all about from Nashville, Tennessee,” she said.
The North Carolina native is reveling in his own success and how his dreams are coming true. “There’s so much even to remember, but becoming a member of the Opry was definitely a career highlight — not just a highlight of this year. … It’s hard to believe that any of it’s real, I guess. You always think it could happen, but I don’t think you think it’s gonna happen — until it does,” Combs said of his year. For the singer’s presentation, This Is Us actress Chrissy Metz is scheduled to perform.
Brown is already reflecting on a year that has been full of great moments for his career. “Going back on tour with Jason Aldean I was really excited about. It’s my last time being direct support, and I get to do it with one of my buddies. Getting a No. 1 with ’Good As You’ and sharing it with some of my close friends was awesome. And having a baby — there’s a bunch of things going on for me,” he said.
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The team feels like the best is still ahead of them saying, “We’re so in [the process], we’re out doing, we’re hustling, we’re out on the road, we’re in the studio. It’s tough to keep things in perspective. But it’s a great reminder of all the hard work we’ve put in and all the hard work that our team and everybody who’s believed in us have done since day one.” Never afraid of ballads, their back-to-back hits with the same tempo only helped them stand out more.
McBryde is this year’s CMT Breakout Artist of the Year. While she doesn’t have as many credits as other honorees, the singer is making a name for herself with the album Girl Goin Nowhere. According to McBryde, some of her favorite accomplishments so far have been getting on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. “One of the most important things that can happen to you if you want to do this for a living is play the Grand Ole Opry. So when I found out that the Opry had invited us to come play, I cried, of course. You’ve seen the video. We had to redo my makeup five times that day [before I went on],” the performer said.
Country icon Reba McEntire is this year’s CMT Artist of a Lifetime honoree. When it comes to performers, McEntire has experienced a career that most can only dream of. Over decades in the entertainment industry, she has been a part of everything from scripted content to small concerts.
The performer found a new audience with videos that challenged what was released at the time. “It was a way to get the face, the personality, the music, the song all in one package out to the folks in a different format than them just listening to it on the radio. And they got a story. … I think there were a lot of advancements in my career because of the videos,” the singer said. These appearances also gave McEntire a chance to show off her acting skills. She would eventually take on Broadway with Annie Get Your Gun and have a hit TV series called Reba. Sam Hunt and Lady Antebellum are two of the performers set to pay tribute to the legend.
The presenters are a diverse group of industry veterans and special guests. Musician Vince Gill is scheduled to present to the Artist of a Lifetime award to Reba McEntire. Johnny Galecki, Lonnie Chavis, and radio host Bobby Bones are set to present. Lauren Akins, Thomas Rhett’s wife, will also present the award to her husband. For Underwood’s award, her touring partners, Maddie & Tae. are set to hand out the honor.