Unlike other award shows, the CMAs usually deliver the biggest winners of the night to the media center backstage.
Some pop in during the telecast – as Garth Brooks, Brothers Osborne and Old Dominion did – while others, usually the major names nominated in later categories, swing through after the show.
This year, the press room was especially busy with heavyweights including entertainer of the year winner Keith Urban, multiple trophy-snagger Chris Stapleton and co-host/female vocalist of the year victor, Carrie Underwood.
Here is what they had to say.
Keith Urban, on the support he receives from wife Nicole Kidman: “I feel very blessed that I have the support of my family like I do. It’s a beautiful thing having two artists (in the family). We understand the passion, and the responsibility, of what we get to do. It’s very important.”
On his unfailing passion for his work: “I love people. I love people. Every single person’s got a story. We have SO much more in common than different. We all have fears and hopes and dreams and insecurities and dysfunctional families. For me, I feel that in my life more than I’ve ever felt it … I’m perpetually curious. I don’t think of reinvention. I love curiosity and I love passion and I feel fortunate that I have both of those in spades. I feel exactly the same as I did when I moved to (Nashville) 26 years ago. I feel excited to get in the studio, I feel excited to put a show on.”
About remembering his father — who died in 2015 — during his acceptance speech: “I mentioned my father because he’s such a huge influence in my life – my mom and dad both are. I wish he could have seen this tonight; he set me on the path that I’m on. But I feel his presence and I’m very, very grateful for that.”
Chris Stapleton, on his blazing performance with Maren Morris, Mavis Staples and other musical talents: “I brought a bunch of ringers out there - Maren, Marty Stuart on guitar, all the guys on my band and from Anderson East’s band on horns. I tell you what, it’s a real treat to be up there with so many great musicians and artists. But to have Maren and Mavis and Marty and my wife up there, that’s a real treat. Mavis, we all owe her so much musically - some of us might not even realize it. She’s electricity. She’s so inspiring to be around as a person and a singer. If we can use some of our time to put her front and center, that’s exactly what we should be doing.”
Carrie Underwood, who revealed during the show that she’s having another boy, joked about her numerous costume changes: “The wardrobe is definitely a challenge when you don’t recognize your own body,” she said with a laugh. “But I feel bad for returning dresses that aren’t maternity dresses all stretched out in the middle! I’m gonna go put my jammies on soon.”
About winning her fifth female vocalist of the year honor: “I think I’m still in shock, to be honest. When we were making this album, I would be lying to say I didn’t want awards. I’m competitive and I love these. I love the CMAs. I have such respect for the show and this organization. When you’re making an album, you want it to be better. For all the ups and downs we’ve been through and to make an album on top of that, this one definitely means a lot.”
Garth Brooks reiterated that wife Trisha Yearwood didn’t hear the song he wrote for her, “Stronger Than Me,” until he performed it on the show: “The more I I’d wait (to debut it here), it seemed like a bad idea! If you’re married there are points in your life that you never get across and we have three of those. That song addresses two of those three points. When I looked up at her at those points, she was laughing and crying at the same time. This song will make our relationship better whether it does anything in the business…I really wanted this to be a surprise to her. When it came to the last verse, that was a little… I couldn’t get to it. (Trisha) took it very well. She’s classy.”
Kacey Musgraves, clad completely in orange, shared her excitement about winning album of the year (for “Golden Hour”) for the first time: “This album is probably my most personal yet. What I was craving was time to make it. I took almost a year and a half. Going into the record, I was kind of in a confused place. I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence. I just wanted to find that thing that made my soul really happy again. I got off the road, blocked the schedule off for about a year, got with (producers) Ian (Fitchuk) and Daniel (Tashian) and when we got together it was an instant fit. I started imagining this land musically where it was possible to keep elements of country intrinsic in my music, but I wanted to explore this new frontier for myself with electronic elements. It was a big deal for me to give people kind of a hiding place with this record. We live in such a tumultuous time, but I wanted to turn away from (political commentary). I was inspired to write about this beautiful world we live in…getting married, leaving my 20s. It was a really positive time and my music is really inspired by that.”
T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne opined on the duo’s continued success (they won best vocal duo for the third time): “If I had to guess, John and I are unabashedly ourselves and sometimes that gets us in trouble! It’s nice to know where people stand on who they are and I think we’ve done that… I’m genuinely just as shocked as the first year I won one of these.”
John Osborne made many instant media friends when he proclaimed on his way out: “Free press, speak loud! You are not the enemy of the people! You have a voice, use it!”
Old Dominion scored its first CMA win (for vocal group of the year, unseating Little Big Town after six years. Singer Matt Ramsey had this to say about current single, “Make it Sweet”: “It was such a pure and honest moment for us. We wrote and recorded it in the same day. It really captured who we are as musicians right now and we’re really confident in our place right now. That feeds our soul.”
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