Familiar faces like Kenny Chesney and Tim
McGraw dropped by the CMA Awards pressroom on Thursday night (Nov. 1) to
talk about their latest win. Between the two of them, they’ve won 17 CMA Awards. But the backstage area also welcomed first-time
winners like Eric Church, Hunter
Hayes, Little Big Town and Thompson
Square, who all appeared to be overwhelmed from their long-awaited moment in the spotlight.
Chesney and McGraw
won their second collaborative CMA award on Thursday for their single, “Feel
Like a Rock Star.” In 2007, they grabbed their first vocal event trophy for appearing on Tracy
Lawrence‘s single, “Find Out Who Your Friends
Backstage at the CMA Awards, McGraw told reporters, “Kenny asked me to do this with him and we’ve been friends
for over 20 years now. To still be here and kicking it, having a great time and still be able to cut records together, win
awards together … we’d sit back in our apartments in the old days and could have never dreamed of all this.”
told reporters, “One of the first times I met Tim McGraw … [he] was by himself at a club in Printer’s Alley called Barb’s.
And he was up there by himself with a guitar, singing a Keith Whitley
song. He took a break, and we sat there and had a few beers and met each other, and our friendship kind of went from there.
For years we talked about our dreams — and we still are actually talking about our dreams. Our friendship is very special.
And if I’m giving an acceptance speech, it’s going to start with Tim McGraw for agreeing to do this song.”
the album category for Chief, Church told reporters he never expected to win a CMA Award in his career.
with our journey,” he added. “Our path’s been a little bit different. I distinctly remember playing for about eight people
in Amarillo, Texas, about four years ago, and to go from there to here is quite surreal. I think a lot of it I owe to the
fans and we’ve — more than other people maybe — have built our career there with playing shows on the road. Playing 10,
12, 14 shows in a row, not really getting paid. The only way we could get our music out there was to keep playing shows and
doing it that way.”
He continued, “We laid this foundation. I think when radio started to come on board and the industry
started to come on board, it made it that much sweeter. It’s not something that I think about for me. I’ve never put a lot
weight on awards, but I’ve wanted it for the people who believed in me from the very beginning and have been so passionate
about what we do.”
Church was asked if the award prompted a rush of inspiration to begin his next project.
no. I’m gonna wait longer,” he teased. “No, I think there are a lot of reasons to make records. The one thing I won’t do is
I won’t make records for an economic reason. It won’t be because a label needs to make a quarterly number or we need to promote
a tour. The next record will come when creatively it is the right time. That’s how this record happened. We kinda had nothing
to lose when we made this record. We let creativity be the driver. Doing it that way, that’s hopefully how you end up with
something like this. I’m not going to rush it, and when it’s time, it’ll be time.”
Hayes, the 21-year-old winner of
the new artist award, confirmed that singing in front of his heroes was a big challenge.
“It was extremely intimidating
because … I’ve bought their records. I’ve paid for their concerts. I’m a huge fan of all these people sitting in this room.
I respect them so much. I just want them to like me,” he said with a giggle. “I want to do a good job! It is nerve-wracking,
but it’s also my chance to say, ‘I respect you guys, and I’ve learned what you do as far as you live for music and you do
your thing.’ And my goal is to do the same thing. Hopefully, I can do it right.”
Asked how he stayed calm during his
acceptance speech, he replied, “I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea because as soon as they called my name I was like,
‘Oh, great. I am not ready for this!’ It caught me off guard, you know?”
He continued, “I’m a big fan of being prepared
and ready for things and having my stuff together. And part of me was like, ‘Well, you’ve got to be ready for this,’ and the
other part of me was like, ‘Pssh, don’t worry about it.’ And when I got up, I was like, ‘Well, I should have been prepared!’
he said with a laugh. “But I do have a ton of people to thank, and my biggest thing was I don’t want to forget a single person.
I don’t want to forget a team partner or member because there are so many people who made this happen. I’m just the one who
makes the noise. And I’m lucky, for sure.”
All four members of Little Big Town were still visibly shocked and shaken
by their victories in the vocal group and single categories, the latter for their first No. 1 hit, “Pontoon.”
They had been nominated in the vocal group category every year since 2006 but had never won that elusive trophy.
how that upbeat song was a game-changer for them, Karen Fairchild replied, “If we all knew the recipe for what makes that
kind of big smash hit, then we would do it over and over again. We wouldn’t have waited 13 years, you know? But I think it’s
just timing and the fans. You pick the right song at the right time and you have the right production, the right performances
and the right TV moments — and bam! All the stars start lining up. But the fans, they’ve gotta grab onto it, and they made
this their song this summer. They’re the reason we are standing up here.”
Thompson Square’s Keifer and Shawna Thompson
were still emotional after their duo win when they fielded questions from reporters.
“It’s really hard to put into
words what that feels like,” Keifer said, when asked about their previous gig as bartenders about a block from the Bridgestone
Arena, where the CMA Awards were held.
“Yeah, we bartended at a place called the Wheel down the street, and we worked
until about a week before our radio tour started almost three years ago. … People would come over from the CMA Awards, and
they were trying to get us to over-serve them,” he noted. “It’s so surreal, and we just talked about it and we cried about
it just now, holding each other and just going, ‘Can you believe we were serving drinks down the street, singing for tips
for eight years down here on Broadway, and then we just won this award?’ It’s one of the most wonderful nights of our lives,