Country superstar Brad Paisley leads the pack of Academy of Country Music Award nominees with six nods, it was announced today during a press conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville.
But perhaps the most surprising news came in the form of five nominations for former Trick Pony lead singer Heidi Newfield, who released her solo debut, "What Am I Waiting For," last August. Another newcomer, Jamey Johnson, picked up four nominations.
Julianne Hough, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes and Jessica Simpson read the nominations live during CBS' "The Early Show" broadcast.
Reigning male vocalist Paisley's nominations include entertainer of the year and top male vocalist. In addition, Paisley was nominated for single record of the year, song and video for "Waitin' On A Woman," and vocal event for "Start A Band" with Keith Urban.
Newfield's five nominations include top female vocalist. She is also nominated for single and is nominated as an artist and composer for song of the year for "Johnny & June," for which she is also nominated for video of the year.
Kenny Chesney is nominated for four awards, including entertainer and top male vocalist. If Chesney wins entertainer, it will be his fifth consecutive win, which will tie Alabama for the most consecutive wins in the category.
Johnson's four nods include top new male vocalist, single record of the year and as an artist and composer for song of the year for "In Color." While this is the first time Johnson has been nominated as an artist, he previously won an ACM award in 2006 for song of the year for "Give It Away," which was recorded by George Strait.
Meanwhile, Strait also received four nominations, including entertainer, top male vocalist and song of the year for "I Saw God Today." Strait has also been named the ACM artist of the decade and will be honored in a television special to air later in the year on CBS.
Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban each received three nominations and both are up for entertainer of the year. Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Little Big Town, James Otto, Jake Owen, Taylor Swift and Sugarland are each nominated for two awards.
As previously reported, the ACM, Dick Clark Productions and GAC are teaming up to allow fans to vote for the three newcomer categories: top new female, top new male and top new vocal duo or group.
Fan voting for these three categories will begin at GACTV.com on Feb. 13 and will close on March 5. The winner in each of the three categories will be announced March 9, and will move on to compete in a brand new ACM Awards category, top new artist.
For the second year, fans will also select the winner of entertainer of the year. Online voting will be available at voteACM.com, and this year fans will also be able to text their votes for entertainer during the broadcast.
The 44th Annual ACM Awards will take place April 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The show will air live at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
Nominees for album of the year will be announced in March. For a complete list of nominees, go to acmcountry.com.