Big wins boost Stapleton & Little Big Town, while Eric Church’s surprise track starts strong.
Breakout star Chris Stapleton led the pack with "Traveller" and “Tennessee Whiskey,” which climbed to a No. 1 and 2 peak, respectively. In the night’s standout performance -- which scored shout-outs on Twitter from Kelly Clarkson and Miranda Lambert -- Stapleton sang "Whiskey" (a country standard first recorded in the 1980s) with Justin Timberlake, along with JT’s “Drink You Away.”
"Whiskey" and "Traveller" weren't alone: "Sometimes I Cry" (No. 19), "Whiskey & You" (No. 33), "Nobody to Blame (No. 61) and "Might as Well Get Stoned" (No. 88) are among the songs from Traveller that reached the chart as Stapleton fever took hold.
Stapleton didn’t just capture the performance prize, though -- the newcomer walked away with three of the evening’s biggest trophies: album of the year for Traveller, male vocalist of the year and new artist of the year.
Meanwhile, Eric Church’s surprise song “Mr. Misunderstood” darted to No. 4 after he performed the brand-new track for the first time at the ceremony. The country star, who picked up five nominations heading into Wednesday’s show, surprised fans with the cut and an unexpected 10-song album of the same name earlier in the day.
Mr. Misunderstood follows Church’s The Outsiders album, released in February 2014. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and housed four top 10 hits on the Hot Country Songs chart: the title track (No. 6), “Give Me Back My Hometown” (No. 4), “Talladega” (No. 2) and “Like a Wrecking Ball” (No. 6).
Little Big Town, the night’s other five-time nominee, saw its hit single “Girl Crush” bound to No. 1 early Thursday morning (Nov. 4) after it scored awards for single of the year and song of the year (the latter is awarded to the track’s songwriters). The quartet also picked up the prize for vocal group of the year.
Thanks to its awards boost, “Crush” completes its first trip into the top three since Aug. 5, when the band hosted the CMA Fest and performed the song during the Nashville event.