Each year, the CMA’s 7,400-plus industry professional members select nominees and winners. Serendipitously, 2019’s nominations highlight the tremendous range of the genre’s female talent that has charted over the past year. Maren Morris leads all contenders with six nods, including album of the year. And after no women were nominated in the entertainer of the year category for the past two years, Underwood returns as one of the five finalists. Also, for the first time in CMA Awards history, women are nominated in all categories (except male vocalist), including musician of the year.
Surprisingly, one of the genre’s top breakthroughs, Kane Brown, earned no nominations, despite his sophomore LP, Experiment, which opened at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 last November. Brown has yet to earn a single nod, even for new artist of the year. Elsewhere, Luke Bryan failed to garner an entertainer of the year bid for the first time since 2012. “Every year, we discuss omissions from the final ballot. It’s tough, because our voters can only choose five nominees in each category. Whom would you kick out?” says Trahern. “All of this year’s nominees are more than deserving but, of course, there are artists, songs and albums that didn’t make the ballot.”
Deaton, who grew up playing guitar in bands, often draws on his own background to connect with performers. “All of the artists that I work with know that when I’m talking to them about an idea, I will sing their part to them,” he says. “I’m [not] embarrassed to sing in front of Carrie Underwood. It’s just part of the creative process.”
Deaton has worked out of the CMA office since 2016, which facilitates the sharing of ideas and makes the “TV group uniquely integrated in our day-to-day operations,” says Trahern, but also leads to some privacy concerns. “We actually put extra soundproofing around his office, not because of his singing, but because he would blast music year-round,” she says. “We kept the Beyoncé and Dixie Chicks [2016 CMA Awards duet] pretty secret, but a couple of the [staffers] were like, ‘Is Beyoncé on the awards show? Because Robert keeps playing Beyoncé over and over when we walk by his office.’ ”
As usual, expect the ceremony to include some of today’s top stars outside of the country genre. “That’s an important part of our show. Some people always want to [say], ‘Country music doesn’t have to have a pop act in order to be important.’ That’s not what it’s about at all,” he says. “It’s about inclusivity in music and opening your arms to someone else that organically loves our music -- whether it be Beyoncé or P!nk or Ariana Grande -- for that one moment.”
As country continues to expand its international imprint through, among other efforts, the CMA’s participation in the C2C: Country to Country Festival across the United Kingdom, the CMA Awards are realizing their true global footprint: The telecast will air in 37 countries this year, including on broadcast TV in Germany, Switzerland and Austria for the first time in 20 years via BMG’s sister company RTL. (The German TV channel also has licensed properties including CMA Fest and CMA Country Christmas.)