Maren Morris & Chris Stapleton Lead 2021 ACM Awards Nominations

Chris Stapleton and Maren Morris
John Shearer/Getty Images for the Country Music Association

Chris Stapleton and Maren Morris perform during the 52nd annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 14, 2018 in Nashville.

Both artists snag six nods for the April 18 celebration of country music.

Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton lead the nominees for the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards with six each.

Miranda Lambert follows with five nominations, including her 15th nomination for female artist of the year. Lambert is the most nominated female artist in Academy history with 68 lifetime nominations.

Ashley McBryde, Thomas Rhett and producer Jay Joyce are tied with four nods.

The nominations for the show, which will air April 18 on CBS and on Paramount+, were announced Friday morning (Feb. 26).

As the country music community grapples with issues of inclusion and diversity, the nominations celebrate three milestones: For the first time, every single of the year nomination features a woman artist -- Lambert, Gabby Barrett, Carly Pearce (with Lee Brice), Ingrid Andress and Morris.

“We have come a long way when the five most focal singles of the year are female. When you figure there's been so much discussion about the lack of females at radio and just the lack of female content and presence in general in the country music industry,” says ACM CEO Damon Whiteside.

“We've all been working really hard to combat that as an industry,” he continues. “And it's exciting to see that there's just so much great content coming from our really strong female artists out there. I think that's a major, major statement right there.”

Secondly, a record four Black artists  -- Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton and John Legend (for a duet with Underwood) -- are nominated in various categories. “That’s really exciting [and] a big step in the right direction because we didn't have any last year,” Whiteside says.

Additionally, Gena Johnson became the first woman to be nominated for audio engineer of the year for her work with such artists as Stapleton.

Women, however, for the third time in four years, are absent from the coveted entertainer of the year category. Rhett, who won in the category last year in a tie with Carrie Underwood, is nominated again this year with Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs and Stapleton.

In the prestigious album of the year category, Bryan and Stapleton will go head to head against Brown, McBryde and Brothers Osborne.

Noticeably absent from the nominations is Morgan Wallen, whom the Academy ruled ineligible for this year’s awards after a video of the singer using the N-word surfaced in early February. “The Academy does not condone or support intolerance or behavior that doesn't align with our commitment and dedication to diversity and inclusion,” the organization said in a statement at the time.

The annual awards show, normally held in Las Vegas, will return to Nashville for the second time. Last year’s ceremony, which was delayed five months because of the pandemic, was broadcast from three Nashville locations: the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Cafe.

The same locations will house the awards show this year with one notable difference: Whiteside hopes that all the performances will be live instead of a mix of last year’s taped and live.

Among the other artists with multiple nominations are Pearce, Andress, Hardy and producer Dann Huff with three nominations.

Songwriter Shane McAnally has two of the five nominees for song of the year with  McBryde’s “One Night Standards” and Old Dominion’s “Some People Do.”  It’s the third time in six years he’s achieved this double nod.

Joyce has two of the five nominees for album of the year – McBryde’s Never Will and Brothers Osborne’s Skeletons. Joyce is also nominated for producer of the year, an award he's reliably won every other year since 2012.

The eligibility period is Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2020.

See the list of the main nominations below. For a complete list, go to

Entertainer of the Year
Luke Bryan
Eric Church
Luke Combs
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton

Female artist of the year
Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Ashley McBryde
Maren Morris
Carly Pearce

Male artist of the year
Dierks Bentley
Luke Combs
Eric Church
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton

Duo of the year
Brooks & Dunn
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae

Group of the year
Lady A
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
The Cadillac Three
The Highwomen

New female artist of the year 
Ingrid Andress
Tenille Arts
Gabby Barrett
Mickey Guyton
Caylee Hammack

New male artist of the year
Jimmie Allen
Travis Denning
Cody Johnson
Parker McCollum

Album of the year
Born Here Live Here Die Here – Luke Bryan
Producers: Jeff Stevens, Jody Stevens
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville

Mixtape Vol. 1 – Kane Brown
Producers: Andrew Goldstein, Charlie Handsome, Dann Huff, Lindsay Rimes
Record Label: RCA Nashville

Never Will – Ashley McBryde
Producer: Jay Joyce
Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

Skeletons – Brothers Osborne
Producer: Jay Joyce
Record Label: EMI Records Nashville

Starting Over – Chris Stapleton
Producers: Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb
Record Label: Mercury Nashville

Single of the Year
"Bluebird" – Miranda Lambert
Producer: Jay Joyce
Record Label: Vanner Records/RCA Records Nashville

"I Hope" – Gabby Barrett
Producers: Ross Copperman, Zach Kale
Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

"I Hope You’re Happy Now" – Carly Pearce & Lee Brice
Producers: busbee
Record Label: Big Machine Records / Curb Records

"More Hearts Than Mine"– Ingrid Andress
Producers: Ingrid Andress, Sam Ellis
Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

"The Bones" – Maren Morris
Producer: Greg Kurstin
Record Label: Columbia Nashville

Song of the year 
"Bluebird" – Miranda Lambert
Songwriter(s): Luke Dick, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby
Publishers: Emileon Songs; Little Louder Songs; Pink Dog Publishing; Songs of Universal, INC; Sony ATV Tree Publishing; Wrucke for You Publishing

"One Night Standards" – Ashley McBryde
Songwriter(s): Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally
Publishers: Canned Biscuit Songs; Smackworks Music; Smack Blue, LLC; Smackstreet Music; Tempo Investments; Warner Geo Met Ric Music; Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp

"Some People Do" – Old Dominion
Songwriter(s): Jesse Frasure, Matt Ramsey, Thomas Rhett, Shane McAnally
Publishers: Carrot Seed Songs; EMI Blackwood Music INC; Smackville Music; Songs of ROC Nation; Telemitry Rhythm House Music; Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp; Smack Hits; Tempo Investments; Warner Gro Met Ric Music

"Starting Over" – Chris Stapleton
Songwriter(s): Chris Stapleton, Mike Henderson
Publishers: I Wrote These Songs; Straight Six Music; WC Music Corp

"The Bones" – Maren Morris
Songwriter(s): Jimmy Robbins, Maren Morris, Laura Veltz
Publishers: Big Machine Music, LLC; Extraordinary Alien Publishing; International Dog Music; Oh Denise Publishing; Round Hill Songs; Warner-Tamerlane
Publishing Corp.

Video of the Year
"Better Than We Found It" – Maren Morris
Director: Gabrielle Woodland
Producers: Sarah Kunin, Jennifer Pepke

"Bluebird"– Miranda Lambert
Director: Trey Fanjoy
Producer: Heather Levenstone

"Gone" – Dierks Bentley
Directors: Wes Edwards, Ed Pryor, Travis Nicholson, Running Bear and Sam Siske, with animation by Skylar Wilson
Producer: David Garcia

"Hallelujah" – Carrie Underwood and John Legend
Director: Randee St. Nicholas
Producer: Greg Wells

"Worldwide Beautiful" – Kane Brown
Director: Alex Alvga
Producer: Christen Pinkston

Songwriter of the year
Ashley Gorley
Michael Hardy
Hillary Lindsey
Shane McAnally
Josh Osborne

Music Event of the Year
"Be A Light" – Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin, Keith Urban
Producer: Dann Huff
Record Label: The Valory Music Co.

"Does To Me" – Luke Combs feat. Eric Church
Producer: Scott Moffatt
Record Label: River House Artists/Columbia Nashville

"I Hope You’re Happy Now" – Carly Pearce & Lee Brice
Producer: busbee
Record Label: Big Machine Records / Curb Records

"Nobody But You" – Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani
Producer: Scott Hendricks
Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

"One Beer" – HARDY ft. Lauren Alaina & Devin Dawson
Producers: Derek Wells, Joey Moi
Record Label: Big Loud Records

"One Too Many" – Keith Urban, P!nk
Producers: Cutfather, Dan McCarroll, Keith Urban, PhD
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville

Assistance on this story provided by Paul Grein.

The ACM Awards are produced by Dick Clark Productions, a division of MRC, which is a co-owner of Billboard through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.