During the 55th Annual CMA Awards on Wednesday, Nov. 10, artists and fans returned to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena following last year’s ceremony at Music City Center. The 2021 celebration was filled with special performances and first category wins for several artists.
Luke Combs took home the entertainer of the year honor for the first time, while Carly Pearce earned her first female vocalist of the year trophy. Meanwhile, Jimmie Allen and Kelsea Ballerini earned their first CMA honors, with Allen being named new artist of the year and Ballerini picking up two honors including musical event of the year and music video of the year, both for “half of my hometown” with Kenny Chesney.
Additionally, Luke Bryan marked his first time as host of the CMA Awards, welcoming several of his fellow artists to join him during several moments throughout the show.
Besides Combs, Chris Stapleton was the evening’s biggest winner, taking home honors in four categories, including album of the year (Starting Over), male vocalist of the year, and single and song of the year (both for “Starting Over”).
But even with all of the special moments happening onstage during the ABC broadcast, several artists reflected on their big night to reporters in attendance during the annual CMA Awards press conference, which was held virtually this year.
Luke Bryan on Taking Inspiration From Elvis For Upcoming Las Vegas Residency:
“I grew up listening to Elvis’s Vegas album and I always said one day I’d like to stand up there like Elvis and just, you know, croon and sweat. But just that—not some of the other stuff.”
Bryan also talked about his first memories of watching other artists host the CMA Awards, saying, “The first time I would have been a very young kid, I guess it would have been back in the Barbara Mandrell days, and it was back when there were not many channels on TV…The CMAs were a big family event for our family…we never really got to go see people perform live, so if we wanted to see our favorite stars on the stage, we had to watch them on the CMAs. It’s just really surreal and I’m really just honored to be the master of ceremonies.”
Brothers Osborne’s T.J. Osborne reflects on the duo’s fourth vocal duo of the year win and the significance of winning after he came out as gay earlier this year:
“When I came out, I didn’t know how that would be received. Of course after that happened, there was a lot of positive people giving me support and loving me. And then there was a part where it was like, ‘What does that mean?’ Does that turn into a pat on the back and then, you know, like ‘See ya later’? So to go there tonight and to actually [see people be] truly, like meaningfully invested in who we are and what we’re doing and what we’re about, I thought…people really wanted to pick us up, lift us up and carry us on. That’s where I really felt like tonight, with all the crazy s—t that’s going on in this world right now that gets a lot of attention, that something very positive happened tonight, so it was so wonderful to experience that.”
Carly Pearce On Her Tear-Filled CMA Awards Acceptance Speech:
“I heard my name, but it probably took me until I got up there to understand what was happening. I mean, I fell to my knees,” Pearce told reporters, adding, “I don’t think that you can ever be prepared for that. It felt out-of-body. I keep telling people, ‘Can somebody show me it?’ because I forget. I have no idea what happened. I blacked out.” She also said of her CMA win, “I think this solidified for me that people cared about what I have to say. I’m amongst women that I’ve idolized my entire life and so it just put a lot of confidence in me to continue to do what I’m doing because it seems to matter and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Chris Stapleton Reacts to Luke Combs’s entertainer of the year win:
“Would it be nice to win entertainer of the year? Of course. I think it went to somebody who deserves it tonight. Luke Combs works really hard, he’s a great songwriter and a great singer and really connects with his fans. He earned it. It doesn’t bother me in the least that somebody who earns it and works hard wins an award…It’s a lot of love and I have no expectations of anything like that, nor would I ever feel bitter about not winning an award. It’s not an expectation I have for me. I think, as Luke Combs said, it sure as hell is nice when you do win.”
Chris Stapleton Teases How Those Adele and Taylor Swift Collabs Came About:
“I can tell you very simply, they called and I answered. Those are calls that you pick up and it’s like, ‘What do you want me to do? Okay, cool.’ That’s how that goes. That’s what I can tell you about it. The rest of it, they’ll have to tell you on their own time.”
Luke Combs Talks Returning to the Road in 2021: “We hit the road super hard this year and it’s honestly been the craziest, most stressful, most strenuous tour that I’ve ever been a part of, for a multitude of reasons. It’s different, touring right now with the climate of what’s going on in the world. My team stepped up for me when I needed them to and that meant so much to me that they were willing to risk their health, their safety, to go out and play shows for people because I think the world needs that right now. Every show that we’ve done has been incredible…this really just feels like it’s for everybody that goes on the road with me and sacrifices time away from their family and loved ones to do what we love every night, so this one’s for them.”
Luke Combs Talks His entertainer of the year win:
“I’m excited that I won, man. Everybody that’s nominated for this award wants to win. I always just wanted to be a guy that people felt like they could root for, a guy that could be their neighbor, a guy they could have a beer with. I feel like I’ll always be that guy…that’s just who I am and that’s never going to change.”