Chris Stapleton won entertainer of the year for the first time at the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards, which were presented Thursday (May 11) at the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas. Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton – both past ACM entertainer of the year winners – co-hosted the show.
This was Stapleton’s fifth nomination in the category. The award comes seven years after he won new male artist of the year. Stapleton is a three-time winner for male artist of the year, which means he qualifies for another award, what the ACM calls its “Triple Crown.”
HARDY and Lainey Wilson were the top winners at the 2023 ACMs, with four awards each, followed by Cole Swindell with three awards and Ashley Gorley with two.
HARDY won two awards (as artist and co-producer) for music event of the year for “wait in the truck,” his collab with Wilson. HARDY and Wilson also won visual media of the year for that hit. HARDY, who won last year for songwriter of the year, won this year in the new artist-songwriter of the year category.
In addition to two awards she shared with HARDY, Wilson won two other awards. Her Bell Bottom Country won album of the year. It’s the first album by a female artist to in in the category since Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour four years ago. The album was produced by Jay Joyce, who previously won in the category 10 years ago for producing Eric Church’s Chief.
Wilson also won female artist of the year for the first time, just one year after winning new female artist of the year. That’s the fastest climb from a win for new female artist of the year to a win for female artist of the year since Carrie Underwood also took one year to make that climb 16 years ago.
Swindell’s “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” won awards for both single and song of the year. It’s the first work to win in both categories since “Tequila” by Dan + Shay four years ago. The song contains lyrical and melodic references to Jo Dee Messina’s 1996 debut single “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” and credits that song’s writers Mark D. Sanders and Tim Nichols as co-writers.
That contributed to “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” setting a new record as the song of the year winner with the most credited writers (six). The previous record of four songwriters on an ACM song of the year winner was held jointly by “Need You Now,” written by the three members of Lady A plus Josh Kear, and “One Man Band,” written by three members of Old Dominion plus frequent collaborator Josh Osborne.
Messina joined Swindell to perform the song on the ACM Awards, as she did at the CMA Awards in November. ACM voters have had their eye on both artists for many years. Messina won top new female vocalist in 1998. Swindell won new artist of the year in 2014.
Zach Crowell produced “She Had Me at Heads Carolina.” It’s his second single of the year award. He also produced Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road,” which won five years ago.
Morgan Wallen took male artist of the year for the first time. He won two awards last year – album of the year for Dangerous: The Double Album and an ACM Milestone Award. These awards cap a remarkable comeback from a career-threatening episode in which Wallen was videotaped using a racial slur. Country fans rallied behind him, not wanting to see a promising star cancelled so early in his journey. Wallen, who was forced to cancel six weeks of shows on May 9 on the advise of his voice doctor, was the only winner who wasn’t present to accept.
Brothers Osborne won duo of the year for the fourth time. The brother duo has now won as duo of the year as many times since T.J. Osborne came out as gay in February 2021 as they did before his revelation. Only three other duos have won four or more times in this category. Brooks & Dunn leads with 16 wins, followed by The Judds with seven and Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, also with four.
Old Dominion won group of the year for the sixth consecutive year. That’s the longest streak of consecutive wins in the category since Rascal Flatts won seven years in a row from 2002-08. Before that, Alabama also won six years straight from 1980-85.
Gorley, who co-wrote three of the contenders for this year’s song of the year award (including the winner, “She Had Met at Heads Carolina”), won songwriter of the year for the first time. Gorley is only the third songwriter in ACM history to have a writing credit on three song of the year nominees in one year. The first two were Merle Haggard in 1969 and Kris Kristofferson in 1971.
Zach Bryan and Hailey Whitters won new male and female artist of the year, respectively. Bryan was eligible and entered for a Grammy nod for best new artist last year, but failed to be nominated.
The ACMs made history in 2022 as the first major awards ceremony to exclusively livestream, partnering with Prime Video. For the 2023 event, the show again partnered with Prime Video on an exclusive global live stream. The full rebroadcast will stream for free on Friday, May 12 on Freevee.
The ACM Awards are produced by Dick Clark Productions. DCP is owned by Penske Media Eldridge, a Penske Media Corporation (PMC) subsidiary and joint venture between PMC and Eldridge. PMC is the parent company of Billboard.