The Academy of Country Music Awards returned to Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday night, where several newcomers took home their very first trophy. Dan + Shay led the night with three wins, while Chris Janson, LANCO, Ashley McBryde and Luke Combs also went home as first-time winners.
Dan + Shay, Janson and LANCO all stopped by the backstage press room following their wins to discuss their journey to the ACM Awards. Nominated for six trophies, Dan + Shay took home the coveted ACM duo of the year prize, as well as single of the year and song of the year for “Tequila.”
“I’m very happy right now!” Shay Mooney gushed to Billboard and other media as he walked onto the podium backstage. Bandmate Dan Smyers, who was nominated for four additional awards as a songwriter and producer, was content to simply be invited to the show.
“We’re fans of country music. We moved to Nashville in 2010 because we wanted to write country music. We never imagined this would happen…We’re so thankful and still trying to process it all.”
An emotional and humbled Janson learned he won his first ACM trophy before the awards ceremony kicked off by none other than host Reba McEntire herself.
“I was totally taken by surprise, and I’m so un-surprisable usually,” he admitted. “I was standing backstage and I heard Reba coming down the hall. If you could ever have planned it, it was exactly how I wanted it to be. She changed my life once again. She presented me with the award. She’s my favorite female entertainer of all time and it really meant a lot to me.
“It’s quite an honor. It’s a humbling privilege,” he added. “I always wanted to win one. It is life-changing. I can definitely say this is one of my top three highlighted moments in my music career and I’m so grateful for that. I got into this for music and songs and I truly did. Once you win a trophy, it’s hard to beat.”
LANCO, meanwhile, learned they won ACM new group of the year from a phone call by Carrie Underwood during a show rehearsal.
“We were literally speechless. Your career kind of flashes in front of your eyes. It’s just surreal,” frontman Brandon Lancaster said. “To have something like an ACM, people are not only acknowledging your presence but also saying, ‘Hey, your presence is warranted and respected and we’re going to honor you with this award.’ You feel like a part of the family and now you feel like you get to sit up at the grown-up table.”
The ACM Awards are produced by dick clark productions, a division of Valence Media, the parent company of the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group.