The 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards are now in the history books, but the old saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” isn’t entirely true. You saw the performances and heard the speeches, but there were a lot of interesting comments from the press room and the red carpet that you just might have missed.
Have no fear, Billboard was there with 15 moments you didn’t see on TV.
Strait Talk: Of course, the big winner of entertainer of the year was the iconic George Strait. The legendary Texan has been in the news as a result of his “The Cowboy Rides Away” tour, but how does he decide what to play – and what not to play? (At his March 21 Nashville date, the MCA Nashville recording artist left many of his number one songs off of the set list.) “It’s difficult,” he said “but I just do my favorites. We’ve had some great artists come out on this tour, and if they want to do a song that I’m not doing with me, we’ll do it. That’s how some of the songs came into the set list. We’re doing a long show this year – longer than I’ve ever done – about two and a half hours. I’m able to work in a lot of those, which not all have been hit records. Not all have even been radio singles, but they are just favorite songs of mine.” Strait plans to take a year off after the tour wraps in June, work on an album, and play a few scattered dates.
FGL FTW: Florida Georgia Line found their name called for vocal duo of the year – just a year after their win for new artist of the year. The duo’s Brian Kelley said following the win, “It’s an amazing feeling to be at the ACM’s again. There’s a lot of emotion flying around, and last year was a big year for us. To be named duo of the year is a big deal. We’re just trying to keep the momentum going, and we’ve become friends with all the other nominees. We’re just thrilled to take home a win.”
Band Perry Talks Europe: Also taking home a win were Republic Nashville’s The Band Perry, who won for vocal group of the year. 2013 marked a year of huge crowds in the states, but all over the world as well. “Last November, we actually spent a month over in Europe. We’ve always wanted our music to cross not just barriers but borders,” confirmed the trio’s Neil Perry. “We find that the crowds over there are just like the ones over here. They love to listen to country music. Even though it’s with a slightly different accent, they sing along with their fists in the air.”
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Aldean’s Haggard Side: Fans of Jason Aldean will hear him in a slightly different way than they might be accustomed to. The ACM male vocalist of the year participated in the new Merle Haggard tribute disc, doing “Going Where The Lonely Go,” and “Are The Good Times Really Over.” He said he “I got to go in and do something very traditional, which I don’t get a chance to do much. I love doing that stuff. It’s fun to show people that there is a different side of what I do. I grew up listening to traditional country.”
Moore Is Feeling Blessed: One of the first-time winners during the night was Justin Moore, who won the new artist of the year prize. How did that make the Arkansas native feel, since he has been on the charts since 2008? He didn’t mind one bit. “You know what? I would have taken female vocalist! At this point, I didn’t care. At this point, the trophies are all the same. I don’t care what they call the award. If they call me new after six years, I’ll take it as a compliment. Maybe that means our music is still fresh to them. I don’t take any offense to that at all.”
Miranda Gives Credit Where It’s Due: Miranda Lambert is far from an ACM newcomer. She won three awards last night – pushing her career total to eighteen. In addition to her five straight wins as female vocalist, she also has won single of the year three of the past four years. That’s something she doesn’t take for granted. “Picking good songs and writing good songs is what it’s all about,” she told The 615. “I won for single tonight, but I can’t really take credit for that. Even though they gave the award to me, it’s all about the producers and the musicians, and the songwriters. Without them, that wouldn’t happen. I’m very grateful for the people who sit there every say and think of new and innovative ways to make things happen. I had to fight for ‘Mama’s Broken Heart.’ I had to fight for it for Kacey.”
Kacey Musgraves Talks Katy Perry: The “Kacey” that Lambert was referring to was Kacey Musgraves, who won album of the year for “Same Trailer Different Park.” Coming in June, the Texan will tape an edition of CMT Crossroads with Katy Perry. Musgraves says she is pumped for the show. “At the very core, we’re songwriters, and the lyrics mean the most above all the fireworks. The coming together of our music is going to be so incredible. We’re trying to decide what cover we want to sing. We both love Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt, so there’s a lot in common there. It’s going to be so much fun. I can hardly wait. It’s going to be crazy,” she promises.
Martina Gears Up for New Album: Tomorrow, Martina McBride will release “Everlasting,” her take on such classics as “Suspicious Minds” and “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted.” McBride said on the red carpet that “It’s going to be a big day. I can’t wait. It seems like it’s been finished forever, but I’m so excited to get it out. We’ve done a few sneak previews here and there, and it seems to be going over very well. We’re going to do a show at the Hard Rock in Times Square on Tuesday night. We’ve been rehearsing for a tour, and it’s been so much fun. I hope I get to do a hundred shows like that.”
Little Big Town Recording New Album: After riding through an undeniable career wave with their “Tornado” disc, Little Big Town is working on a new album. If you think there’s pressure to follow-up their success, think differently, according to the group’s Karen Fairchild. “I felt that it actually gave us more freedom and confidence knowing that the fans embraced what we loved doing for them on the last record. It was an intense process, but in a really good way. I think we’re going to have a hard time editing down what songs we want to have on the record.”
Honest Talk From David Nail: David Nail just topped the charts with “Whatever She’s Got,” and just wrapped up his portion of the Darius Rucker tour. He said it was definitely a highlight of his career. “We just finished a couple of weeks ago with him. It was amazing. I’ve been fortunate to go on the road with a lot of great people, but I think he might be at the top of the list. Everybody in his camp treated us wonderful. He said one night ‘I hope someday down the road you’ll treat someone opening up for you the way you were treated here.’ I’ve definitely learned that lesson for sure.” Nail also talked about opening up to The Tennessean’s Cindy Watts in a well-received piece concerning his battle with depression. “I think that dealing with it is telling people how you’ve been and why you were the way you were. Then, when you realize that you have helped out so many other people, it makes it that much better.”
Frankie’s Style: It’s been a “Helluva Life” for Frankie Ballard recently, as the single earned him a chart-topper on the Country Airplay chart. The Warner Brothers was one of the best-dressed men on the red carpet, wearing his new blue Manuel suit. “I wanted to get myself something for having my first number one. So, I blew it out. I’ve always loved that classic country look, and I’m a huge Elvis fan. Manuel made some stuff for Elvis. It feels so cool to slide on these close. It fits perfect.” If his follow-up, “Sunshine & Whiskey,” tops the charts, might he add another suit to the closet? “I don t know if I can get away from it every time,” he told The 615 with a laugh. “It might be a one -shot deal.”
A ‘Lot’ in Store for Eric Paslay: Since the success of “Friday Night,” Eric Paslay’s schedule has definitely picked up. And, that’s the way the EMI Nashville artist likes it. “It has been so wild. It’s a time in your life where you’ve said ‘Let me play shows. I want to play shows,” and now you ask yourself ‘What does my house look like?’ But, there’s nothing to complain about. I’m just trying to soap it all up. I’m not getting to write as much, but that being said, I’ve gotten to write songs for a long time. I haven’t forgotten how to write them, and there’s a lot in the wings, so it’s really cool.”
A Spears Goes Country: An ACM newcomer in 2014 was Jamie Lynn Spears, who is stepping out of big sister Britney’s shadow with the release of her debut country single, “How Could I Want More.” She said she was definitely enjoying the moment. “This is my first ACM’s. I’m just excited about being here. I’m a fan of all of the artists who are here. When you work really hard on something, it’s a great feeling when it’s well received.” Look for her debut country album later in 2014.
From ‘Voice’ to ACMs: Gwen Sebastian has come a long way since being a contestant on “The Voice.” Last night was definitely a career moment for the performer, who shared the stage with Blake Shelton on “My Eyes.” What was it like working with her one-time “Voice” coach? “I still can’t believe I get to say I am doing a duet with Blake Shelton. But, I’ll take it. I love it. It’s a huge dream come true. For Blake to have the confidence in me to bring me on stage with him, that makes me feel really good. Both he and Miranda have helped me out a lot.”
Country Crue: Motley Crue’s Vince Neil said he’s thrilled (and surprised) about the upcoming country-themed tribute album for his legendary band. “I thought the tribute album idea was cool until I started talking to everybody and now I’m like it’s cooler and cooler and cooler. I ran into John Rich who’s been a friend for a while and I said “hey, have you heard about this tribute album?” and he’s like ‘Yeah, we just finished these songs, just finished the vocals on it!’ It’s like, surprising me all the time.”