The nominations for the 54th annual Academy of Country Music Awards reflect the achievements of the finest established and rising artists in the genre. Chris Stapleton and Dan + Shay lead the 2019 field with six nominations each while Kacey Musgraves, fresh from winning her Grammy Awards for Golden Hour (album of the year and best country album), has five. Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha each have four nods, while producer Ian Fitchuk, a first-time nominee, is up for six awards. Following is a look at the artists who garnered the most nominations and their most recent album releases.
DAN + SHAY
DAN + SHAY
Six nominations including duo, single, music event and video of the year
Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney scored back-to-back No. 1s on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart with “Speechless” and “Tequila” — the latter earning raves from pop vocalists Demi Lovato and Kelly Clarkson. Both songs are featured on the pair’s self-titled third LP, which debuted at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart last July. In addition to the six ACM nods they received as a duo, Smyers is nominated in four additional categories as a producer and a songwriter. The nominations follow an appearance at the Grammy Awards, where they performed “Tequila” and took home their first statuette for best country duo/group performance.
FROM A ROOM: VOLUME 2
Six nominations including male artist, album, song and entertainer of the year
Stapleton hasn’t released new music since 2017, but the continued success of his first three studio albums — all of which ranked in the top 10 of Billboard’s 2018 year-end Top Country Albums chart — was enough to earn him the title of Top Country Artist of 2018. From A Room: Volume 2, which has Stapleton vying for awards in six categories, finished at No. 7 for the year. His 2015 major-label debut, Traveller, was No. 4, and From A Room: Volume 1, which took home ACM album of the year honors in 2018, ranked ninth on the year-end list. Stapleton also notched his first No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart in March 2018 with “Broken Halos,” which won the Country Music Association (CMA) awards for both single and song of the year last November.
IAN FITCHUK (PRODUCER)
Six nominations including producer and album of the year
Fitchuk, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer, has collaborated with artists across all genres, including Kesha, Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne, Shania Twain, Shawn Mendes, Amy Grant and Kacey Musgraves, whose Golden Hour album he co-produced. Raised by classical musicians and educators, the Chicago native moved to Nashville to study jazz piano at Belmont University but wound up hitting the road with a jam band. Now one of Music City’s most sought after innovators, he’s up for six awards, thanks in large part to his work on Musgraves’ LP.
Five nominations including female artist, album and song of the year
Musgraves’ validation as a country music star began in April 2018 when her genre-blending album Golden Hour debuted atop the Top Country Albums chart and culminated in February when the countrypolitan singer-songwriter won in all four of the Grammy categories in which she had been nominated, including best country album and album of the year. She also nabbed the CMA Award for album of the year in November. On the live front, Musgraves played the Mane Stage at Stagecoach and toured with Harry Styles (the two did a cover of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One”) before embarking on her own sold-out headlining tour, Oh, What a World, in January.
Four nominations including album and male artist of the year
The bluegrass-loving Bentley was first recognized by the ACMs in 2004, when he took home top new artist honors. His climb continues this year with four nominations, including video of the year, which he has won twice previously, and album of the year, which contains the Country Airplay No. 1 and No. 2 singles “Woman, Amen” and “Burning Man” (featuring Brothers Osborne), respectively. The latter serves as the title to Bentley’s current tour, which also features Jon Pardi, Tenille Townes and Hot Country Knights. His Seven Peaks music festival will also return over Labor Day weekend.
PORT SAINT JOE
Four nominations including duo, video and music event of the year
Brothers Osborne, the reigning ACM and CMA duo of the year, named their 2018 sophomore album after the coastal Florida city where they recorded the 10-track project, which showcases TJ’s baritone and John’s guitar shredding. Led by the fiery single “Shoot Me Straight,” Port Saint Joe debuted at No. 2 on the Top Country Albums chart. The duo is on the road and has sold out three shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, where they were joined by a slew of surprise guests including Dierks Bentley, Maren Morris and Lee Ann Womack. Brothers Osborne will join Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show tour beginning in July.
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE
CAN’T SAY I AIN’T COUNTRY
Four nominations including duo, song and music event of the year
Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have built their career on huge hit singles, including their 2012 debut, “Cruise,” which spent 24 weeks atop the Hot Country Songs chart — a record at the time. It was the first country tune to earn a diamond certification from the RIAA and remains the duo’s best-selling country digital single. “Meant to Be” — the pair’s 2017 collaboration with pop songstress Bebe Rexha — is another blockbuster, camping out for a record-breaking 50 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs and climbing to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The recipient of Billboard’s first Country Power Players Trailblazer Award in 2018, FGL will hit the road this summer in support of its fourth studio album, Can’t Say I Ain’t Country.
Four nominations including single, song and music event of the year
Brooklyn-born Rexha’s success transcends genre: She has logged hits as a writer of “The Monster” — Eminem’s 2013 Rihanna-featuring, Grammy-winning single — and her 2018 track “I’m a Mess,” which earned her a Grammy nod for best new artist. But it was her collaboration with Florida Georgia Line on “Meant to Be” that propelled the singer-songwriter-producer’s career to an even higher level. Written with David Garcia, Josh Miller and FGL’s Tyler Hubbard, “Meant to Be” spent a record 50 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs and peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100. Rexha is climbing the charts with “Last Hurrah,” the lead single from her upcoming sophomore album.
THE 2019 NOMINEES
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR
MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR
DUO OF THE YEAR
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae
GROUP OF THE YEAR
Little Big Town
NEW FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR
NEW MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR
NEW DUO OF THE YEAR
This article originally appeared in the March 9 issue of Billboard.