Last night (Oct. 13), CMT recognized some of this year’s biggest acts live from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center at the 2021 CMT Artists of the Year ceremony.
Honorees included Chris Stapleton, Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini and Luke Combs, alongside Breakout Artist of the Year Mickey Guyton and Artist of a Lifetime Randy Travis. Together these artists have produced some 200 career top 10 singles, won 130 awards and have been streamed over 25 billion times.
The evening kicked off with Combs performing “Forever After All,” and accepting his award from friend Eric Church. He thanked the fans and his wife, and gave a special call out to Randy Travis for his enduring influence on country music.
Next, Barrett was lauded by Grammy award-winning Christian artist Michael W. Smith who introduced a performance of her No. 1 hit song, “The Good Ones.”
Guyton, alongside friend and musician Yola, garnered the night’s first standing ovation with the world premiere version of “Remember Her Name.” The performance moved Guyton to tears, noting in her acceptance speech that “country music is really everyone’s music.”
The second standing ovation came when Garth Brooks awarded friend and country legend Randy Travis with the Artist of a Lifetime Award. Randy and his wife, Mary Davis Travis, accepted the honor as Mary thanked the fans on Randy’s behalf noting, “Randy’s stroke may have taken his voice, but didn’t take the man or the heart, and it didn’t take the music.”
Brown was introduced by friend Nelly before taking the stage to honor Randy with one of his biggest hits, “Three Wooden Crosses.” Brown accepted his own 2021 honor, thanking the fans and remembering his bandmate and drummer who passed away in 2019.
Next, Grammy Award-winning artists Boys II Men, joined by Pentatonix’s Kevin Olusola, honored Stapleton with a first-ever performance of his song, “Cold.” Stapleton acknowledged being moved by all the “love in the room” as he accepted his award from friend and actress Connie Britton.
The final honoree celebrated was Kelsea Ballerini. Her husband, Morgan Evans, introduced her performance with tour-mates Jonas Brothers. Performing “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Ballerini accepted her award, thanking fans for their support.
The evening concluded with Walker Hayes who performed his smash viral hit, “Fancy Like.”
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