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Backstage at the 55th ACM Awards, it's masks, Zoom, and history-making firsts

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Brent Harrington/CBSThings were noticeably different Wednesday night if you watched the 55th ACM Awards at home, and the same was especially true if you were part of the massively scaled-down setup backstage.

In place of a packed room full of reporters, this year, artists stood in front of a wall of virtual faces, as reporters Zoomed in from all across the country. Early in the evening, talk focused on safety precautions, as double winners Old Dominion revealed they’d been asked to wear their masks even during their acceptance speeches, since there are five people in the band.

Dan + Shay‘s Dan Smyers mentioned the extensive COVID-19 testing that had been done, while mourning the loss of the “family reunion” kind of atmosphere that typically reigns at these kinds of gatherings. Another artist revealed you could get in trouble even for lingering in the hall too long. 

New mom Maren Morris rejoiced at reuniting with her band in a year that’s included far too few performances, with the first-time Female Artist of the Year confessing she found herself wishing her song would never end. 

In a year where nothing seems off the table, the virtual room full of music journalists marveled that there could be a history-making tie between Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett for Entertainer of the Year. TR heaped praise and admiration on Carrie — who’s claimed the honor twice before — while he also admitted he’d had his eyes on the prize from day one. 

Carrie pointed out it had been a good night for the ladies, mentioning New Female Artist winner Tenille Townes, as well as Mickey Guyton, who broke new ground for country music, becoming the first Black female artist ever to score a solo performance on a major awards show. 

By Stephen Hubbard
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