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Backstage at the 54th CMA Awards, country's sense of family shines through, even in a virtual press room

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John Russell/CMAOn camera at Nashville’s Music City Center, country artists were thrilled to be able to be together for a change, even if they were socially-distanced at tables, after rigid testing for COVID-19.

Backstage at the 54th Annual CMA Awards, things were more typically 2020, however, as winners stood against a step-and-repeat, answering virtual questions from a screen full of journalists joining via Zoom.

Somehow, country music’s sense of family and community was still able to filter through. Jimmie Allen accompanied CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award winner Charley Pride, recounting how only four years ago he spent his last hundred dollars to see the legend play the 50th anniversary show. 

Male Vocalist and Album of the Year winner Luke Combs was so overjoyed his fellow North Carolinian Eric Church had finally clinched the Entertainer of the Year title, it was almost like he’d forgotten he was nominated himself. 

While The Chief bemoaned the fact that his win had to come in what he deems a year of losses, he vowed music would be the thing to ultimately bring us together, bridging social divides and one day making coronavirus a distant memory. After 2020, he promised he’d never again take playing in front of an audience for granted.

Three-time winner Maren Morris expounded on her Female Vocalist acceptance speech that gave recognition to unsung Black artists, saying it’s important to her to use her platform to pave the way for others, just as folks like Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban have done for her.

At night’s end, hosts Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker came back for a review of the evening, with Reba marveling at the number of new artists nominated this year. Both seemed to entertain the idea of returning to host again in 2021.

By Stephen Hubbard
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