The 10th annual CMT Artists of the Year show, hosted by Bobby Bones, was held Wednesay at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Dan and Shay kicked off the evening with a performance of their hit single, “Tequila,” before being officially introduced and presented with their Artist of the Year trophy by Tori Kelly. Both gentlemen were emotional as they thanked their wives, CMT and their team and peers.
Actor Johnny Galecki (Big Bang Theory) introduced Luke Combs before Chrissy Metz (This Is Us) performed Luke’s newest single, “Even Though I’m Living.” In a pre-recorded video, the singer — who was on the road in Bozeman, Montana — cradled his trophy and offered his thanks.
Actor Lonnie Chavis (This Is Us), who appears in the video for “Good As You,” introduced Kane Brown before Chris Young presented his Artist of the Year trophy. Emotional from the recent loss of his drummer, Kenny Dixon, Kane dedicated the award to his long-time friend before thanking CMT, his team and peers, along with his industry supporters.
Chris returned to the stage and performed his own song, “Drowning,” which was written in honor of a friend who also passed away in a car accident.
Kid Rock took the stage to introduce Ashley McBryde, who performed “One Night Standards” before being recognized as Breakout Artist of the Year. “You only get 60-seconds to screw this up,” she said and then thanked her team and her peers.
Five-time CMT Artist of the Year winner Carrie Underwood was in concert in Cleveland during the show, but thanks to technology, her performance of “Two Black Cadillacs” was broadcast to viewers. Tour partners Maddie and Tae joined Carrie on stage to officially recognize the superstar for her achievement. The singer humbly said she is “beyond grateful.”
Two-time CMT Artist of the Year winner Thomas Rhett was introduced by wife Lauren Akins, who shared memories of going on the road with her husband early in his career and sharing a bunk with him while 10 band members were also on the bus. Thomas performed “Dream You Never Had,” which was written specifically for Lauren.
In one of the most magical moments of the evening, Thomas accepted his award and thanked CMT, but took a moment to “lift up” Kane and his drummer’s family, before asking if he could lead the room in a prayer for his friend Kane and Kenny Dixon’s family.
Lady Antebellum was on-hand to honor Reba McEntire with a performance of “Is There Life Out There.”
Vince Gill then stepped onstage to introduce his long-time pal and fellow Okie. He began by saying, “They have a teleprompter, but I can’t really read from that. It’s too far away and it’s not from my heart. And I have to speak from my heart when I talk about Reba.”
After a standing ovation, Vince presented Reba with the CMT Artist of a Lifetime award. Reba thanked everyone in the music industry-filled room for their lessons and patience, as well as the opportunities to learn from others and make friendships.
She also said, “Thomas Rhett, God bless you for praying in front. You’re special. That took guts. But as you said, that might not be aired on this, but He knows.”
The show finished with Sam Hunt taking the stage and giving an impressive performance of Reba’s smash “Fancy.”