The 2017 CMA Awards Complete Preview


(Tune in Wednesday night for Saving Country Music’s LIVE Blog of the CMA Awards)


When: 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, November 8th 2017 on ABC.

Where: The Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN.

Hosts: Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood (10th consecutive year)


Big Battle for Album of the Year, and it includes Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, and Miranda Lambert, causing many to characterize it as an Americana invasion into mainstream country. Rest assured, one of them will likely win, unless they all split votes against each other, and somehow Lady Antebellum’s Heart Break, or Little Big Town’s The Breaker ends up victorious. The sure bet is Miranda, but country music might be the biggest winner with one of the strongest fields for Album of the Year in the last decade or more. And no, Jason Isbell will not be there. He’s on tour in Europe.

Miranda Lambert could have a huge night with with five total nominations, including for Female Vocalist of the Year, and Album of the Year for The Weight of These Wings, both of which he has to be considered a favorite for. It’s also possible she picks up a win for either Single of the Year, and/or Song of the Year for “Tin Man” in such a weak field for critical favorites. “Vice” is also up for Video of the Year, but lost out to Brothers Osborne in early announcements.

Not much traditional country will be featured on the presentation, but Jon Pardi will get a big performance slot, and hopefully will perform his current single “She Ain’t In It” as opposed to “Dirt On My Boots” which has a couple of nominations. Alan Jackson will also perform, which will be a bright spot for traditional country fans. Another bright spot is Sam Hunt is not scheduled to perform at the moment. And take special note that Eric Church is the only performer at the moment scheduled to perform twice—once in the opening, and once in his own slot. Is this foretelling that he’s more of a contender for Entertainer of the Year than we suspected? (LATE BREAKING: Keith Urban will also get two slots).

Remembering Las Vegas and other tragedies will likely play into the presentation somehow, but don’t be surprised if it’s low key and quick. Jason Aldean, who became the face of the Vegas shooting, was snubbed by the CMAs in the nomination process, and currently does not have a performance slot.


Artist presenters include Luke Combs, Dustin Lynch, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, and Brett Young.

Non artist presenters include radio personality Bobby Bones, NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson, model Karlie Kloss, actors Michelle Monaghan, Lea Michele, Jason Ritter, Brittany Snow, and JoAnna Garcia, and comedian Tyler Perry.


The show will open with a collaboration between Eric Church, Darius Rucker, Keith Urban, and Lady Antebellum. It’s a strange pairing to put the usually renegade Church with the other collaborators, but the CMA’s are selling it as an “unprecedented opening.” We’ll see.

Reba McEntire and Kelsea Ballerini will sing Ballerini’s “Legends” together. Both are nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year.

Maren Morris and (One Direction) will perform the duet “Seeing Blind.”

Brad Paisley and Kane Brown will perform Paisley’s “Heaven South.”

Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts will perform together.

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill will perform a duet.

Pink will perform, likely in a collaboration with another artist, but it hasn’t been confirmed what, and with whom just yet. Her duet with Kenny Chesney called “Setting the World on Fire” is up for Musical Event of the Year so this would be a good bet, but Chesney has not been announced as a performer.

Other Performers Include:

  • Alan Jackson (Perhaps his new song “The Older I Get”)
  • Garth Brooks
  • Miranda Lambert (“To Learn Her”)
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion (Likely “Written in the Sand”)
  • Jon Pardi (Either his current single “She Ain’t In It,” or the nominated “Dirt on My Boots.”)
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Luke Bryan (Probably his single, “Light It Up”)
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban (His new single “Female”)
  • Eric Church (Gets his own slot, along with participating in the opening. He recently released a new single “‘Round Here Buzz”).


Early winners include Brothers Osborne and “It Ain’t My Fault” for Video of the Year, and Willie Nelson / Glen Campbell with “Funny How Time Slips Away” for Vocal Event of the Year off of Campbell’s final album Adios.

Entertainer of the Year

Hard one to call, but let’s hope it’s not Keith Urban. After it was proved you can win this strictly off of touring prowess by Garth Brooks last year, who knows what to expect. It’s probably between him and Luke, but Luke’s the one that will have a big next couple of months with a new single out.

Garth Brooks
Luke Bryan – WINNER
Eric Church
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

Album of the Year

There will be a lot of effort to see Miranda Lambert done right here, and the votes for Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell might split themselves. This is a really strong field except Lady Antebellum, but Miranda probably nabs it in the end.

The Breaker – Little Big Town
From A Room, Vol. 1 – Chris Stapleton
Heart Break – Lady Antebellum
The Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
The Weight of These Wings ­– Miranda Lambert – WINNER

Single of the Year

If you go with the spirit of the Single of the Year award, Sam Hunt will win this. But it’s interesting: Sam Hunt has struggled at awards shows. Even Music Row is reluctant to crown someone so pop as country. But with “Body Like a Backroad” breaking records, Sam probably wins handedly.

“Better Man” – Little Big Town
“Blue Ain’t Your Color” – Keith Urban
“Body Like a Back Road” – Sam Hunt -WINNER
“Dirt on My Boots” – Jon Pardi
“Tin Man” – Miranda Lambert

Song of the Year

“Tin Man” will be what most root for, but there will be a temptation to give this to Little Big Town, if for no other reason than to try and coax songwriter Taylor Swift into the building right after she releases her new record and is the biggest thing in the world. Love Jon Pardi, but “Dirt On My Boots” is garbage, and doesn’t deserve to be here.

“Better Man” – Little Big Town (songwriter: Taylor Swift)
“Blue Ain’t Your Color” – Keith Urban (songwriters: Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey, Steven Olsen)
“Body Like a Back Road” – Sam Hunt (songwriters: Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
“Dirt on My Boots” – Jon Pardi (songwriters: Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley)
“Tin Man” – Miranda Lambert (songwriters: Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall) – WINNER

Male Vocalist of the Year

Scott Borchetta and Big Machine—looking for wins and getting locked out of the better categories—will command all his voting blocks to get behind Thomas Rhett. Stapleton and Church have outside chances. Why is Luke Bryan not here? This can’t be a good sign for Gomer.

Dierks Bentley
Eric Church
Thomas Rhett – WINNER
Chris Stapleton
Keith Urban

Female Vocalist of the Year

Yeah yeah, Carrie or Miranda? Carrie is the better singer (just ask Miranda), but Miranda is the one with the momentum. It really is a shame this keeps going to the same person over and over, not to say Miranda hasn’t deserved it many of the years. But it’s hard to see anyone else win. Cool to see Reba get some ink here. Maren Morris is your dark horse.

Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert – WINNER
Reba McEntire
Maren Morris
Carrie Underwood

New Artist of the Year

Let’s hope it’s not Brett Young or Old Dominion. Jon Pardi would be a real nice pick here, and he’s earned it from his recent commercial performance. Luke Combs has as well, continuing to surprise with strong album sales and traction on radio. Good to see at least one woman in Lauren Alaina nominated here, but she’s probably the only one not likely to win. Odds are probably best for Brett Young, but this is a very open field.

Luke Combs
Old Dominion
Jon Pardi
Brett Young
Lauren Alaina

Vocal Duo of the Year

Lol, Maddie & Tae? Love those girls, but this shows how far they’re stretching just to find names to fill it. Brothers Osborne has been on a hot streak over Florida Georgia Line in the recent past, and since the Cruize Boys are off their album cycle, it would be a surprise if they do anything here. But so are Brothers Osborne. So who wins? Probably LoCash or Dan + Shay, which would be a bloody shame.

Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie and Tae – Will not win
Brothers Osborne

Vocal Group of the Year

Little Big Town continues to be a favorite, but Zac Brown Band may angle for this after “coming back to their roots.” Too hard to prognosticate.

Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band

Music Video of the Year – AWARDED

“Better Man” – Little Big Town
“Blue Ain’t Your Color” – Keith Urban
“Craving You” – Thomas Rhett feat. Maren Morris
“It Ain’t My Fault” – Brothers Osborne – WON
“Vice” – Miranda Lambert

Musical Event of the Year – AWARDED

With the death of Glen Campbell, there’s an opportunity the sympathy vote reigns supreme, and both Glen and Willie walk away with a CMA. If that happens, hopefully they televise it, and Glen’s family can bask in the honor. Everything else is a garbage fire except “Kill A Word,” which probably should win. “Speak to a Girl” is not nearly as good as it’s being given credit for.

“Craving You” – Thomas Rhett feat. Maren Morris
“Funny How Time Slips Away” – Glen Campbell with Willie Nelson – WON
“Kill a Word” – Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens
“Setting the World on Fire” – Kenny Chesney with Pink
“Speak to a Girl” – Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

Musician Of The Year

Jerry Douglas (Dobro)
Paul Franklin (Steel Guitar)
Dann Huff (Guitar)
Mac McAnally (Guitar)
Derek Wells (Guitar)