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Backstage at the ACM Awards: a Melting Pot of Music

Ashton Kutcher, Jay DeMarcus, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean and Jake Owen

Actor Ashton Kutcher, musicians Jay DeMarcus, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean and Jake Owen pose backstage at the 47th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for ACM)

Anyone strolling the halls backstage at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards Sunday night might have thought they were experiencing April Fool’s Day visions. While walking down one hallway, they might have come face to face with the rock group KISS. Heading in another direction, they might have found rapper LL Cool J. Or they might have met actor Ashton Kutcher and singer Marc Anthony within the space of a few minutes. Or maybe they would’ve seen Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw casually chatting in the hallway with Taylor Swift and Martina McBride.

As Jason Aldean said when asked about that diversity, “This is a country awards show; it’s our show. But I think great music is great music. As an artist, you have a ton of respect for other artists, no matter what kind of music they play.”

Jason won Single of the Year and Vocal Collaboration of the Year with Kelly Clarkson for their duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” He continued with his assessment of the awards show as he spoke to reporters backstage in the ACM Awards Press Room. “I met LL at the GRAMMYs this year; he’s a really cool guy. I’d never met KISS and that was interesting. The great thing about music is crossing genres. Look at Kelly and I; she’s not a country act but we did this song together. It’s okay to like different things. You don’t have to like one style of music. I grew up listening to everything.  I love coming to these shows and getting to meet people like that and seeing people. It’s a cool thing. I think those meetings lead to collaborations. I think it’s great for the industry and great for music in general.”

KISS presented Group of the Year to Lady Antebellum.  “KISS was the coolest thing on the red carpet,” said Lady A’s Charles Kelley. “All we could focus on was them coming in because they looked larger than life. They had 12-inch heels on. We didn’t realize they were going to be giving our award to us tonight.”

Entertainer of the Year winner, Taylor Swift, shared the details of her busy weekend with the media backstage. “This weekend has been amazing. Yesterday I was at the Kids’ Choice Awards and I had never been there before. The First Lady (Michelle Obama) gave me the award for Charitable Contributions and Giving Back. I had never met her before, and I was so nervous. She’s a role model, and she was so cool and so nice! I met her daughter and it was an amazing time. Then I flew to Vegas and this happens. I’m really happy right now.”

Taylor also took time to acknowledge the role her fans had in her becoming Entertainer of the Year. “I am so amazed that they keep doing such incredibly nice things for me. They have done so much for me in the last couple weeks, it has been amazing. I just want to hug them all the time and thank them for everything. It really blows my mind.”

Eli Young Band took home Song of the Year for “Crazy Girl,” written by Lee Brice and Liz Rose. Lead singer Mike Eli admitted he wasn’t sure whether to get up when he heard the band’s  name called. “I kept waiting for someone to say April Fool,” he said with a laugh. “It is totally surreal for us, starting out as a grass roots band, just four guys making music in college bars. Now here we are.”

Lee admitted that receiving the award for Song of the Year was cool, but “it’s even cooler for the Eli Young Band.” The singer/songwriter explains that he and Liz wrote the song in 2002 or 2003. “It had been around awhile and I had wanted to record it myself, but the timing wasn’t right. Then these guys heard it and wanted it and I could see how sincere they were about it. I’m so happy for them.”

The win for Lee and the Eli Young Band was a first for both.

Toby Keith kept the party going all night, from the red carpet to the press room. He walked backstage to speak with the media, drinking his own brand of spirits, Wild Shot Mezcal – in a red solo cup, of course. “It’s our version of smoked cactus tequila and we’re now the No. 1 premium mezcal in the U.S.,” he said proudly. He was also proud of his Video of the Year award for “Red Solo Cup,” a song he calls “so stupid it’s brilliant.” Toby revealed that when he was shooting the video for the song, writers the Warren Brothers thought it was an episode of Punked. “We were half-way through the video before they finally relaxed and understood that we really were doing a video for their song.”

Thompson Square found out they’d won the Vocal Duo of the Year award on Saturday during a show in Las Vegas honoring the military. They confessed to the room of journalists that just before they were signed to their record label, they’d given themselves one more year of trying to make it in the music business. “We got our deal and two months later we found ‘Are You Gonna Kiss  Me Or Not,’” said Keifer Thompson. It’s been an amazing last year. It took us 13 years to get our record deal and I really thought at that point that we weren’t gonna make it. But Shawna got me through that and I got her through a few and here we are.”

Miranda Lambert was in total shock at taking home a third Album of the Year award — plus Female Vocalist of the Year. “My albums consume my life, they drive my career,” she said. “The thing I live for is making albums. That’s what makes everything else happen in my life. This category this year was the toughest ever. I own them all and I listen to them, and I was like ‘Crap, these are all good.’ I knew it was a hard category.”

Miranda said the song she sang on the show, “Over You,” was very personal. Miranda and husband Blake Shelton co-wrote it about the death of his brother, who was killed in a car accident when he was 24 and Blake was 14. Hearing Blake’s loving introduction almost made her lose it. “I was already emotional at having to perform that song,” Miranda said. “Blake and I have been married almost a year now and hearing him introduce me was awesome. I haven’t cried all night, but I think it will hit me later. I’m so thankful we can celebrate these moments.”

Blake admitted he hadn’t even thought about winning because  he was concentrating on his co-hosting duties. “I was listening to Dierks (Bentley) sing ‘Home’ and thinking how much those lyrics fit where I am right now,” said the Male Vocalist of the Year winner. “It has been a long time for me to get to this point.”

Blake left Las Vegas Monday morning to return to Los Angeles, where he will continue with his job as judge on The Voice.

As often happens in the ACM press room, a few other items of interest were revealed during the night. For instance, Lee Ann Womack says she is working on a new, stripped-down album. Lee Brice’s album is completed and he promises it will show his musical diversity. Thompson Square has been busy writing for their sophomore album.

Dave Haywood is asking both his Lady A bandmates, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, for wedding planning advice. Hillary and new hubby Chris Tyrrell are not making baby plans in the immediate future, but she says they definitely want children.

Scotty McCreery is going to the University of North Carolina not only because his father went there, but because he doesn’t feel he’s ready to leave home just yet. The American Idol winner will enter classes there this fall.

Toby Keith will head out on another USO tour in a few weeks, this time visiting troops in Afghanistan Kuwait and Bahrain.

To see what the night looked like in photos, check out all the photos here:
Rehearsals >>
Red Carpet >>
Backstage>>
Press Room>>

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