From left: Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, and Brad Paisley.
About five years ago, longtime Nashville publicist Jenny Bohler got a phone call from Scott Borchetta, who was the head of a newly formed label in town, Big Machine Records.
He had this young singer he was developing named Taylor Swift, and he wondered if Bohler could have Swift act as a publicist's intern and escort a veteran artist to interviews at Fan Fair, letting her get a taste of the nation's biggest country music festival before she experiencing it herself as an artist.
"I assigned her to Darryl Worley and had her take him around to all his interviews. I would never have guessed she was 14 until one of my staff members told me," Bohler says. "The maturity of this young girl at 14 was amazing. There was no fear whatsoever about taking an artist like Darryl Worley around."
Bohler chuckles, recalling that at the end of the day Swift was busy punching away on her phone's keypad.
"She said, ‘I'm texting the Warren Brothers to set up a writing appointment. I've been texting them since I was 12 or 13. I'm very serious about my writing.' I said, ‘Wow, this girl is going to go places.' She's been impressive since the first moment I met her."
It's really no surprise that this year, at 19, Swift became the youngest nominee for the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year. She's also a nominee in the Female Vocalist, Album, and Music Video categories.
She'll find out if she wins Wednesday night when the 43rd Annual CMA Awards show airs beginning at 8 on ABC, WTVG-TV, Channel 13 in Toledo.
Including Swift's Entertainer of the Year nomination, 10 of the 12 categories have people nominated for the first time.
"The number of fresh faces in the different categories is going to be exciting for the fans," Wendy Pearl, CMA's vice president of communications, says. "I think that makes things more interesting, when you have those fresh faces to root for."
Brad Paisley isn't exactly a fresh face, but he is the leading nominee. He's nominated for Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Album, Single, Song, and Music Video. He will be trying to end the three-year grip Kenny Chesney has had on Entertainer of the Year.
"Brad is just the quintessential road guy. He's worked so hard, and his concerts are amazing to attend. He's built a huge fan base with his songs. You can't help but laugh or relate to what he writes or sings," Pearl says.
For the second consecutive year, Paisley and Carrie Underwood will be the hosts for the show from the Sommet Center in Nashville. They will each sing a song. Others scheduled to perform include Swift, Vince Gill with Daughtry, Chesney with Dave Mathews, Sugarland, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, George Strait, Darius Rucker, Miranda Lambert, the Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban, and Billy Currington.
Here's a look at some of the top categories:
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood. The Buzz: Underwood is trying to win this category for the fourth time, which would tie her for the most wins with McBride and McEntire. The Pick: It can't possibly be called an upset, but Swift will make Underwood wait for another year.
Male Vocalist of the Year: Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, George Strait, Keith Urban. The Buzz: Rucker makes his debut in this category. Strait now has 79 career CMA Awards nominations, tying him with Alan Jackson. The Pick: Paisley, who has 11 straight No. 1 singles, will continue his hot streak.
Vocal Group of the Year: Eagles, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, Zac Brown Band. The Buzz: Rascal Flatts is trying to lock up their seventh straight win, which would tie them with the Statler Brothers for most consecutive Group victories. They have a lot more competition this year. Lady Antebellum went platinum with their self-titled debut album and "Need You Now," the first cut off their upcoming album, is already in the Top 10 on the radio charts. The Pick: Rascal Flatts is going to celebrate for one more year. But next year ...
New Artist of the Year: Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Jake Owen, Darius Rucker, Zac Brown Band. The Buzz: If there were any concerns about the ability of Rucker, the former front man for Hootie & the Blowfish, to cross over to country music, he has put them to rest with three No. 1 singles off his debut album. But Zac Brown has possibly the biggest hit of the year with "Chicken Fried." The Pick: Just because he's done it for a little longer and has more hits, Rucker. But, it would not be surprising if the Zac Brown Band pulls off the win.
Album of the Year: "American Saturday Night" (Brad Paisley); "Defying Gravity" (Keith Urban); "Fearless" (Taylor Swift); "Love on the Inside" (Sugarland); "That Lonesome Song" (Jamey Johnson). The Buzz: This is a hot category. If you are looking for Christmas presents, any of these albums would be a great pick. Swift's album recently broke a Billboard record when it appeared in the publication's Top 200 Albums chart for the 157th week. Top to bottom, Paisley's record is filled with hits. That also goes for Sugarland. The Pick: Yikes. Because we're talking overall quality, "American Saturday Night."
Entertainer of the Year: Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban. The Buzz: Chesney sold more than a million tickets last year and USA Today rated his tour the tops in the country. Swift is the first female nominee since Faith Hill in 2000; Shania Twain (1999) was the last woman to win. Paisley's show is just downright entertaining, and it's getting better and better. The Pick: Chesney. He's not putting together a major tour next year, but he deserves to be honored for his work this year. Nobody works harder.
Contact Brian Dugger at:firstname.lastname@example.org.