Chris Stapleton and Mickey Guyton were among the honorees last night (13) at the CMT Artists of the Year ceremony at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
The event recognized Guyton as Breakout Artist of the Year and there was a standing ovation as Garth Brooks presented Randy Travis with the Artist of a Lifetime award. Travis and his wife Mary Davis joined Brooks onstage to accept the honor, with Davis telling the audience: “Randy’s stroke may have taken his voice, but didn’t take the man or the heart, and it didn’t take the music.”
Also honored at the ceremony were Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini, and Luke Combs, in a line-up that is collectively responsible for some 200 Top 10 singles, 130 awards and streams of 25 billion. Combs began the proceedings by performing his hit “Forever After All” and accepted his award from his friend Eric Church. Barrett was then lauded by the Grammy award-winning Christian artist Michael W. Smith who introduced her performance of her chart-topping “The Good Ones.”
Presenter Misty Copeland introduced Guyton, who delivered the world premiere performance of her song “Remember Her Name” with friend and fellow performer Yola, leading to the first standing ovation of the evening. The performance moved Guyton to tears, and she noted in her acceptance speech that “country music is really everyone’s music.”
Kane Brown was introduced by friend Nelly and then paid tribute to Travis by singing his hit “Three Wooden Crosses.” Multi-million-selling soul group Boyz II Men, joined by Pentatonix’s Kevin Olusola, honored Stapleton by performing his song “Cold.” Stapleton said he was “humbled” by the CMT honor, accepting his award from his friend Connie Britton.
Ballerini was introduced by her husband and fellow country artist Morgan Evans, before she performed “With a Little Help From My Friends” with the Jonas Brothers, from their latest tour stop together in Franklin, Tenn. Ballerini accepted her award from Nick Jonas. Walker Hayes concluded the evening with his smash viral hit “Fancy Like.”