In an unlikely turn of events, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor takes home his first CMA Award for production thanks to the sample of ‘34 Ghosts IV’ used in Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ record-breaking ‘Old Town Road’.
The viral hit that stormed the charts earlier this year was presented with the CMA Award for the off-camera category ‘Musical Event Of The Year’ on Wednesday, before the official televised ceremony.
Along with earning Reznor and his frequent collaborator Atticus Ross their first win, it also marks the first CMA win for Lil Nas X, as well as the first CMA win in 27 years for ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ star Billy Ray Cyrus.
The genre-bending track first made waves, after it was denied charting entry on the Billboard Country chart, then took off after Cyrus jumped on the song, lending his credibility within the country community.
‘Old Town Road’ features a short banjo intro that was sampled from Nine Inch Nails’ ‘34 Ghosts IV’, from the 2008 album Ghosts I–IV. Producer YoungKio then added trap beats, and the rest is history.
When the song finally landed on Reznor’s radar, he was surprised how his original song was transformed.
“At first, when you hear your stuff turned into something else, it always feels awkward because it’s something that intimately came from you in some way,” Reznor told Rolling Stone in October.
But ‘Old Town Road’ wasn’t the only time Reznor was associated with the CMA Awards. When country icon Johnny Cash covered his song ‘Hurt’ in 2003, for American IV: The Man Comes Around with producer Rick Rubin, the album went on to win Album of the Year, although the single lost in the Song of the Year category.
While Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus aren’t scheduled as performers for the CMAs this evening, they’ve already changed the discourse around what constitutes a country song.
This year’s CMAs are a female-forward affair, with Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton, and Reba McEntire serving as co-hosts, and scheduled performances from Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Pink and Lady Antebellum with Halsey.
The 53rd annual CMA Awards airs live tonight, 13 November at 8:00 pm ET on ABC.
View the complete list of already announced winners here.