CMT honored the year’s biggest country music performers in an invitation-only ceremony from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Wednesday.
It was the first time since 2019 “CMT Artists of the Year” aired.
The artists honored were Chris Stapleton, Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini and Luke Combs, alongside “Breakout Artist of the Year” Mickey Guyton and “Artist of a Lifetime” Randy Travis.
The show kicked off with Combs performing “Forever After All,” accepting his award from Eric Church. Combs thanked the fans and his wife, and gave a special call out to Randy Travis for his influence.
Barrett sang “The Good Ones,” backed by her husband and a guitarist.
Presenter Misty Copeland introduced Guyton who, alongside Yola, got a standing ovation after singing “Remember Her Name.” When Guyton accepted her award, she told the crowd “country music is really everyone’s music” and thanked her parents.
At one point, Garth Brooks introduced Travis with and presented him with the “Artist of a Lifetime” award. Travis’ wife Mary Davis joined Brooks onstage to accept and she thanked the audience, saying, “Randy’s stroke may have taken his voice, but didn’t take the man or the heart, and it didn’t take the music.”
Boys II Men, joined by Pentatonix’s Kevin Olusola, honored Chris Stapleton with performance of his song, “Cold.”
Ballerini accepted her award from Nick Jonas, thanking fans for their support.