Lainey Wilson, Carly Pearce celebrate at CMT Artists show

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — The stars have aligned for singer-songwriter Lainey Wilson, whose unique and authentic style of country music has made her one of the most buzzed-about new artists in the genre.

The Louisiana-born artist was honored as breakout artist of the year at the CMT Artists of the Year special, airing Friday on CMT. Hitmakers Kane Brown, Luke Combs, Carly Pearce, Cody Johnson and Walker Hayes were also named artists of the year and Country Music Hall of Famer Alan Jackson received the CMT artist of a lifetime award during the pre-taped show.

Wilson, who landed a regular role on the hit show “Yellowstone” this upcoming season, said it was not luck but persistence that has gotten her all the recognition this year.

“It feels just like the hard work is finally starting to pay off,” said Wilson prior to the taping of the CMT show on Wednesday. “I’ve been here for 11 years, and I love my job. I love country music. I’ve never taken ‘no’ as an answer.”

Wilson has even more excitement on the way this fall, heading into the Country Music Association Awards in November as the leading nominee in her first year ever to be nominated. Wilson is only the fourth artist in the history of the CMAs to earn six nominations in her first year, following Glen Campbell, Brad Paisley and Kacey Musgraves.

She’s already planning her red carpet outfit, which is likely to reflect her ’70s bohemian country style and lots of vintage-style jewelry. Her upcoming album “Bell Bottom Country” spells it out quite clearly.

“I’m a huge fan of throwback anything. I started wearing bellbottoms daily, probably about six or seven years ago, just because it was the thing that felt the most like true to me,” Wilson said.

And she’s already got her date picked out.

“My daddy is going to get to walk the CMA carpet with me,” she said. “He’s been sick for the last few months and he’s on the up and up and this has given him something to really look forward to.”

Pearce, meanwhile, has been reflecting on her past year, which was anchored by her critically acclaimed album “29: Written in Stone” coming out in 2021. She was named female vocalist of the year by both the CMA and the Academy of Country Music and her duet with Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” became an award-winning No. 1 country hit. She joined the Grand Ole Opry last year and will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

“It’s been mind-blowing,” Pearce said before the CMT Artists of the Year taping. “So I just really want to make sure that I don’t lose sight of those things and lose sight of the childhood dreams that have come true.”

Hayes’ viral hit “Fancy Like” led to his first ever Grammy nomination last year and opened his pop country sound to whole new audiences. Pop singer and model Ciara discovered Hayes when she hosted “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” show and wanted to join him on a country song.

They are teaming up for a new remix of “Y’All Life,” out Friday, which they will debut on the TV special.

“I could pinch myself that I’m here right now in this environment because it’s a special world and I’m so honored to be a part of it,” said Ciara, who said her husband, NFL quarterback Russell Wilson, loved the new remix.

Hayes joked that he has been nominated a lot but never won anything, so he credited his label and management and family for always supporting him.

“It’s a lot of hard work from a great team who believed in something a little quirky,” he said. “My team deserves this. My wife and kids, they deserve this.”

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