For the first time in its 56-year history, the CMT Music Awards is bucking tradition. Historically broadcast from downtown Nashville, the award show set up shop in the “Live Music Capital of the World” at Austin’s Moody Center this year. Two-time hosts Kelsea Ballerini and Kane Brown got their bearings a few days early, filming an award show countdown with the University of Texas at Austin’s Longhorn Band and hitting up some of the city’s famous landmarks.
“Heart Like a Truck” singer Lainey Wilson may have led the night in nominations, but it was breakthrough artist Jelly Roll who took home the most awards last night. The rapper turned country star tearfully accepted his third award of the night, saying “I didn’t think I was gonna win again. It may have looked like it was only thirty yards, but it took me thirty-nine years to walk from there to here.” East Texas native Cody Johnson was up for three awards, winning Performance of the Year for his rendition of “’Til You Can’t” at the 2022 CMTs. Houston hottie Megan Thee Stallion also got some love from the crowd before presenting Shania Twain with the Equal Play Award.
The night’s performances featured more than a few nods to the Lone Star State. Austin’s Gary Clark Jr. kicked off the evening with an epic rendition of “The House Is Rockin” in honor of the late icon Stevie Ray Vaughan. Later, Johnson joined fellow Texans LeAnn Rimes and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons in a star-studded tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Two Texans, Houston-raised singer-songwriter Madeline Edwards and Austin musician Jackie Venson, joined Alanis Morissette for her CMT Awards debut with a performance of “You Oughta Know.”
It was a full-circle moment for Edwards. “I wasn’t necessarily allowed to listen to [Alanis] in my house,” she told Texas Monthly. “I grew up in a very strict household. But I listened to her anyway. What’s funny is, I started playing in a bunch of clubs between Houston, Austin, and Dallas when I was fourteen years old. I would play ‘You Oughta Know’ to help my family keep the lights on, and they didn’t know about it. Now I’m here back in my home state, getting to sing alongside this woman that I really look up to.”
With Austin taking the mantle from Nashville as this year’s CMT host, and the Academy of Country Music Awards headed to Frisco in May, several of the Texas nominees and performers took the chance to signal that the Lone Star State was on its way to being recognized as having a country scene that rivals Tennessee’s, with its own unique spin. “Texas artists are always pushing the envelope,” said Jess Carson of Midland. Corey Kent, the Dallas-based “Wild as Her” singer also added, “Maybe it’s because we’re outside the Nashville industry, but I feel like Texas brings a kind of authenticity to the country scene that’s really something fresh and new.”
Here’s a look at the night’s stars on the red carpet ahead of the show, and backstage at CMT’s portrait studio.