When Maren Morris won the 2016 CMA Award for New Artist of the Year, the 26-year-old singer could barely speak. One year earlier, she told the crowd, she had watched the show not from the Bridgestone Arena but in a bar across the street.
"By the time I got to the microphone I was so overcome with emotion, because I do think about what's happened in one year," she explained later, talking to reporters backstage. "Sitting across the street last year at the Palm watching it on TV, seeing performances like Chris Stapleton and having his career explode and just seeing dreams come true minute by minute, that was one year ago."
Now, Morris sees herself as part of a new wave of artists who are changing the face of country music. Last night, a few of those artists — like Brothers Osborne, the Vocal Duo of the Year; and Stapleton, the Male Vocalist of the Year — even came home with trophies. "There was so much tradition in the audience and so many icons," Morris said. "But at the same time, the reflection of the winners, I feel like the tide is turning here in Nashville, musically. And seeing people like Brothers Osborne win, that's huge, and not just because they're friends of mine but because they're that good and they deserve it. Like, new blood is coming in and being recognized. It just makes me really grateful for it to all fall on this year."
Brothers Osborne offered similar praise for Morris. "We thought in a long landslide the craziest thing would be Maren winning that award and us winning Best Vocal Duo," singer TJ Osborne said earlier in the night, before he and his brother John left the press room to catch the end of Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks' performance.