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2015 CMA Album of the Year Nominees: Inside the Studio

Watch interviews with artists and producers behind the nominated LPs in this year’s toughest CMA category

Kacey Musgraves Little Big Town

Little Big Town and Kacey Musgraves are nominated for 2015 CMA Album of the Year.

Michael Buckner/ACM2015/Getty Images for dcp

The 2015 CMA Awards air live from Nashville next Wednesday evening, bringing with it one of the most competitive Album of the Year contests in years. Pitting older mainstays like Kenny Chesney against newer such as Chris Stapleton, the category shines a light not only on some of the year's biggest country singers, but also the producers who helped shape their most recent releases.

When Miranda Lambert took home the trophy last year for Platinum, she was one of only six females in history to do so. This year, the nominees for Album of the Year are mostly males once again, with only Kacey Musgraves and the coeds in Little Big Town breaking up the boys' club of Stapleton, Chesney and Jason Aldean. Musgraves' Pageant Material and Stapleton's Traveller are the contest's two dark horses, both albums reaching a degree of mainstream recognition without producing the same number of chart-topping singles as, say, Aldean's Old Boots, New Dirt. Meanwhile, Chesney's The Big Revival is easily the most hit-heavy album of the bunch, armed with four Number One songs, while Little Big Town's Pain Killer includes the most talked-about song of the year, "Girl Crush." It's any man's — or woman's — game.

The YouTube channel Country Now sat down with Little Big Town, Dave Cobb (Stapleton's Traveller), Buddy Cannon (Chesney's The Big Revival), Michael Knox (Aldean's Old Boots, New Dirt) and the co-producing team of Luke Laird and Shane McAnally (Musgraves' Pageant Material) to talk about the studio sessions behind this year's nominated records. Watch their exclusive interviews below.

Jason Aldean

Jason Aldean, ‘Old Boots, New Dirt’

Producer: Michael Knox

Standout Tracks: "Two Night Town," "Gonna Know We Were Here," "Tryin' to Love Me"

The Magic: "We were really taping in to where [Aldean] was in his life," says Knox. "This two year window when we were making the record, he went through a divorce and went through a new marriage. We were really going through a dark time to a happy time, and it took us 15 songs to get there."

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney, ‘The Big Revival’

Producers: Buddy Cannon and Kenny Chesney

Standout Tracks: "American Kids," "The Big Revival," "Don't It"

The Magic: "When it gets down to it, it's all because of the quality of the song," says Cannon. "It's all about finding the great songs and finding the songs that fit the audience. . . and that's what it's always been."

Little Big Town

Little Big Town, ‘Pain Killer’

Producer: Jay Joyce

Standout Tracks: "Girl Crush," "Quit Breaking Up With Me," "Save Your Sin"

The Magic: "Jay is such an amazing, creative person," says LBT's Jimi Westbrook. "He takes you to places you don't expect."

"He's very spontaneous," adds Kimberly Schlapman. "His ideas. . . they hit him like [snaps] that, and we think, 'That's crazy!' But we do it, and it works!"

Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves, ‘Pageant Material’

Producers: Shane McAnally, Luke Laird, Kacey Musgraves

Standout Tracks: "Dimestore Cowgirl," "Biscuits," "Die Fun"

The Magic: "We have such a strong foundation of those songs, so then that allows us to experiment sound-wise, and we had a lot of fun," says Laird. "We weren't trying to chase any sound or chase what radio's doing. We were just trying to do what's best for the songs."

Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton, ‘Traveller’

Producers: Dave Cobb, Chris Stapleton

Standout Tracks: "Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore," "Traveller," "Tennessee Whiskey"

The Magic: "It was really like two buddies cutting up in the studio the whole time. I can't call it 'work,'" says Cobb. "The record is live. It's not a polished record; it's not supposed to be. Every time [Stapleton] opens his mouth, you get the truth. There's nothing edited, it's not made with a computer. . . it's made with four or five musicians in a room."