NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Maren Morris has a chance to win up to eight trophies including album of the year at the 2019 Country Music Association Awards thanks to her work as an artist, songwriter and producer.
With the success of her album “GIRL,” which Morris co-produced, the Grammy winner scored nominations like single of the year, song of the year and female vocalist of the year. The album’s title track, which Morris co-wrote, topped Billboard’s country airplay chart this year, the first time a solo female had a No. 1 hit on that chart in well over a year.
The CMAs also announced Wednesday that Dan Smyers of Dan + Shay could win up to six awards work as an artist, co-producer of their self-titled third album and as a co-writer of their crossover hit, “Speechless.” Shay Mooney of the Grammy-winning duo earned three nominations, including duo of the year.
Carrie Underwood returned to the top category, entertainer of the year, for the first time since 2016, alongside Garth Brooks, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton and last year’s winner, Keith Urban. There were no women nominated in the top category in 2018 and 2017.
The biggest song of 2019, “Old Town Road” by rapper Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, will compete for musical event of the year, also earning a nomination for Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who is listed as a co-producer of the No. 1 hit (“Old Town Road” samples Nine Inch Nails’ “34 Ghosts IV”).
The nomination is Cyrus’ first since his own breakout country-dance hit, “Achy Breaky Heart,” was nominated in 1992.
Brothers Osborne picked up four nominations, including two for their collaboration with Dierks Bentley on “Burning Man”; one for “All My Favorite People,” a duet with Morris; and duo of the year. Underwood could win up to four trophies, including for album of the year and female vocalist of the year.
Brooks & Dunn received their first CMA nominations since 2010: they picked up nominations for duo of the year and musical event of the year for a new version of “Brand New Man” featuring Luke Combs. The veteran duo, who released a collaborative hits album this year, have a record 14 wins for duo of the year.
Also making history this year is Jenee Fleenor, a fiddle player who is the first woman ever to be nominated for musician of the year, a category that began in 1988.
Fleenor, who has been in Blake Shelton’s band for about six years and has played on albums for Shelton, Jon Pardi, Rascal Flatts and Terri Clark, has been playing since she was 3 and knew early on that she wanted to be a studio musician. But she never really paid attention to the gender disparity in the studio until recently.
“In the studio world, probably 99% of the time, I am the only woman,” Fleenor said. “Growing up when I wanted to be a session musician, I never told myself I can’t do that because I am a woman.”
New artist of the year nominations went to Cody Johnson, Ashley McBryde, Midland, Carly Pearce and Morgan Wallen. McBryde said after announcing the nominations on “Good Morning America” that she normally wears leather jackets to award shows, but she’s decided to dress it up this year.
“Another songwriter in town offered to loan me some of her gowns and no one is going to expect me in a gown on the red carpet,” McBryde said.
Underwood is returning to host the CMAs, which will air live on Nov. 13 on ABC, but without her longtime co-host Brad Paisley. Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire will join Underwood as special guest hosts at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Mark Wystrach, of the vocal group Midland, who are nominated for two awards, applauded the change in hosting duties as a way to acknowledge women’s contributions to the genre.
“No offense, Brad, but we’ve been wanting to meet Dolly for a long time,” he said Wednesday.
Associated Press journalist Gary Hamilton in New York contributed to this report.