Country music fans had an emotional night on Sunday at the Academy of Country Music Awards, bidding farewell with a tribute to artist Joey Feek. Feek was one half of the husband-and-wife duo Joey + Rory. She lost her battle with cancer and passed away last month.
It was a big night for break-out artist Chris Stapleton, who walked away with six awards. Stapleton is sometimes referred to as the “Cinderella story” of country music. The underdog with the distinctive beard and big, raspy voice wrote songs for giants like Adele and Tim McGraw until he found himself on top of the charts. Stapleton became something of an overnight sensation after performing alongside Justin Timberlake at the Country Music Awards in November, where he stole the show versatile pop artist. He again wowed audiences on Sunday with a soulful, acoustic performance of his hit song, “Fire Away.” As testimony to Stapleton’s talent and genre-crossing charm, he will play at Coachella during his current tour, a venue that isn’t typically associated with country music.
Country bad boy Jason Aldean took home the Entertainer of the Year award. The platinum-selling Georgia native is currently on his “We Were Here” tour, and is also in the midst of recording his seventh studio album following his most recent release, Old Boots, New Dirt. He performed the first track off the new record, “Lights Come On,” live on Sunday. Aldean is joined on tour by artists Thomas Rhett and A Thousand Horses. At Sunday’s ceremony, Aldean said his win was an unexpected one, but added that it made the night one of the best in his professional career.
Miranda Lambert collected two trophies on Sunday, including one for Female Vocalist of the Year and another for her performance of the song, “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” alongside Little Big Town. She is currently on her Keeper of the Flame tour and swinging through the U.S. until September, where she is joined by Kip Moore and the Brothers Osborne. Lambert got a standing ovation on Sunday and performed live with ZZ Top. She had fun with her wardrobe as well, showing up to the ACMAs wearing hot pink heals with tiny gold guns in holsters attached.
The boys of the Florida Georgia Line took home the Vocal Duo award on Sunday and are also touring the country, appearing at the iHeartCountry Festival in Austin and the Williamette Country Music Festival in Oregon, among other stops. The duo, composed of best friends Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, say that while they embrace their musical roots in Nashville, they like to mix it up by infusing different musical styles like reggae and rap.
Little Big Town took home a trophy for Vocal Group of the year. Made up of Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet, the band known for four-part harmonies is currently touring the country, with appearances scheduled at venues that include the Stage Coach Festival and Delaware State Fair. The group has been going strong since it was formed in 1998 and has been referred to as a “staple” of country music. Little Big Town had a big hit last year off their latest album, Pain Killer, with the single “Girl Crush.” The group’s female performers were guest judges on the HBO hit Project Runway in February, and on Sunday they both wore dresses designed for them by the show’s contestants.