Backstage at the CMAs

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Miranda Lambert was the golden girl tonight (Nov. 10) at the 44th Annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville. Miranda took home Music Video of the Year for “The House That Built Me.” She also won the Album of the Year award for Revolution and Female Vocalist of the Year. She had nine nominations, which tied her with her idol Merle Haggard, who also garnered that many nominations in a single year.

"The House That Built Me" won the Song of the Year honor, which went to the tune's co-writers, Allen Shamblin and Tom Douglas. Backstage, Allen acknowledged that the song was originally written for Blake Shelton, not Miranda. “My hat's off to Blake and [producer] Scott Hendricks for putting their agenda out of the way and letting the song pass on to get to its rightful place. This song has put me in touch with a lot of people from my childhood. It's like we've been having a reunion ever since this song came out. That has been the best thing. It's brought the community together in a way,” said Allen.

Miranda also performed “Coal Miner's Daughter” with legend Loretta Lynn and Sheryl Crow as part of a tribute to Loretta. Loretta and Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek, who portrayed Loretta in the classic film Coal Miner's Daughter thirty years ago, joined each other backstage. The pair clearly adored each other. “Well [Loretta] made me do it and I'm eternally grateful to her,” Sissy said of portraying Loretta in the film. “I'm her evil twin.”

“You mean I'm the good one?” quipped Loretta.

“Yeah!” said Sissy.

As for Miranda's success, Loretta is proud of it. “Would you ever think of anyone being more country than Miranda? Nobody's more country than Miranda. I'm glad she got it, “ Loretta told reporters. “I love her. 'Gunpowder and Lead' is what she's singing about.”

Sugarland took home their fourth Vocal Duo of the Year trophy. “This is really validating in the sense of your peers. It's saying 'soar and fly,'” said Jennifer Nettles, giving a congratulatory trophy bump to her musical partner while she and Kristian Bush posed for photos. Kristian acknowledged that it's also gratifying to see new fans coming into the fold of country music. “It's interesting to see people admit that they are country music fans all over the U.S. and online. They go, 'Man I love this song. I had no idea I was a country music fan,'” Kristian told reporters.

The duo's latest album boasts hints of reggae, rock and pop along with country, and Jennifer said that it should be more expected that country artists will push the envelope of creative styles. “Some people ask if we've pushed it too far,” she said. “I say, 'Why do you ask this of country music? Is country music supposed to be less tolerant? Less innovative?’ I don't think so. I think country music is very elastic and it's interesting that people have asked certain questions about that elasticity. When the Rolling Stones brought in gospel singers as backup singers, they didn't ask, 'Are they putting out a gospel record?'”

This evening also marked the last time that Brooks & Dunn will be eligible for the Vocal Duo of the Year award (barring a reunion). “They've been supportive of us since the beginning," Jennifer acknowledged. "We went on tour with them. We're so proud of them. At the same time, it's every man for himself out there. They've had a good ride. We're proud of them and we hope they are proud of us.”

Miranda Lambert walked backstage after her wins carrying an armload of CMA glass. "I'm working out, but geez!" the singer said. Reflecting on what the trophies mean to her career, Miranda told reporters, "I hope I can be here in 20 or 30 years, passing out an award to someone the way Loretta [Lynn] handed one to me tonight."

For Miranda, seeing her fiancé Blake Shelton win was one of the best parts of the evening. "Just seeing his face when he won . . . " she said, her voice trailing off. The night was doubly special as it was also Miranda's 27th birthday. "My birthday's always fallen on the CMAs, but today I got to win some."

Blake later joined Miranda backstage to hold their trophies for the evening, which came with a little playful bantering as Blake attempted to give his bride-to-be a celebratory kiss.

"Why can't you kiss me on the lips?" Blake asked.

"I can't. I have on lipstick," Miranda replied.

"I don't care," Blake countered.

Talking to reporters about his win backstage, Blake said of his Male Vocalist of the Year win, "I've been sitting in that audience for 11 years. I counted them, watching three different groups of popular artists come and go. I was never one of them. I said this a month ago, but I'm finding out that between the Opry induction and this Male Vocalist of the Year, when you find out who you are at 34 years old, it's a big deal. It's a revelation. You won't see anyone get up onstage that loves country music—and I'll even say knows more about it—than I do. I hope I'm standing here 20 years like George Strait and talking about that same freakin' piece of glass."

He also reflected on how his love situation somewhat parallels that of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. "I'm sure that Tim and Faith never set out to be the country couple," Blake said. "They probably found out that they were attracted to each other through what they do. That's me and Miranda's situation."

Brad Paisley copped the night's biggest honor, Entertainer of the Year, and also co-hosted the telecast with Carrie Underwood. "I think this was the best show I've ever seen, and I've been watching this show my whole life," Brad raved to reporters.

Mentioning Blake's first CMA win and Miranda's honors, Brad noted, "This shows the health of country music."

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