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CMA Awards 2017: Backstage with Little Big Town, Chris Stapleton and Brothers Osborne

NASHVILLE - It's always a challenge for an artist winning an award to cram comments and thank yous into the tight time frame of a live TV broadcast.

At the 51st annual Country Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night, several of the victors - and guests including Glen Campbell's family and Jimmy Webb - made their way to the press room to chat about the tenor of the show and, in the case of Little Big Town, who espoused the importance of harmony while accepting their awards onstage, their upcoming tour.

Brothers Osborne – T.J. (the dark-haired one) and John (the resident longhair) – were giddy after their win for vocal duo of the year (presented by the apparently reunited Sugarland ).

“I hope I can get to the point in my career when these things are, like, ‘Whatever,’” joked T.J., who continued to say that winning two awards was extra-cool because “I can do, like, bull horns on my car – my ’92 Dodge Ram!”

Added John, “These are very iconic awards. To be able to look at them and think of all the hard we put into them and the support we’ve gotten from the community…we are the luckiest dudes on the planet. I don’t know how this keeps happening.”

While the topic of the Las Vegas mass shooting at a country music festival last month wasn’t as prominent a topic as perhaps the CMA folks feared , the guys, who played the event two nights before the tragedy, had some thoughts to share.

“Me and my brother have been on an emotional roller coaster since that event. I broke down in tears (talking about it) on the red carpet,” T.J. said. “Music is supposed to be a release for people. The best thing you can get, beyond the awards, is (the knowledge that your music) helps a listener.”

Glen Campbell’s family was eager to discuss the legacy of the country icon, who died in August. His daughter, Ashley, described the recording process of Campbell’s CMA-winning duet with Willie Nelson, the poignant “Funny How Time Slips Away.”

“Recording for him was like going on the tour. He had trouble in everyday life remembering things, but when he walked in the recording studio, he came alive and was so happy.”

Little Big Town gave a few hints about what to expect on their 2018 arena tour (which plays Infinite Energy Arena April 21).

“We’re gonna do it like Reba!” Kimberly Schlapman said with a whoop. “We’re gonna have costume changes, boots and everything!  We’re so excited to go out next year. It’s the biggest headline tour we’ve done. We’re so excited about (opener) Kacey (Musgraves), who we adore and (other opener) Midland, who we’re kinda scared of! They’re wild boys. We’re gonna have a big, old time!”

Renowned pianist Jimmy Webb accompanied Little Big Town on stage for their tribute to Campbell with “Wichita Lineman” and was impressed with the quartet.

“The blend of the male and female voices is angelic. It’s something you don’t hear that much. I’ve been making records and writing songs for 50 years and there’s something special about that group. When they asked me would I play the piano for ‘Wichita’ first I picked myself off the floor and then said, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a try.’ They gave it a gravitas that I thought was a memorial to Glen, a reverential treatment of the song. I felt like Glen was around and he was listening and got a tremendous kick out of the ceremony…I congratulate the CMA awards in the way they handled these issues in a humane, moving way and called not for division, but for unity and for healing in our country and I think that’s what country music stands for and always has.”

The ever-humble Chris Stapleton, who picked up album of the year and male vocalist of the year honors, came back with pregnant wife Morgane and talked about the tenor of the awards.

“The mood of the room and the mood backstage, it really is a family out there. Everybody knocked it out of the park tonight - the tributes were well done. It’s a proud thing to get to be part of a show that does something that well in a sensitive time.”

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About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers the Atlanta Music Scene and entertainment news for print and online.