CMA New Artist of the Year Nominees Look Forward to Thursday Night's Ceremony.
The CMA New Artist of the Year category is of the biggest indicators of which country stars are going to be around for the long haul, and the nominees don't take that recognition lightly. Though he's just 21 years old, Hunter Hayes has been dreaming of getting this nomination for a long time now. It finally happened thanks in large part to his #1 hit "Wanted." "It's such an honor to be recognized by the family of musicians that I've grown up listening to and all these artists that I respect so much," Hunter says of his New Artist nomination. "This whole industry sort of looks at you and says, 'Yeah, here's your nomination for an award you've been wanting to achieve for a long time.'" Lee Brice is honored to be nominated for New Artist of the Year, but he won't be worried about winning the trophy on his way to the show Thursday night. Lee is taking his fiancé Sarah with him to the CMA Awards this year, and the day of the event is all about getting her ready and out the door. It all starts with Sarah getting her outfit on and fixing her makeup throughout the day. Lee is there every step of the way answering every time Sarah asks him how she looks. It continues as they make their way to the CMA Awards in the car. Lee says when they finally get out of the car on the carpet, "She's worried about getting out and tripping over her feet. So really, it's more about me just making sure Sarah's all right." Love and Theft will be attending Thursday night's CMA Awards as first-time nominees in two categories -- New Artist of the Year and Duo of the Year. They know the competition is pretty stiff in both categories, and the duo's Eric Gunderson says, "We're just excited to be in good company, and we'll see what happens." Love and Theft's nominations come after they scored their first #1 hit, "Angel Eyes," earlier this year. They've also been on the road opening for Brad Paisley and Jake Owen. "We've just worked as hard as we can this year," Eric says. "I know everybody else has too. So, hopefully people recognize that." Brantley Gilbert and Thompson Square round out the New Artist of the Year category.