September 17, 2021
Chris Stapleton, Kane Brown, Gabby Barrett, Kelsea Ballerini, and Luke Combs have been named 2021 CMT Artists of the Year, the network announced on Thursday (Sept. 16). The five artists will be honored in a live televised event in Nashville on Oct. 13.
Ballerini, Barrett, Brown, Combs, and Stapleton were chosen as CMT Artist of the Year because they "collectively dominated the last 12 months in country music, leading across all CMT platforms, scoring chart-topping albums and singles, while simultaneously finding creative ways to connect with fans and meet the personal and professional challenges posed by the pandemic," CMT said in a statement.
The five honorees have been hard at work in recent months despite the ongoing challenges they have faced during the ongoing pandemic. Ballerini and Brown recently co-hosted the 2021 CMT Music Awards in June. Brown also dropped a new EP in August, while Ballerini debuted two new albums: kelsea and its acoustic accompaniment, ballerini, in the last year. Stapleton released his fourth studio album, Starting Over, in November of 2020, and Barrett released her debut in June. Combs expanded his sophomore album from 2019 into What You See Ain't Always What You Get, which includes his 11th-straight No. 1 single and his rising single, "Cold as You," which currently sits just outside of the Top 10.
These releases have performed exceptionally well over the past year, with Stapleton's Starting Over being named the 2021 ACM Album of the Year, Brown's "Worldwide Beautiful” earning Music Video of the Year, and Barrett winning the title of ACM New Female Artist of the Year. The five have no shortage of 2021 CMA Award Nominations, with a total of 17 nominations between them.
Audiences can expect the show to return to its traditional 90-minute format after adapting last year's ceremony to feature at-home performances to honor American frontline healthcare workers in June of 2020. Ballerini, Barrett, Brown, Combs, and Stapleton will be honored with live performances and tributes from their country music peers at this year's show.
CMT is expected to reveal the night's performers, presenters, and special guests in the coming weeks.
The 2021 CMT Artists of the Year ceremony is set for Oct. 13 at Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center. It will air live on CMT beginning at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CST.