6 Things We Learned Backstage at the 2023 CMA Awards

Country music’s biggest night returned on Wednesday (November 8) to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, where the 57th annual CMA Awards celebrated the superstars and rising talent in the genre. The 2023 award show saw Jelly Roll take home his first CMA trophy while Luke Combs, Brothers Osborne, Old Dominion, and Chris Stapleton continued their reign at the ceremony.

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Meanwhile, Lainey Wilson stole the show winning five of the nine awards she was nominated for including Entertainer of the Year. Wednesday’s ceremony marked the first time a woman won the top prize in more than a decade, as Taylor Swift was crowned Entertainer of the Year in 2011.

[RELATED: Lainey Wilson Dominates at CMA Awards Taking Home Entertainer of the Year]

Several of the night’s winners and performers walked through the backstage press room and chatted about their wins, their music, and much more. Here are six things we learned backstage at the 2023 CMA Awards.

6. Wynonna Judd approached Jelly Roll to collaborate

While Wynonna and Jelly Roll lit up the CMA Awards stage for the opening number, it was actually another award show where the pair first met. Wynonna revealed how she approached the singer at the CMT Awards.

“I didn’t know anything about him until the CMT Awards and I stood up out of my seat because he rocked my world,” she told American Songwriter and other press backstage at the CMA Awards. “I ran up to him and Bunnie afterward and I said, ‘I need to know the two of you,’ I just threw myself at them and said, ‘I need to be a part of your world and I don’t know what that looks like.’ So, here we are. I guess you just have to take a step out on faith and just show up and say, ‘I’m here, what do you want? I’ll do whatever.’”

5. Even Brothers Osborne suffer from imposter syndrome

Despite winning CMA Vocal Duo of the Year for the sixth time, Brothers Osborne admit that there are days even they doubt themselves. In fact, hours before they took home the trophy, singer TJ Osborne had his doubts he’d walk home a winner.

“I actually spent a lot of time as I was getting ready tonight thinking about that I did not expect us to win,” TJ said. “I’ve felt that way every single year and it’s truly not out of humbleness. It just did not feel that way.

“Oddly, it has always felt like it was this close to slipping away from us,” he continued. “When this happens, what happens to all of us in our heads is mostly not reality. When we’re thinking about if we’re still going to be relevant, if we’re still gonna have a job, it’s something I think of regularly. ‘I wonder if it’s the last year that we get to feel we’re on top of the world.’ It keeps happening. The thing I need to change is to wake up and realize that we’re going to be here for a while, at least I hope, and I should probably get a better therapist.”

4. Old Dominion’s mindset on success has changed

Old Dominion took home the trophy for Vocal Group of the Year for the sixth consecutive year. This time, the band says the honor is “so much more meaningful.” Frontman Matthew Ramsey said as their career has progressed, they’ve shifted their mindsight. 

“We’ve recently come to the realization that this is much bigger than us and we’ve adopted the attitude of service and realize that that’s the life we signed up for,” Ramsey said. “It was fun before when we were playing music and getting adoration, but now we’re witnessing more of how we are impacting our fans and their lives and in turn, the life we get to live for that. It’s gotten so much more meaningful and we’re so much more grateful for every fan that we have.”

[RELATED: 2023 CMA Award Winners – The Full List]

3. HARDY spills the details on Hixtape Vol. 3 

HARDY will pay tribute to the late Joe Diffie in his upcoming project, HIXTAPE Vol. 3: DIFFTAPE. He announced the news following the CMA Awards ceremony but admitted at the time that he didn’t know the exact date. (His publicist was on hand to let us know that the project will arrive on March 29, 2024.) He also shared some details in the press room about the project.

“We have gotten ahold of all of Joe Diffie’s old recordings,” he explained. “We have basically done what we do with Hixtape and we’ve taken some of Joe’s vocals out and we’ve added some of the biggest singers in country music to help sing some of his biggest hits. You saw two of those tonight. … It’s going to be badass and I’m really excited about it.”

Two of those songs, “Pickup Man” and “John Deere Green,” which HARDY performed with Post Malone and Morgan Wallen during the CMA Awards show, are available now. 

2. When words fail him, Jelly Roll finds them in songwriting

When things seem off in Jelly Roll’s world, he turns to songwriting. The singer revealed that his wife, Bunnie, noticed he was acting weird at the house.  

“She said, ‘You ain’t wrote a song in three months,’” he recalled. “I think what helps me with my mental health and it helps me be so joyous–one coming from where I came from which was the opposite of something. And two, just understanding the therapy that is involved with not only songwriting but music in itself, and the true power that music holds. 

“I’m here to connect. I’m not here to entertain,” he added. “That’s what I think music does. Before I was as articulate as I am now, which I’m proud of myself, I could only speak in the form of a song. Even sometimes, like Jim Croce, I have to tell my wife I love her in a song.”

1. Lainey Wilson’s power of manifestation proves true

Wilson has worked her entire life to get to this point and said she hopes her wins on Wednesday night will motivate others to stay true to themselves. She moved to Nashville 12 and a half years ago but said she started working towards her country music dream when she was nine years old.

“I’m hoping that I can show folks that blood, sweat and tears, elbow grease, and faith will take you as far as you want it to go,” she said. “The truth is, I knew that this would happen and I knew that I would be here. I feel like sometimes you got to pretend. You got to put yourself into the shoes of things that you’re not so one day you can become what you want to be and what you knew that you could be. That’s what I do.

“Those lonely nights in my camper trailer out in West Nashville, I was envisioning myself being here. I was waiting outside of the Bridgestone to get a little wristband so I could maybe be down in the pit, and just feel like I was a part of this industry. I knew it with every fiber of my being and that sounds wild, but it’s true. I think a lot of people around me, my mom and my daddy especially, they knew it too. I’ve always had a weird sense of peace about it. But I do feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

Correction: The Diffie vocals featured on HIXTAPE Vol. 3: DIFFTAPE are not the original versions recorded in the ’90s and owned by Sony as HARDY previously stated but re-records from a 2006 studio session. We have amended HARDY’s quote as per his team.

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

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What You Didn’t See on TV During the 2023 CMA Awards