A Look at the Female Vocalists Nominated for CMA Awards—Who Will Win?

With the 2023 CMA Awards upon us, it’s essentially the Super Bowl of country music. On Wednesday (November 8), country music’s finest will descend upon Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the annual ceremony. Leading up to the awards show, American Songwriter is breaking down each category to reflect on the artists’ year. Below, we look at all the nominees for Female Vocalist of the Year.

Videos by American Songwriter

And the Nominees Are…

Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini has had quite the year both personally and professionally. In late 2022, she and her ex-husband Morgan Evans finalized their divorce, with Ballerini striking up a relationship with actor Chase Stokes soon after. Her personal life lent itself to an excellent EP, Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, that’s up for Album of the Year at the CMAs. Across half a dozen songs, Ballerini bares her heart and soul, with some sharp-tongued songwriting thrown in for good measure as exemplified in “Blindsided,” her response song to Evans’ breakup ballad, “Over For You.” I know the truth is hard to hear / But it wasn’t hard to find / Baby, were you blindsided or were you just blind?, she slyly sings.

She followed the EP with another seven-song set, Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good) which was just as noteworthy. Ballerini has certainly had a standout year on par with her fellow nominees. This is her fifth nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMAs, and she has yet to win the category. She makes a strong case for a win this year.

Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert is the reigning queen of this category. Since her first nomination in 2007, Lambert remains the most-winning artist for Female Vocalist of the Year with a record seven wins. All things considered, 2023 has been a relatively quiet year for Lambert. Following the release of her critically acclaimed Palomino album in 2022, Lambert made a major career move when she announced in March 2023 that she was leaving Sony Music Nashville after 19 years. In November 2023, she announced the launch of Big Loud Texas, an offshoot of Big Loud Records, which aims to bring more Texan artists to Nashville.

Amid these big career changes, Lambert also launched her first headlining residency in Las Vegas, Velvet Rodeo, with dates running through December 2023. “I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, but I also want to be an example,” Lambert told American Songwriter in a May 2023 cover story. “I want to make sure I kick the doors open for other girls, especially because my career wasn’t conventional. It wasn’t down the middle. It wasn’t an easy radio career. I’ve had to find my own way and I hope that I opened the door for some other kickass girls. When a couple of us win, we all win. That’s how I look at it. It’s not a competition. To me, it’s a sisterhood. It’s sometimes a hard road, but the reward is such a payoff.”

[RELATED: A Look at the Musical Collaborations Nominated for the CMA Awards—Who Will Win?]

Ashley McBryde

Ashley McBryde has been operating at a steady pace since her debut single “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” launched her into mainstream country stardom in 2018. McBryde has particularly been hustling on the album front for the past two years. 2022 saw the release of the humorous and expertly crafted Lindeville (which is up for Album of the Year) with a cast of characters including Brothers Osborne. She followed Lindeville with The Devil I Know in 2023, an album that she tells American Songwriter represents:

“Every version of me that ever existed,” she describes. “And the version that exists now wouldn’t have been possible without the me that drank too much, without the me that had never been to therapy and just punched people in the face if she thought that was the right thing to do.”

McBryde has long been a road warrior, which continues with her wintertime The Devil I Know Tour that runs through January 2024.

Carly Pearce

If there was ever a category that Carly Pearce‘s voice was made for, it’s this one. In 2021 and 2022, Pearce was riding high on the success of her critically acclaimed EP 29 and full-length album, 29: Written in Stone. Since the wave of 29 has calmed, Pearce has been teasing new music throughout 2023 with the release of her current single “We Don’t Fight Anymore” featuring Chris Stapleton. She also dropped “Country Music Made Me Do It,” with both songs slated to be on her upcoming album. Pearce was moved to tears when she won this category the first time she was nominated in 2021, her tear-filled speech making for an unforgettable CMA Awards moment.

Lainey Wilson

Lainey Wilson is unstoppable, and 2023 has proven that. The Louisiana native has spent more than a decade pounding the pavement in Nashville and it seems that all the blood, sweat, and tears are finally paying off. In 2022, she released her highly anticipated album, Bell Bottom Country, which spawned two hits, “Heart Like a Truck” and “Watermelon Moonshine.” She also shot to the top of the charts with a pair of collaborations, “Never Say Never” with Cole Swindell and the groundbreaking “Wait in the Truck” with HARDY. She also won Female Vocalist of the Year for the first time at the 2022 CMA Awards. But she was just getting warmed up.

Wilson has carried that success into 2023 with an extensive touring schedule, accompanied by several other collaborations including “Save Me” with Jelly Roll and “Thicc as Thieves” with Lauren Alaina. She also picked up four wins at the 2023 ACM Awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year for Bell Bottom Country. She’s going into the 2023 CMAs as the most nominated artist with nine nods, making it clear that she has won over the adoration of fans and critics alike. As far as we’re concerned, Wilson has this win on lock.

Photo by Jeremy Chan/Getty Images

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