Brad Paisley will sure be busy at tonight's Country Music Assn. Awards, staged for the third consecutive year at the Sommet Center in downtown Nashville. Not only is Paisley hosting the live ABC kudocast again with Carrie Underwood, but he is singing his hit "Welcome to the Future" and, oh yeah, contending for a mere six awards.
The two-time reigning male vocalist of the year vies again in that race, as well as for single and song ("Then"), album ("American Saturday Night"), video ("Start a Band") and for the top prize of entertainer of the year.
Three of the other entertainer nominees -- newcomer Taylor Swift, veteran George Strait and Keith Urban -- are all up for album, video and vocalist as well. Swift will be warbling two tunes, kicking off the show with "Forever and Always" and returning later with "Fifteen." Strait will also be singing, as will Urban, who will croon "Till Summer Comes Around."
The fifth entertainer of the year nominee is Kenny Chesney, who has won this award for the last four years running. Chesney is also in the hunt for his first-ever male vocalist prize, as well as for musical event. Chesney will join with the Dave Matthews Band for a performance of "I'm Alive."
The top honor from the CMA tends to go to the performer who sells the most concert tickets and CDs. Swift could become the first woman to win since 2000, based on her chart-topping success with both "Fearless" and her self-titled debut disc. However, Chesney continues to be a top draw on the concert circuit, playing to more than 1 million people a year while racking up seven platinum albums in the last decade.
Surprisingly, Chesney has little hardware from the CMA beyond these four awards. He has amassed 29 nominations but has managed only three other wins — for recording and producing the 2004 album of the year "When the Sun Goes Down" and for his vocal collaboration in 2007 on "Find Out Who Your Friends Are." Indeed, Chesney has lost male vocalist for seven years running.
By comparison, Paisley has won 11 CMA awards in total, a haul that puts him at No. 5 on the all-time list, tied with Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. He took home his first CMA in 2000 when he won the Horizon Award as best newcomer. The following year he was part of the vocal event "Too Country" with Bill Anderson, George Jones and Buck Owens. Paisley has won music video of the year four times, for "I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)" in 2002, "Whiskey Lullaby" in 2004, "Online" in 2007 and "Waiting on a Woman" last year. Paired with Alison Krauss on "Whiskey Lullaby," he won musical event of the year, repeating in 2006 with his duet with Dolly Parton on "When I Get Where I’m Going." He had the album of the year in 2006 with "Time Well Wasted." Despite all that success at the CMAs, it took Paisley till 2007 to win male vocalist of the year, which he repeated last year.
Three-time male vocalist champ Urban (2004-2006) interrupted Chesney's streak as entertainer of the year with a win in 2005. And while Chesney lost the Horizon award in 1999 to Jo Dee Messina, Urban won this the year after Paisley.
Strait is a five-time male vocalist winner and was entertainer of the year in 1989 and 1990. Last year, Strait became the all-time CMA champ with 22 awards total (out of a staggering 75 nominations). He picked up four trophies as both artist and producer of the best single ("I Saw God Today") and best album of the year ("Troubadour"). While this was only his second single to win after 1996's "Check Yes or No," it was Strait's fifth win for an album after "It Just Comes Natural" (2007); "Carrying Your Love With Me" (1997); "Blue Clear Sky" (1996); and "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind" (1985).
Photo: Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood hosting last year's CMA Awards. Credit: ABC