The stars arriving at the 44th CMA Awards offered a split decision in who they thought was most likely to prevail at tonight's CMA Awards, with Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert seen as being in a dead heat. But in that, they were nearly unanimous, that youth is likely to prevail, one way or another.
Well, actually, we did find someone rooting for Keith Urban, one of the guys who's a relative veteran in the Entertainer of the Year category. And that's Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott.
"Honestly, we feel like we haven't earned it," Hillary Scott told Our Country. "We have a lot more to prove before I feel like we'll be deserving of that award. I do love that that category this year is kind of turning over a new leaf with newer, younger acts... But then you still have the great Brad Paisley and Keith Urban in there, and in my opinion, one of them will take it home. We toured with Keith up in Canada for three weeks, and it was one of the most inspiring experiences we ever had. So I hope that he takes it home."
Blake Shelton obviously has a rooting interest. "I'm retiring," he told us. "My publicist gets mad when I say that. But I'm ready to coast. I'm getting old. Miranda's burning it down. She's my retirement!"
As for his own chances in the categories he's up for, Blake said, "I'd love to win a CMA Award, but it doesn't mean anything to me compared to becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry." (He's the newest member.) "I've had a grin on my face for a month now."
Lambert told Our Country she had doubts about whether her third album would relegate her once again to the "critics' favorite" category or become the hit it's turned into with radio and, ultimately, the CMA (she has a leading nine nominations). "I've always had doubts! Absolutely. It's your baby, and I panic before a record comes out every time. But luckily my doubts were wrong."
Laura Bell Bundy, the Broadway star turned country freshman, had a split decision in her own heart among the two most likely contenders. "Dave (Hayward, of Lady Antebellum) lives in my building," so at first, she was favoring Lady A. But then she remembered that today is the birthday of another pal, Lambert, and shifted her pick. "I'm hoping her 27th birthday is the best birthday of her life!"
Gretchen Wilson was voting for girl power, all the way. "I would love to see Miranda clean it up. She's one of the few tough, cool artists that we have in the genre, and she's been working hard." Wilson also felt that the numbers might favor Lambert, because of the voting bloc at Sony. "It's down to just a couple of girls over there"—Wilson being one of the many females departed from the label group in recent years—"so there's a lot of power behind just one artist."
Husband-and-wife duo Joey & Rory offered a split decision. Rory went with Miranda. But Rory was most excited about the Zac Brown Band, the other fresh blood in the Entertainer of the Year category. "It's not just because we're friends," he said. "I think they're making a difference out there. Zac doesn't live here and he doesn't know what goes on in Nashville, so he's breaking rules at every turn without even knowing what they are. We're (Joey & Rory) traditional country. But Zac is just a great singer/songwriter/entertainer who can go from singing a Bob Marley song with passion to singing a Lorrie Morgan song better than anybody else around here could. Because Zac doesn't know any better, he's breaking down some doors that could even open doors for people like us."
Sheryl Crow, who's taking part in the evening's Loretta Lynn tribute, had some partisan interest in the top race. "I'd like to see Brad Paisley win entertainer," she told Our Country. "He's never won, and it's time. And, he's the dad of my son's best friend. So I'd like to see Huck's dad win."