Brantley Gilbert and Jana Kramer (Photo: Rick Diamond)First it was Tim and Faith. Then it was Blake and Miranda. Now, the newest adorable country couple that has fans all abuzz is Brantley Gilbert and Jana Kramer. The pair, who announced their engagement in January, are attracting extra attention this weekend as they'll be competing against each other for the New Artist of the Year title at the 2013 Academy of Country Music Awards.
As one might imagine, going head-to-head with one's own beloved for a coveted award can be a bit...tricky. Gilbert and Kramer were both hesitant to even tell each other they'd landed in the running for the award (which is initially determined by fan vote--one female, one male, and one duo or group advance to the category proper). All for one simple reason: They were afraid the other didn't make the cut!
"We both were so excited that we had both won our categories," says Kramer. "And then almost at the exact time we were like oh no!"
"It was hilarious," chuckles Gilbert. "Neither one of us wanted to tell the other one. We were actually texting; just general conversation. And she asks me, 'Has [your manager] called you?' And I was like 'Uh...why? Has [your manager] called you?' She said yes. And I said 'Why, did you win?' And she said 'Did you win?' We had a little celebration right there!"
While both artists note that they'll be thrilled no matter who wins the award (their good friends Florida Georgia Line are also nominated), they both also admit that there's definitely a bit of--loving but genuine--challenge floating in the air.
"We are competitive," Gilbert says with a smile. "We actually have a championship belt in our house for Crazy 8s. I would like to make common knowledge that I am the current title holder," he deadpans.
Kramer notes that she'd be "So happy" if Gilbert won, but adds, "I am also a very competitive person--so of course for a split second I may be like, 'Well, damn!'"
Adding extra spirit to the whole matter is the couple's respective families, who naturally have been chiming in on the fun. So, what do the future in-laws have to say? Gilbert laughs: "I think everybody's been generally supportive, both ways. My family loves her to death, her family loves me--at least they tell me they do, anyway!"
"My mom has stayed neutral," says Kramer. "I told her she betrayed me, and I knew she loved Brantley more!"
Gilbert and Kramer aren't the only lovebirds who will be competing against each other at Sunday's awards. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert--who are old hats at this scenario, having been pitted against each other numerous times at this point--are both up for the night's top honor, Entertainer of the Year. Have Gilbert and Kramer spoken to the seasoned pair for their advice?
"We haven't, but I hope to!" Kramer says. "I want to know how Miranda is dealing with it!"
"I saw [Blake] earlier today and I talked to him for a minute, but it slipped my mind," admits Brantley. "I was gonna ask him what his strategy was."
Regardless of who takes home the prize Sunday night, Gilbert and Kramer are solid on the most important thing. Whether fans regard them as the new "country power couple" or not, they both are just plain enjoying being together. On Friday evening, Gilbert dedicated a song to his fiancee from the stage of the charitable Outnumber Hunger concert, which was put on in conjunction with his label group.
"We're both just really happy," notes Gilbert. "In the beginning, [our relationship] was kind of under the radar. So we like being out, being able to hold hands and not have to hide it anymore. There's no agenda to be, like, anything. Our relationship is what it is."
"We are just being us," adds Kramer. "It sure does feel good."
The pair have set a wedding date, which they aren't revealing yet. "She'd cut me!" jokes Gilbert.
In the meantime, they're content with focusing on work--and a possible musical collaboration in the future. "We're really centered in on our careers," explains Gilbert. "I'm sure we'll do some stuff together eventually."
The 2013 Academy of Country Music Awards will air Sunday on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT.