New marriage, new baby (on the way), new tour, new pet, new splurge, new No. 1: Country's stars may have been strolling the CMA Awards red carpet on Wednesday, but so many were also moving through a new life transition — and they wanted to talk to PEOPLE about it! Hear all about it:
WEDDED BLISS: This year has brought Parker McCollum his first major awards and high-profile concert dates, but the 30-year-old Texan has an even bigger reason that this is — as he put it — "the best year of my life by far." It's his March 28 wedding to his wife, Hallie Ray Light.
Sara Kauss/FilmMagic Parker and Hallie Ray McCollum
But setting romance aside, McCollum cited some very practical reasons for his assessment.
"It's very noticeable how much more productive and efficient my life is since I got married," he said. "Business is better. I think just having a legitimate place to call home will help you navigate road life a lot easier. It helped me a lot."
Not that he's all work and no play, he hastened to say. His wife has been able to join him on the road frequently, and they also know the importance of date nights.
"They're a little hard to get in there, but we try to get them in," he allowed. "I've been so busy this year. Really, she's an absolute angel for putting up with my lifestyle like she has."
"Everybody's like, 'Are you nervous?' Pardi said. "No, I'm 37. I'm ready for kids. There's no better time than now."
Jason Davis/WireImage Jon and Summer Pardi
So what's he looking forward to?
The down-home singer-songwriter, who enjoys working on his property outside Nashville, couldn't resist bringing out his droll sense of humor.
"I'm excited to be a dad so I have an extra ranch hand," he deadpanned. "She'll get out there. I'll teach her how to run a tractor, mow the lawn, stuff like that. She'll be ready."
Kidding aside, Pardi added that his wife is already deep into plans for the nursery, and if he has time, he might even turn it into a do-it-yourself project. "I gotta rip out some closets and two-by-fours," he said.
THE SON ALSO RISES: Singer-songwriter and master musician Charlie Worsham was aglow on the red carpet about the "fun season" his 19-month-old son, Gabe, has recently entered. "He's walking, and he's climbing on everything," said Worsham, 37, who's been touring this year in Dierks Bentley's band. "He's such a goofball. He's at maximum ability to put himself in harm's way without knowing it."
Fatherhood, he added, has affected him in ways he didn't anticipate: "I love how it informs my heart and how that feeds back into my music. It's sort of impossible to balance this career with a normal life and a family life, but there are ways that you can do it sometimes or get halfway there."
Jason Kempin/Getty Charlie Worsham
Still, Worsham said, his family life has helped him recalibrate his priorities. "It's a great decision clarifier, because it's so hard in music to say no," he said. "You think, if you say no once, that they're never gonna call you again. But now it's not so hard to say no because I have something at home that's really more important."
SPRING NUPTIALS: Travis Denning got engaged to longtime girlfriend Madison Montgomery in October 2021, but both, he said, have had good reason to hold off on having a wedding this fall. Montgomery is single-mindedly working to complete a master's degree. And Denning, of course, can concentrate on little else at the moment than his beloved Georgia Bulldogs, now No. 1 in college rankings.
"I ain't got time to be worried about a football game while I'm trying to get married," said the convicted fan, "so we want to do a spring wedding."
A date has been set, he confirmed, and a venue has been booked. And, he said, he's also written "a few" songs for possible wedding inclusion. It's a new turn for an artist not known for releasing many love songs, but he said, he's been leaning into his romantic side: "I'm writing what I know these days."
Denning also revealed he and Montgomery have added another Great Pyrenees to their household: A female named Nancy — named after a Stranger Things character — is now keeping company with Ranger, whom they adopted as a puppy last year. The two dogs, he happily reported, are now "best friends."
DOUBLE THE FUN: Riley Green is thrilled to be going out on the road next year with Luke Combs for two big reasons: Not only will it be his first opportunity to do a stadium tour, but he'll also be getting to spend more time with girlfriend Sophia Sansone, who is Combs' day-to-day manager.
The couple has been dating for about a year. "I've got a lot of ex-girlfriends who'd be blown away by that number," he said with a laugh.
Sansone has already been a frequent guest on Green's tour bus, but he pointed out that she'll have a choice on Combs' tour — and he's not sure she'll pick his. "If she rides on Luke's bus," he explained, "it has a lot more room in the back, and she carries a lot of luggage."
Jason Kempin/Getty Riley Green and Sophia Sansone
Green said he's already thinking about how to hit the upper stadium tiers with his music. "It's something I never thought about playing clubs growing up," said Green, who's 34. "It's really about finding a way to put that same energy into it and sing songs that you know you believe in. I think people can kind of tell when it's real."
One song that's sure to be a crowd-pleaser: "Half of Me," his collaboration with Thomas Rhett that's now barreling toward the top of the chart. "It's great to be able to ride Thomas' coattails for a single," Green said, grinning. "It's just been great to see fans singing it louder every week."
TO THE TOP: Ingrid Andress was happy to enjoy some perfect timing this week: She arrived on the CMA red carpet with a newly crowned No. 1 song, "Wishful Drinking," her collaboration with Sam Hunt. The happy-sad confection, which she co-wrote, has made a slow and steady climb up the chart since its release last December.
Andress, 31, confessed there were times she thought she'd never see the day: "I was like, there's no way. And, OK, here we are. Really wild!"
How was she celebrating?
By coming to the CMAs and "hanging out with all of my country family," said Andress, who recently released her second album, Good Person. "I feel like this is the one time of year where we actually all get to catch up. It's great to get nominated, and I love when I do get nominated, but I also just love getting to go talk to people."
Jason Davis/WireImage Ingrid Andress
This time around she also brought along her boyfriend of two years, Ben Hughes — the first time she's had a date to an awards show.
"A big step," she acknowledged before bringing out her trademark drollery: "We'll see how it goes."
SHE HAS DRIVE: Walking her first CMA red carpet, Priscilla Block knew exactly what she was doing at this time last year: "Wishing I was here."
"This is a huge night for me," said the 27-year-old singer-songwriter. It's also been a huge year as she's released her debut album, Welcome to the Block Party, and following up debut hit "Just About Over You" with "My Bar" and her Justin Moore duet, "You, Me and Whiskey."
Her life, Block said, has "changed a lot — and it's not changed a lot. I've got the same people around me, and I think that that keeps everything moving in the right direction. But it's a lot busier, so that's good."
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic Priscilla Block
She revealed her recent success has allowed her one big splurge: "I got myself a car. I don't have duct tape on my car anymore, so that's nice."
She added that her new wheels are "nothing fancy."
"I'm driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee that I got off the used lot," she said. "I'm not a big spender, but it runs, and I'm thankful for it."