Eric Church takes album of year at CMA Awards
Jason Aldean performs during the opening of the 46th Annual Country Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wayde Payne/Invision/AP)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After years of feeling like an outsider, Eric Church found a home Thursday night at the Country Music Association Awards.
Church won prestigious honor album of the year for his breakthrough record "Chief," signaling his complete acceptance by the country music community.
"I spent a lot of my career wondering where I fit in — too country, too rock," Church told the crowd. "I want to thank you guys for giving me somewhere to hang my hat tonight."
The North Carolina native was this year's leading nominee, breaking through in prestigious categories for the first time. Yet no one was more surprised than Church, who said he certainly had no expectation of winning.
Musical group Little Big Town, from left, Jimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet, accept the award for single of the year for "Pontoon" at the 46th Annual Country Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wayde Payne/Invision/AP)
"Never, especially with our journey," Church said. "I mean our path's been a little bit different. I distinctly remember playing for eight people in Amarillo, Texas, four years ago, and to go from there to here is quite surreal."
It wasn't the surprise-filled night's only surreal moment. In one of the awards' most emotional moments in recent memory, husband and wife stars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert won song of the year.
As Lambert openly wept on stage, Shelton recounted for the ABC television audience how the loss of his older brother, Richie, and father, Dick, spurred the couple to write the heart-rending song.