After years of feeling like outsiders, Little Big Town and Eric Church finally found acceptance at the Country Music Association Awards.
Beloved veteran quartet Little Big Town won vocal group and single of the year for their breakthrough hit Pontoon.
"Y'all, this has been a 13-year journey," Karen Fairchild said as members of the group fist-pumped, jumped up and down and shouted on stage. "We're living proof that if you work really hard and chase your dream, all the good stuff happens and it follows you. Nashville, you made us your band. Thank you for letting us do this."
Like LBT, Church was feeling the love from the CMA's voters for the first time. He won the prestigious album of the year for his breakthrough record Chief, signalling 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.
The awards went off-script early, and not just for Little Big Town.
Thompson Square also earned an unexpected win, taking vocal duo of the year. The husband and wife duo of Keifer and Shawna Thompson ended Sugarland's five-year run in that category.
That award has gone to either Sugarland or Brooks & Dunn 19 of the last 20 years.
Hunter Hayes won new artist of the year, while Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw won musical event of the year for Party Like a Rock Star and Toby Keith won video of the year for Red Solo Cup.
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