EXCLUSIVE: Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan Among CMT Artists of the Year 2016 Honorees
By Sophie Schillaci
It's certainly been a year for these country superstars!
ET has learned exclusively that Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett have been named CMT's Artists of the Year 2016 honorees, with newcomer Kelsea Ballerini to receive the second annual "Breakout Artist of the Year" award. The 23-year-old "Peter Pan" singer follows in Stapleton's footsteps, who took home the inaugural award last year. Ballerini’s well-deserved honor comes just days after she made history as the first-ever female artist in country music history (including female duos and groups) to send three consecutive singles from her debut album to No. 1.
This year's performance-filled and champagne-fueled ceremony will take place next month at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, airing on CMT on Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Along with Ballerini, Rhett is another first-time honoree. The 26-year-old "Vacation" singer released his sophomore album, Tangled Up in 2015, but spent much of 2016 on top of the Billboard Country Airplay Chart with his heart-tugging hit, "Die a Happy Man."
Underwood was previously named a CMT Artist of the Year in 2010 and 2012. Earlier this year, she scored her 14th and 15th CMT Music Awards for "Smoke Break," holding on to her title of winningest country star at that awards show.
FGL -- comprised of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley – return for their fourth consecutive Artist of the Year trophies, while Bryan earns his title for the fifth consecutive year dating back to 2012.
But at the 2014 ceremony, Bryan was forced to cancel his appearance after his brother-in-law suddenly lost his life. Stapleton stepped in alongside Lady Antebellum to pay tribute to the "Move" singer and his family with a performance of his hit, "Drink a Beer."
One year later, Bryan was back on the red carpet and visibly moved by the support of his country community.
"It's certainly been on my mind today," Bryan told ET at the 2015 celebration. "It's kinda that time of year, but I take from that night just how supportive country music artists are and the family."