Carly Pearce & Lee Brice Win ACM Single of the Year

Pearce's Cinderella Year Crowned with One of Night's Biggest Awards As Three-Time Academy of Country Music Winner Brice Makes It Five on Sunday Night's "Academy of Country Music Awards" on CBS

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(Nashville) In some ways, the pressure was already off for triple Academy of Country Music nominee Carly Pearce, duet partner and double nominee, Curb Records recording artist Lee Brice and their #1 “I Hope You’re Happy Now.” Having been told they’d taken the Vocal Event Award on Thursday, the pair went into their live performance at the Grand Ole Opry as winners. The fact they managed to repeat their Country Music Association magic was a rare occurrence; the pair of power-singers were both grateful for the win, especially with the all-female Single of the Year being so competitive.

 “I Hope You’re Happy Now” Matches ACM and CMA Vocal Event Wins

When the envelope was opened, it wasn’t Top New Female Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope,” Ingrid Andress’ “More Hearts Than Mine,” Miranda Lambert’s “Bluebird” or Top Female Vocalist/Song of the Year winner Maren Morris’ “The Bones.” Among the shock, the joy and the unthinkable, Pearce and Brice heard their song called – and staggered to the stage, clearly overcome by winning such a major honor.

Brice, who’s won Song of the Year in 2012 for “Crazy Girl,” 2014 for “I Drive Your Truck,” and Single of the Year in 2015 for “I Don’t Dance,” understands the elation music-driven awards create. Backstage, he enthused, “Again I am so happy, shocked and appreciative to win Single of the Year with Carly.

“It is her song, her vision and her story — and I am honored to be a part of her journey.  I feel blessed.  Thank you so much to the fans, the people who voted, and the Academy. These are a big deal, and I know how much this means to her as the writer and the artist.”

“I just… I… I have no words,” Pearce began, trying to ground her emotions backstage. “As that girl who left home to sing country music at Dollywood five shows a night, who did whatever it took to keep the dream alive – right down to financing my own ep when I couldn’t get a deal – this is the sort of dream that seems like it can only be a dream.

“Getting to write it with Luke Combs, Randy Montana and Jonathan Singleton out on the road, literally talking about how our love lives can get so tangled up, then have that song turn into this recording? To know it was the last thing my dear friend and champion busbee produced before he died? To see it go #1, and even without touring, to hear all the stories of the people who know exactly how this song feels? All of that was plenty…”

Having thanked her late producer onstage, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” marks a creative watershed for the power vocalist who was recently the subject of an exhibition at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. Crystalizing the reality of something not working out, yet getting one’s freedom not solving the problem, either her songwriting has leaned into the more complicated truths that defined country music in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

“At some point in life, most people get caught in a can’t win relationship. You want what was. It’s gone. What remains isn’t that. You hate it but feel powerless. The way people responded when the song was released, I was honored; but to win this award from my industry and my peers? As someone who’s looked up to Dolly, Loretta, so many women writer/artists, it tells me there’s still a place for the messy part of real life in country music. I’m honored and affirmed.

“Country music at its best makes us feel less alone, especially when the going gets rough. All of the women nominated are smart, strong, savvy writers – and they’re bringing something really special to what’s on the radio. To stand with them, I am honored – and think every one of them created something very special, too. The quality of their work makes this mean the world to me.”

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