“Nelly killed my intro, you killed my intro bro, you had me hype,” Brown said as he laughed with Nelly, just moments after taking the stage to honor the Artist of a Lifetime, Randy Travis.
“I just want to say thank you guys again. This is my second year,” Brown shared as he went on to honor his late drummer, Kenny Dixon. “The last year I did it, y’all know my drummer passed away on my anniversary, so I just wanted to give a shoutout to him. I’m gonna do this for you again brother, I appreciate it.”
Brown was referencing CMT Artists of the Year 2019 when Chris Young stepped in for him at the last minute to honor Dixon with a performance of “Drowning.”
The superstar went on to speak directly to Randy Travis as he had just performed his iconic hit, “Three Wooden Crosses.”
“Thank y’all…but Randy I just wanted to say you are such an influence, man,” Brown said. “I love you to death. I had to redeem myself singing that song because the first time I met you, you surprised me at a radio station and I couldn’t finish the song. So I just wanted to say to all the new artists coming up, I see you everywhere, I see you on TikTok. Like you’re still doing your thing, and you’re giving all these kids… you’re just being such a good role model. You’re the man, dude, so thank you for letting me do this. Randy Travis.”
There’s no denying that @KaneBrown has had an 𝕚𝕟𝕔𝕣𝕖𝕕𝕚𝕓𝕝𝕖 year!
— CMT (@CMT) October 14, 2021
Brown also showed some love to his fellow nominees.
“Also, every other artist in here, I love you guys so much. I know I don’t get to talk to y’all a lot but just know that I love y’all. Y’all are amazing. Y’all represent country music so well.”
He later added, “Chris Stapleton, I ain’t going to lie, when I was rehearsing, I was like man, why I got to sing when Chris Stapleton is right here?”
Brown’s career soared to new heights throughout the past year. Recently named one of the TIME100 most influential people of 2021, Brown recently earned yet another chart-topping single with “Famous Friends,” a collaboration with Chris Young.
Brown recently earned three 2021 CMA Awards nominations for “Single,” “Musical Event” and “Music Video of the Year.”
In June, the superstar co-hosted the CMT Music Awards alongside Ballerini where he won the awards for Collaborative Video of the Year for “Famous Friends” and Male Video of the Year for “Worship You.”
This spring, he took home the 2021 ACM Award for Video of the Year” for “Worldwide Beautiful,” the first time a Black solo artist has won this trophy.
His newest single, “One Mississippi,” made a massive impact at country radio upon its release and will appear on his much-anticipated forthcoming album.
Fans can catch Kane Brown on his headlining Blessed and Free Tour through early 2022.
2021 CMT Artists of the Year special aired live from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
The show honored Randy Travis with the highly-coveted Artist of a Lifetime title, Chris Stapleton, Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs as the 2021 Artists of the Year and Mickey Guyton with the Breakout Artist of the Year honor.
The 90-minute special, which aired on Wednesday, October 13 at 9/8c, also featured performances by Combs, Barrett and more.
Additionally, the ceremony included several star-studded collaborations and tributes, including Boyz II Men with Kevin Olusola of Pentatonix honoring Stapleton, Brown paying homage to Travis, and Mickey Guyton performing “Remember Her Name” with Yola. Ballerini joined forces with the Jonas Brothers for a cover of a Joe Cocker hit.
Making his award show debut, Walker Hayes closed out the show with a performance of “Fancy Like.”
Eric Church, Lady A, Nelly, Connie Britton, Michael W. Smith, Copeland, Morgan Evans and CMT’s Cody Alan made special appearances as presenters throughout the evening as well.