His friend and fellow North Carolina native, Eric Church, presented him with the honor remotely from his Gather Again Tour.
“We come from the same place, breathe the same air, walk across the same dirt, played the same places. At the core of his success, is a love for authentic music,” Church gushed.
He went on to compliment Combs’ “incredible songwriting and storytelling.”
Above all, Church praised Combs as a person and acknowledged that even though he’s a “certified superstar,” he hasn’t changed “one bit.”
“I’m proud to call him my friend,” Church shared.
Let’s hear it for @LukeCombs 👏👏👏 How amazing is it that he gets to accept this award in front of some of his favorite artists?!
— CMT (@CMT) October 14, 2021
Combs took the stage to accept the incredible honor. He thanked his fans, his team and his wife, Nicole, who wasn’t able to join him at the show.
He then gave a shoutout to his friend, musical hero and fellow North Carolina native, Randy Travis, who is set to receive the Artist of a Lifetime honor later in the show.
“Randy, I watched you play in this building a few years ago with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and was absolutely blown away,” Combs told him from the stage. “And to be in the same room with you again in the same place and to just have a small fraction of an impact on country music like you’ve had man, it’s incredible.”
He also gave a shoutout to fellow Artist Of The Year nominee, Chris Stapleton, who watched from the front row. Concluding his speech, he thanked his wife, fans and everyone in the room.
“I really don’t feel like I deserve this, this is for the fans, this is for country music, this is for country music, I love you guys, thank you for letting me do what I do,” Combs said.
With 11 consecutive No.1s under his belt, Combs has catapulted to the top of his game and continues reign as one of country music’s most respected artists.
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, and 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.