Otto and Lady Antebellum were both nominated in the new artist category alongside
All three members of Lady Antebellum were clearly excited over their very first CMA nominations.
"When we had looked at the categories, that was one that we were just hoping so much we could get in," Kelley told CMT Insider just moments after the new artist category was announced. "I think of us to have everybody's stamp of approval on us, it just feels so amazing, and there's just great talent in there."
Scott agreed, noting, "There's just so many people, so many new artists, that have come out in the past year to two years that, I mean, it's almost like a new ... kind of freshmen class. So it's exciting to feel like we're a part of that."
"The way they did it," Kelley explained, "they each gave us a card to call out the nominees for different categories, and right before we went on stage, they gave us the last card -- I guess so while we were back there, nobody would peek at it. It happened to be one that ourselves as well as James Otto was in -- so I guess they didn't want us looking."
"And they definitely gave it to Charles on purpose," Scott laughed. "They didn't give it to me for a reason because I'd have been like, 'Ahhhh! Oh, my gosh!'"
"She wouldn't have gotten past our name," Kelley joked. "It was genuine shock. It was. It was very exciting."
The trio didn't expect to be in the vocal group category.
"The Eagles, they were my first concert ever -- when I was 10," said Haywood. "So to actually be in a category with them, that's pretty amazing. Yeah, the three of us were flipping out."
Otto has been in the music business for several years, so he knew better than to take a nomination for granted.
"Man, I'm sweating now actually thinking about just how crazy it is," Otto told CMT Insider. "It's amazing, man. This is a lifetime of work coming together. ... You know, there's a lot of people that have been in that category that have a lot more hits than I do and people that really deserve the award, so it feels amazing, man. And yes, nerve-racking for sure."
"I've been in Nashville for 11 years," he added. "This is not my first record deal, but the thing is, this is the first opportunity I've really gotten that was 100 percent about trying to make this happen for me, and I'm just really honored that people look at me as a new artist. I feel like a new artist. I feel like this is my first real shot at this, and I'm just very excited man, very excited."
"I honestly didn't let myself think about being nominated for this. This was something that I saw -- too many big names in the category -- people that are established and already are large stars. So I didn't really allow myself to think about the fact that we might actually make the short list like this."
"You never know how these things are going to go," Chesney said in a written statement. "We work so hard on this music, the tours, the videos. It's so much the focus of what I do, how I live. It's always a thrill to see that people are not just noticing but recognize what we're all trying to do."
"I almost spilt my tea this morning as I was watching and the nominations kept being added," Nettles said in a written statement. "Being in the entertainer of the year category is such an honor. We've been lucky enough to be out on the road with Kenny Chesney for a couple of tours over the last two years. Looks like rock by osmosis really does work."
Bush added, "I just finished watching the nomination announcements on TV from my sofa at home, and it is simultaneously humbling and encouraging to be in such amazing company as we are in all of the categories. It is one thing to play shows every week of the year and imagine ourselves striving to become entertainers of the year and another thing all together to have the voting members of the CMA believe that it is possible. Simply awesome."
Strait also received five CMA nominations, including entertainer of the year and male vocalist. His latest album, Troubadour, is nominated for album of the year, and "I Saw God Today" is on the list for single of the year. Strait's fifth nomination this year is in the musical event category for his collaboration with Chesney on "Shiftwork."
"I'm sitting down here in South Texas, bracing for Hurricane Ike," Strait said in a press release. "This really brightens my day. I look forward to a great celebration of our great music. Thanks to all involved!"
"'You're Gonna Miss This' has been such a special gift for me this year, so I'm really thrilled that the CMA and the industry recognized the strength of that song," Adkins said. "Not only was it one of the biggest hits of my career, when we performed it on the season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice, it helped raise a lot of money for my charity, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. So yeah, I'm really proud of this song."
"This is awesome!" Underwood said. "As an artist, you always hope the music you record will touch people's lives. There is nothing more rewarding than to be recognized by your peers and to know your fans are enjoying the same ride."
"This was definitely a day worth getting up really early for," she said. "Hearing my name called in the female vocalist category was a dream come true."
CMT Insider's writer/producer Terry Bumgarner contributed to this story.