CMT Music Awards 2021 kicks off with Lady A, Chris Stapleton performances

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The Country Music Television (CMT) Music Awards are here.

The star-studded event kicked off from Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday evening with a performance by Lady A. The trio was joined onstage by Carly Pearce and Lindsay Ell. 

Ell stepped in after Gabby Barrett bowed out, citing “personal circumstances.”

Cameras then took viewers to a farm where Chris Stapleton performed “Arkansas.” 

Following the two performances, hosts Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini took the stage. “After this year … I’m thirsty for a great party,” Brown said. 

Charles Kelley of musical group Lady A, Carly Pearce, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood of musical group Lady A and Lindsay Ell perform onstage at the 2021 CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on June 09, 2021, in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for CMT)

The first award of the night – group duo video of the year – went to Little Big Town for “Wine, Beer, Whiskey.” 

“This is awesome. First of all, we’re back and making music people,” Kimberly Schlapman yelled, referring to the pandemic.

“I know you like drinking songs,” Karen Fairchild added.

The award was presented by Trace Adkins and football pro Taylor Lewan, who poked fun at country music “lingo” by asking Adkins what a dobro, diminished fifth and bluegrass is – refuting the expert’s answers with silly jokes.

Lewan told Adkins that a diminished fifth was when a drinker has less whiskey than they expected and that a dobro is a friend who eats too much pizza.

Miranda Lambert performs for the 2021 CMT Music Awards at Cedarwood Weddings in Nashville, Tenn. and broadcast on June 9, 2021. (Photo by John Shearer/2021 CMT Awards/Getty Images for CMT)

Hailey Whitters then took the stage to sing her hit “Fillin’ My Cup.” Miranda Lambert also performed a stripped-down version of her hit “Tequila Does.” She sang around a campfire alongside Jon Randall and Jack Ingram. Luke Combs also performed. 

Linda Martell, who is one of the pioneering Black acts in country music and the first Black woman to perform solo at the Grand Ole Opry, received the CMT Equal Play Award. 

The CMT Music Awards will honor acts in country music but will also share its stage with pop and R&B stars, including Gladys Knight, Pink, John Legend, Halsey, H.E.R. and Noah Cyrus.

Knight and Mickey Guyton will perform together and Stapleton and fellow guitar slayer H.E.R. are joining forces onstage at Wednesday’s show celebrating the year’s best country music videos.

Both Maren Morris and Barrett were originally set to perform at the CMT Awards but backed out. 

Fox News’ Nate Day and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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