BY MESFIN FEKADU
Christmas could come early for country star Luke Bryan: The singer may have a “three-peat” as entertainer of the year at the Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday night.
Bryan is nominated for the top prize, which he won the last two consecutive years, besting acts like Garth Brooks, George Strait and Blake Shelton.
“The fact that I have two is so fulfilling to me in my spirit and in my heart, but the main thing if I win another one, what a night, what an amazing opportunity,” he said in a recent interview. “You never really put it into perspective until you say who’s won three in a row before and you start seeing yourself and your name up there with those types of artists. It’s very flattering.”
Bryan’s competition this year includes Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban. Bryan, whose only CMA wins are the two for entertainer of the year, is also nominated for musical event of the year for “Home Alone Tonight,” his duet with Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town.
Stapleton, Church and newcomer Maren Morris are the overall leaders though, going into the Bridgestone Arena with five nominations each.
Stapleton, who cleaned up at last year’s show, is also nominated for single, male vocalist, music video and musical event of the year, which he shares with wife Morgane for their performance of “You Are My Sunshine.” Church’s nominations include album, male vocalist, music video, single and song of the year.
Morris, who moved the needle this year with her genre-bending album “Hero,” is nominated for album, single, song, female vocalist and new artist of the year.
The 26-year-old Texan, who has launched hits with “My Church” and “80s Mercedes,” will perform at the live show in Nashville, Tennessee, where a string of classic and contemporary performers will hit the stage to celebrate the CMA Awards’ 50th anniversary. The show airs on ABC at 8 p.m. EDT.
Among those set to perform: Randy Travis, Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Roy Cark, Jason Aldean, Ricky Skaggs, Charlie Daniels, Kacey Musgraves and Charley Pride.
Performers from outside of country music will also take the stage, including Grammy-winning a cappella group Pentatonix and “Ex’s & Oh’s” singer Elle King, who is featured on Dierks Bentley’s single “Different for Girls.”
Underwood and Brad Paisley, who will both perform, return as hosts of the CMA Awards for the ninth time.
AP Writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this report from Nashville.
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