Swift, Rucker add diversity to CMA Awards

While Brad Paisley snagged a leading six Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday, country’s breakout stars like Taylor Swift and Darius Rucker could prove to be tough competition.

The 19-year-old Swift is the youngest person to be nominated for entertainer of the year and Rucker ? the former Hootie and the Blowfish singer ? was nominated for male vocalist of the year after his first country album.

Swift, the first female solo artist to be nominated for the top award since 2000, joins Keith Urban, George Strait, Jamey Johnson and Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band with four nominations.

“To country music radio and the fans and anybody who voted for the CMAs this year, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you,” Swift said in a video posted on her MySpace page, counting out four ‘thank yous’ for each nomination.

Swift’s CD “Fearless” has sold more than three million copies and made her the top selling act in country and in pop. Her competitors in the top category are Kenny Chesney, Strait, Paisley and Keith Urban. She was also nominated for female vocalist of the year, along with Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood.

Chesney has dominated the entertainer of the year category, winning four out of the last five years.

“It’s funny, but the more you do this, the more those nominations mean,” Chesney said in a statement. “You realize what it takes to receive an honor like this ? especially from your peers who make it happen and know the work and commitment it takes.”

This year’s finalists include a diverse lineup of artists, some established in other genres like Rucker, and those who are getting their first nod for major awards.

Rucker, whose first country album “Learn to Live” was released last year, was embraced by fans and the industry alike.

“I love being in country music because of the accessibility and the relationships you have with fans and with radio is awesome,” said Rucker, who along with Lee Ann Womack announced the nominations on ABC.

Rucker was nominated for male vocalist of the year, along with veterans like Strait, Paisley, Chesney and Urban. If he wins, he would be the first African-American to win the category since Charlie Pride in 1972.

“It feels great. It feels like I’m part of the family,” Rucker said.

Rucker was also nominated for new artist of the year along with Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Jake Owen and the Zac Brown Band.

The CMAs announced five categories on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and the rest later in the morning on the CMT network.

Womack was another nominee Wednesday morning: Her song with Strait, “Everything But Quits,” was nominated for vocal event of the year. Also nominated were “Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” by the soon-to-be disbanded Brooks & Dunn and McEntire; “I Told You So,” by Underwood and Randy Travis; “Down the Road” by Chensey and Mac McAnally; and “Old Enough,” by the rock group Racounteurs, Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe.

Houser, who announced the rest of the nominations on a live broadcast of “CMT Insider” from a Nashville studio, said getting the nomination for the new artist category is a honor he’s been patiently waiting on.

“I’ve told myself for so many years, ‘Maybe next year, maybe next year,'” said Houser, who also was nominated for his music video, “Boots On.”

He credited his record label with coming up with the idea of the music video, which featured a toddler rocking out to his song on a toy guitar.

The CMA Awards, now in their 43rd year, are scheduled for Nov. 11 on ABC, with Underwood and Paisley as hosts.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.