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2018 CCMA Awards: the highlights

Editorial Staff

Watch the full awards show via, and get the full list of winners here.

Hamilton was (happily) overrun by Canadian country musicians this week for the Canadian Country Music Association Awards, and we tried to catch it all. From country legends to rising stars to the fans who adore them all, here's what happened. And if you want to share what you were doing, tag us on Twitter @CBCMusic or Instagram @CBC_Music.

Friday, Sept. 7

Kira Isabella kicked Friday off for us by taking over the CBC Music Instagram account.

Friday evening was the not-to-be-missed CCMA Legends show, where Hall of Fame inductees perform with rising stars each year. Jess Moskaluke started the night off with her song "Camouflage" and went straight into Michelle Wright's hit "Take it Like a Man" — and Wright joined Moskaluke when the second verse kicked in.

Other pairings included JJ Shiplett and Charlie Major, and host Beverley Mahood performing with Murray McLauchlan.

JJ Shiplett and Charlie Major perform at the CCMA Legends show.

SiriusXM's Top of the Country competition also took place Friday night, with regional finalists Jason Benoit, Andrew Hyatt and Leaving Thomas performing for the $25,000 grand prize in front of a panel of judges. Hyatt took home the honours at the end of the night. "Performing during Country Music Week, surrounded by incredible Canadian artists who have influenced my music from the beginning, is a dream come true," he said.

Andrew Hyatt wins the Top of the Country competition at the 2018 CCMA Awards.

Saturday, Sept. 8

Lindsay Ell started our Saturday off by taking over our Instagram account, showing us what it looked like behind the scenes of her dress rehearsal.

Saturday was also day 2 of the CCMA Fan Village, where fans line up to meet their favourite stars. Moskaluke had a whole entourage.

The afternoon saw plenty of performances inside the Fan Village, with artists like Meghan Patrick playing to a dedicated — and rapt — audience.

Meghan Patrick performs at the CCMA fan fest.

At the end of Warner Canada's showcase in the afternoon, all its artists — including Patrick, Paul Brandt and the Washboard Union — hopped onstage for one last song together.

Terri Clark was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Saturday night’s gala awards dinner, and she was introduced by her longtime manager, Clarence Spalding (also known for his work with Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts).

Spalding talked heartwarmingly about Terri’s relationship with her late mother, Linda Clark — who drove Terri down to Nashville to start her career, first singing for tips on Broadway — and how the two were an inseparable team.

“Linda passed away in 2010, but have no doubt that she’s with us tonight, because she wouldn’t have missed this event,” he said.

“I still really can’t believe this is happening, it feels like a dream. It was a dream,” said Terri, accepting her induction. She talked about the long years put in to get where she is — which you can read more about in our feature interview with her — and how important it all was to the career she’s made today.

“This isn’t really just about me, it’s about the human spirit,” she said. “It’s about the dream, perseverance, and about using those roadblocks as building blocks… I feel like my life and career has been one perspective check after another.”

“I remember inducting Ronnie Prophet into the Hall of Fame in 1999, and my mom leaning over and whispering,’Terri you’re gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day.’ I said, ‘Maybe so mom, but that’s for old people so it’ll be a while.’ I’m actually waiting to be disqualified for being too young for this,” she added, laughing.

Terri Clark is inducted into the Hall of Fame.

James Barker Band won the CCMA Award for single of the year — which was unexpected for them.

“We clearly didn’t anticipate this, because James and Bob aren’t here,” joked Connor Stephen, one-quarter of James Barker Band — with the other three-quarters made up by James Barker, Bobby Martin and Taylor Abram.

Aaron Goodvin, Alexander Black, and Cathy Gravitt won the award for songwriter of the year for Goodvin’s song “Lonely Drum.”

“Holy shit balls,” Goodvin said after hopping onstage. “I threw my hat really hard on the ground.”

“I love country music, I came to my first CCMAs in Calgary 15 years ago, and I tried to get everyone’s attention: ‘I can write songs, pick me,’” he continued, getting teary-eyed about his win. Goodvin, Black and Gravitt whooped their way offstage after thanking their people.

The winners for songwriter of the year at the CCMA Awards.

Brett Kissel presented Orillia Secondary School’s Laura Lee Matthie with the Musicounts Teacher of the Year Award, and when Matthie came up to receive it, she made Kissel take a selfie with her before she started her thank-you speech.

“Because my students won’t believe me,” she explained.

Jackie Rae Greening — radio broadcaster, former CCMA chair and board member — was this year's builder inductee to the Hall of Fame. Kissel introduced Greening, waxing on about how she has treated him like a star since he was 15 years old.

When she walked onstage to accept her induction, Greening joked: “Thank you for the eulogy.”

Noting that she was being inducted alongside Clark, Greening added, “It is so cool that two broads from Alberta are going into the Hall of Fame.”

Jackie Rae Greening with her CCMA Award.

Sunday, Sept. 9

On Sunday morning, we kicked it with Kira Isabella at the CCMA Sweat Session. F45 led a HIIT style bootcamp to get us pumped up for the awards show, featuring a circuit of squats, jumping lunges and more.

Later in the afternoon, Gord Bamford, Donovan Woods, Phil Barton and Laura Veltz sang songs they’d written as part of In the Round: Crossing Borders, where each singer-songwriter talked about, and sang, their biggest hits.

It was a beautiful couple of hours, and you can check out some choice quotes via this story.

Gord Bamford, Donovan Woods, Phil Barton and Laura Veltz sing songs they’d written as part of In the Round: Crossing Borders, where each singer-songwriter talked about, and sang, their biggest hits.

High Valley took over our Instagram account for the last CCMA day, taking us behind the scenes of their getting-ready rituals.

The 2018 CCMA Awards opened on a Shania Twain tribute performance, with Jess Moskaluke belting out “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” Kira Isabella taking on “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” and Madeline Merlo performing “Life’s About to Get Good” before Isabella and Moskaluke joined her for the end of that newest song.

“It’s more than little-girl Jess could have ever imagined," Moskaluke later said in the media room, of being coached by Twain for the performance.

Twain, the evening’s host, was up next, and she was effusive in her love for Hamilton: “This is a country town. It’s got the heart; it’s got the grit; and judging from that opening just now, it’s definitely got the fans.”Serena Ryder and Brett Kissel, who are good friends and have been working on new music together, sang a medley of songs together including Kissel’s hit “Anthem” — the lyrics to which Ryder learned on the drive to dress rehearsal two days ago, as she later confessed in the media room.

“I’ve been finding my love for country music again,” Ryder said. “I came from Hank Williams and John Prine and Kris Kristofferson … but working with Brett recently has been really awesome and revitalized that love for country.”

After Keith Urban performed, he introduced Meghan Patrick, Suzy Bogguss, Jessica Mitchell and Terri Clark herself, who all performed a medley of Clark’s songs, including “Better Things to Do,” “Poor Pitiful Me,” “No Fear” and “Northern Girl.” Urban then presented Clark with her Hall of Fame induction award.

“I can’t wait to see where this crazy ride takes me next," Clark said, after accepting her award. “I’m not done, I’m not done. This is just the second chapter.”

Moskaluke, tied for the highest number of nominations this year with Kissel, took home the CCMA Award for album of the year — the first woman to do so since Carolyn Dawn Johnson won it in 2004.

“I’m excited that a female won album of the year," Moskaluke later said in the media room.

A lot of things were said in the media room —from heartfelt to, well, maybe slightly less so — including Michelle Wright expressing her love for Keith Urban.

“If Keith Urban’s not busy, just saying," she said, of wanting to collaborate with him. "If Nicole Kidman doesn’t mind. He is the pass at my house, by the way," she finished, laughing.

And the final highlight of the night? Shania Twain's sleeves.

Shania Twain closes out the CCMA Awards.


Terri Clark gets real about her 20-plus years in country music

2018 CCMA Awards: Serena Ryder, James Barker Band and Jessica Mitchell added as performers

Jess Moskaluke, Kira Isabella and Madeline Merlo will perform Shania Twain tribute at 2018 CCMAs

Listen to CCMA winners and nominees in our brand new stream

Jess Moskaluke and Brett Kissel lead this year's CCMA Awards nominations