The viral hitmaker launched the performance by singing the opening verse of the tune: “Small town, y’all town, double dutch in the park / Ice cream truck failing that emissions test hard / Got that blow up Grinch in the yard and it’s March / Ain’t coming down anytime soon.”
Ciara, donning a rhinestone cowboy boots, a black leather ensemble and a bedazzled cowboy hat, later joined Hayes for her verse before the pair joined forces on the chorus.
Ahead of the show, Hayes opened up about the new version of “Y’all Life” featuring Ciara and recalled how he got the GRAMMY winner to join him on the track.
“I’m a huge Ciara fan and last year when I played ‘Fancy Like’ and ‘AA’ on the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and so I heard her in my in-ears and she was vibin’,” he explained. “She was like dancing and singing to ‘AA’ and so in my mic during a [commercial] break I said ‘hey Ciara, are you really getting down or you making fun of me,’ just joking. She was like ‘no, I love this’ and I said ‘well at some point let’s collab.’ I said ‘I would love to collab with you’ and she said ‘yeah’ and then when ‘Y’all Life’ came along I remembered that I said that and she agreed and I was like ‘I’m [going to] take you up [on that].’ She could’ve said no, but she was genuinely jacked. She called me back singing the song. She sent me a voice text and she was all in and this is debut performance of ‘Y’all’ featuring Ciara.”
The Alabama native was also honored during the 90-minute special as one of the five 2022 CMT Artists Of The Year.
Hayes’ longtime friends Shane McAnally and Kelsea Ballerini shared memories of working with the hitmaker over the years and praised his artistry before giving him the spotlight to accept the prestigious honor from CMT.
“Thank you guys, I mean I don’t get a lot of awards so, I apologize if this is really bad,” Hayes said while accepting the award for CMT Artists Of The Year. “The last award I got was in 9th grade for the most improved student. I didn’t have to make a speech.”
He went on to gush over his “incredible” team who helped him achieve the success that he has earned thus far as well as gave a shoutout to McAnally for believing in him.
“Look you guys, my team is incredible. I been waiting to stand behind the mic and just talk about this guy right here, that’s a true story,” Hayes continued. ”He didn’t have to give me his real email address… but he did, so praise God for Shane McAnally. There’s a guy named Robert Carlton. He’s the best sounding guy in this town, as far as I’m concerned, and he’s who I turn them all into and if he says he likes it, we go with it, and if he says he doesn’t I don’t really fight him, I just believe what he says and I get over myself and throw it in the trash. So thanks Robert Carlton for everything.”
Hayes then thanked his wife, Laney Beville Hayes, their six children and his management team and record label.
“My wife Laney, holy cow she’s super hot and super awesome. She’s been beside me guys, she’s thrown a lot of heartbreaks along this wave and never once did the woman ever say, ‘hey you think you want to have a more normal ambition or a more realistic dream.’ Not one time,” Hayes added. ”My kids obviously got to thank them because they keep me dancing on TikTok. Lela, Chapel, Baylor, Beckett, Everly, and Loxley, not in that order, it’s a lot of names to remember. I can’t give monument enough gratitude, my label, Smack Songs, Marissa, Bryan, my tour manager and my band, holy cow they are great, and to the fans last but not least, they’re the reason why I get to sing these weird songs. Thank you.”
The 2022 CMT Artists Of The Year celebrated the success Carly Pearce, Kane Brown, Cody Johnson, Luke Combs and Walker Hayes have seen throughout the past year.
Alan Jackson was honored as the CMT Artist Of A Lifetime. The prestigious honor, presented by Ram Trucks, was previously awarded to Randy Travis (2021), Reba McEntire (2019), Loretta Lynn (2018), Shania Twain (2016), Kenny Rogers (2015) and Merle Haggard (2014).
Lainey Wilson was named the 2022 CMT Breakout Artist Of The Year. Wilson is the fifth recipient of the award, following Mickey Guyton (2021), Ashley McBryde (2019), Kelsea Ballerini (2016), and Chris Stapleton (2015).
The 90-minute concert event featured performances from Jackson, Pearce, Johnson, Brown and Wilson. Hayes joined forces with Ciara for a never-before-seen performance of their “Y’all Life” remix. Riley Green also took the stage to honor Luke Combs.
A heartwarming tribute to the late Loretta Lynn, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 90, also took place during the star-studded event when her sisters, Crystal Gayle and Peggy Sue Wright, performed in her honor.
In addition to a star-studded list of performances, the show also included presenters: Chris Stapleton, Dan + Shay, Dustin Lynch, Rascal Flatts’ frontman Gary LeVox, Kelsea Ballerini, Yellowstone’s Kelsey Asbille, and Shane McAnally.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. appeared remotely from his annual Dale Jr. Foundation charity event in North Carolina to present Combs with his 2022 CMT Artists Of The Year award.
The 2022 CMT Artists Of The Year premiered on Friday, October 14 at 9/8c on CMT.