The performance, which was pre-taped during the Remember This tour date in Franklin, Tennessee, in late September, found Ballerini and the Jonas Brothers, composed of Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas, joining forces to sing a popular radio hit.
“Ladies & Gentlemen, please welcome your 2021 CMT Artist Of The Year, Kelsea Ballerini,” the trio said, welcoming Ballerini to the stage for a mesmerizing performance of Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Following their performance, the superstar trio presented Ballerini with the coveted honor of CMT Artist Of The Year.
“Not only is Kelsea [Ballerini] one of the most amazing human beings we know, one of the most incredible artists that we know,” Joe Jonas told the sold-out crowd. He then asked the audience, “Do we love Kelsea everybody?,” which prompted a roaring applause for the “Hole In The Bottle” singer.
Nick Jonas then detailed meeting Ballerini and how it’s been such a thrilling experience to share the stage with her each night.
“We met Kelsea 7-years ago, she of course lights up the stage every time she’s on it,” Nick added as the crowd chanted Ballerini’s name. “And we are thrilled to be on tour with her and call her our friend. I want to be the one to say this. I’m going to steal this moment from Kevin and from Joe.”
“It is our pleasure to honor you and tell you that you are 2021 CMT’s Artist Of The Year, Kelsea Ballerini,” Nick continued as he handed her the coveted award.
— CMT (@CMT) October 14, 2021
Ballerini then accepted the high honor.
“I mean, that was cool,” Ballerini said with a laugh. “You know, I remember I moved to Nashville when I was 15, and I moved with this list of dreams that I had and at the time it was like Play the Grand Ole Opry, hear my song on Country Radio…”
The hitmaker continued, ”And since I was 15, I’ve just been like adding to and taking away and like living and dying by this list of goals that I had. And it’s been incredible because I’ve gotten to mark so many off, and you know what? Then the last couple of years happened, and I made an album and I put it out during a [global health crisis] and then I just remade the album. I had other touring plans this fall, and then I got a call from Kevin, Nick and Joe, and I was like… yeah, that sounds good. What I’ve learned and what I’m learning is to loosen up my grip on what I think I want and just be here. So thank you so much for letting me just be here with you tonight in Nashville. CMT, Thank you so much Leslie, John, Sandbox, Lisa, Jason, my whole team, my family, Morgan I love you. Thank you guys so, so much!”
After she concluded her acceptance speech, Ballerini thanked the Jonas Brothers graciously and hugged each of the three brothers before exiting the stage.
“With A Little Help From My Friends” is a track by The Beatles, co-written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, that appears on their 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The track, which ranked number 311 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, was later recorded by Joe Cocker and became a hit single in 1968 and an anthem for the Woodstock era.
The show honored Randy Travis with the highly-coveted Artist of a Lifetime title, Ballerini, Chris Stapleton, Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Luke Combs as the 2021 Artists of the Year and Mickey Guyton with the Breakout Artist of the Year honor.
The 90-minute special, which aired on Wednesday, October 13 at 9/8c, also featured performances by Combs, Barrett and more.
Additionally, the ceremony included several star-studded collaborations and tributes, including Boyz II Men with Kevin Olusola of Pentatonix honoring Stapleton, Brown paying homage to Travis, and Mickey Guyton performing “Remember Her Name” with Yola.
Making his award show debut, Walker Hayes closed out the show with a performance of “Fancy Like.”
Eric Church, Lady A, Nelly, Connie Britton, Michael W. Smith, Copeland, Morgan Evans and CMT’s Cody Alan made special appearances as presenters throughout the evening as well.