November 12th, 2009
11:51 AM ET
Taylor Swift says she was surprised to win Entertainer of the Year at Wednesday night's 53rd Annual CMA Awards - but apparently, she was the only one who had any doubt.
On the red carpet heading into Nashville's Sommet Center, just about everyone we polled, from Reba McEntire to Kris Kristofferson, predicted the 19-year-old country phenom would walk away with the top prize - the youngest to do so, and the first female solo artist to be named Entertainer of the Year in a decade.
Her win broke Kenny Chesney's four-year lock on the category, and right before Swift took the stage to accept the award, Chesney whispered something into her ear. Backstage after the show, Swift told us the two were just saying how much they loved each other.
Journalists in the main press room prodded her about Kanye West, as well as her rumored beau, Taylor Lautner. She deflected the Kanye question by saying good-naturedly, "I'm so excited to be here. Aren't you excited to be here?" In response to the query about her love life, she simply said, "Huh? What?" and pretended she didn't understand the question.
Swift has been impressive since she took the world by storm with her self-titled debut album three years ago, and even those she beat out for the crown had admiring words. Brad Paisley - who has yet to win the accolade despite being nominated five times - reminisced about how he'd taken her on the road as his opening act, and joked that he'd no longer be accepting opening acts.
Interesting fly-on-the-wall moment ... witnessing a conversation between veteran CBS newsman Bob Schieffer and Paisley, where they made plans for Schieffer to "come out to the farm."
The CMA Awards are billed as "country music's biggest night" - and this year, it also officially signified a changing of the guard. Lady Antebellum scored an upset victory over Rascal Flatts, who've been unstoppable for six straight years as Group of the Year. Backstage, the young trio (Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood) talked about how they're taking home trophies before they deserve them (the group's sophomore album won't be released until January). There were plans to meet up at Charles' house for an after-party after the after-party, then have breakfast at Hillary's mom and dad's home.
Charles also mentioned something about making a run to Krystal for a burger (for you West Coasters, the Nashville equivalent of driving through In-N-Out in your limo after winning a Grammy).
At 43, Best New Artist Darius Rucker chuckled that he was the "oldest winner in that category of all time." He said he'd received congratulatory text messages from his Hootie and the Blowfish bandmates, but that his three young kids back in Charleston, South Carolina, were blissfully unaware he'd won. Rucker said he'd call them in the morning and break the news.
"They had to go to bed ... that was the deal," he said. "This may change how the world perceives me, but at home, I'm just Dad."
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