NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — They don't call him Chief for nothing: Eric Church is the top nominee at this year's Academy of Country Music Awards.
The rising country music star has seven nominations for the April 7 awards show in Las Vegas. Hunter Hayes is next with six, followed by Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert at five apiece.
Swift and Lambert are up for the academy's top honor — entertainer of the year — with Lambert's husband, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. Swift is going for her third straight win in that category.
Shelton and Bryan will co-host the broadcast, to air live on CBS from the MGM Grand.
Along with naming nominees in a series of videos online Wednesday morning, the academy also awarded trophies in the three new artist categories. Jana Kramer is the new female vocalist of the year, Brantley Gilbert is the new male vocalist winner and Florida Georgia Line took new vocal duo or group, as voted by fans. Those three acts will now compete for new artist of the year.
Fans will continue to have a say in that category and entertainer of the year. Fans can vote in those categories beginning March 25 at http://VoteACM.com.
Hayes began an incredible run on the awards show circuit with a nomination for best new artist at the ACMs last year. He didn't win, but has since has been on a streak. He won the Country Music Association's best new artist in November, was tied with Swift as the top-nominated country artist at Sunday's Grammy Awards, where he performed, and now takes center stage in Las Vegas.
"It's amazing. That puts it in perspective," a groggy Hayes said a few minutes after his manager woke him up with the news. "I'm kind of feeling like I'm part of the family now, especially now, with this. That's such an honor, such a huge compliment. This is serious. This is for real. This says that my music's been accepted by this community and it's unbelievable — and that's one of the best feelings in the world."
Church's "Chief" is up for album of the year along with Swift's "Red," Bryan's "tailgates & tanlines," Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away" and Little Big Town's "Tornado." Jay Joyce scored a rare double in the category: He produced the Church and Little Big Town albums and will take home a trophy if either wins. He's also up for producer of the year.