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Eric Church truly surprised by CMA nominations

Associated Press Modified: September 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm •  Published: September 5, 2012

No one was more surprised by Eric Church's leading five Country Music Awards nominations than the rising star from North Carolina. He didn't even know they were happening.

"The funny part of the story is I've been on vacation the last week and I lost my phone in the Gulf of Mexico when I was swimming," Church said in a recorded statement. "And I had no clue that even the CMA nominations were today and just laying on an airplane and really unplugged from the world."

When Church landed Wednesday morning, he was whisked to his management office in Nashville, Tenn., where he learned the news that not only had he received the first major CMA nominations of his career, but that he'd also broken through in the prestigious album, male vocalist and song of the year categories.

He was followed by married couple Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, who had four nominations apiece. Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley and Little Big Town have three apiece.

"I think it's a testament to really fans that believed in the music and loved the music and told people about the music," Church said. "Otherwise we don't really have the track record to be the most nominated artist at this point in time in our career for the path we've taken. I think it's truly because of the fans and because they did something that's really going to be judged as pretty special and pretty unique to get this done."

Two-time winner Swift is up for another entertainer of the year award, the CMA's top honor. She's nominated along with previous winners Chesney and Brad Paisley and also Aldean and Shelton.

And Church wasn't the only surprised nominee. Luke Bryan was clearly taken aback when his name popped up among the nominees as he and good friend Aldean announced the first five categories Wednesday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Previously, Church and Bryan received only best new artist nominations. Both made a splash — earning spots on the male vocalist and album of the year lists. They knocked longtime nominee and multiple winner Paisley off the list of male vocalist nominees, joining Aldean, Shelton and Keith Urban.

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