NASHVILLE, TENN. - Want to clean up the Academy of Country Music Awards nominations? This year the best way was to put together a killer guest list and go for the Vocal Event of the Year award.
Lead nominees Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and Blake Shelton all tallied nominations in that category Wednesday when nominations were announced via videos on social media. Lambert appears in the field twice and leads all nominees with McGraw at seven nominations apiece. Urban is also nominated twice in the category and is next with six nods.
When McGraw invited Swift and Urban to join him on "Highway Don't Care," he said he wasn't thinking about nomination day. But he knew he had a strong song, and "that sort of inherently comes along with a project like that," he said with a chuckle. "Any time when you have Keith and Taylor and myself doing a song together, you'd sort of be a dummy... to think that it wouldn't get some sort of nomination."
Lambert teamed up with Urban on "We Were Us" and husband Shelton and her trio Pistol Annies on "Boys 'Round Here." Urban said he sought out Lambert because of her artistry, something reflected in the range she shows from one nominated song to the other.
"She's an artist, she's not an act," Urban said. "There's a lot of acts in all genres, and then there are some artists ... who clearly have a vision of who you are as an artist."
Lambert will be going for her fifth straight female vocalist of the year campaign and along with her husband Shelton is nominated for the top honor, the fan-voted entertainer of the year, against two-time winner Swift, 2013 winner Luke Bryan and previous pick George Strait.
"As a female artist, it has been a longtime goal for me to be in this category," Lambert said in a statement. "And such great company too!"
The nomination continues something of a victory lap for Strait, who is wrapping up his final tour this year. He's a former winner in the category who recently won the rival Country Music Association's entertainer of the year trophy.
While McGraw technically has as many nominations as Lambert, he joked that he considered Lambert the leader because three of his seven nominations come from categories - including album of the year - that also recognize producers.
"It's four, but then you turn it into seven," McGraw said. "To me it's four, but I'll take it when they say seven."
Kacey Musgraves' Grammy Award-winning "Same Trailer Different Park" also is up for album of the year and she's tied with Swift, Shelton and Lee Brice with five nominations. Shelton's "Based on a True Story ...," Bryan's "Crash My Party" and FGL's "Here's to the Good Times" round out the album of the year category.
Jason Aldean is nominated for male vocalist of the year with Lee Brice, Urban, Shelton and Bryan. Lambert received her eighth nomination for female vocalist of the year, joining Swift, Musgraves, Carrie Underwood and Sheryl Crow. Shelton and Bryan will return to co-host the April 6 awards show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas
The nominations come in the midst of an extraordinary week for Urban. He spent the weekend in Los Angeles where he performed his new single "Cop Car" on the Grammys with Gary Clark Jr., joined with John Mayer to salute The Beatles and was prepping to play Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night before finishing his tour Saturday in Nashville.
The "American Idol" judge said the significance of the nominations wasn't lost in the shuffle.
Asked which nomination meant the most, he said, "Oh, God, all of them. I really take issue with people who think it's a bunch of nonsense to say it's an honor to be nominated. That seems such a cynical and jaded comment. My experience has been fully that it's a huge honor to be nominated because it's the first award given."