Kelsea Ballerini, Kenny Chesney Win Early 2021 CMA Awards

The 2021 CMA Awards are still several hours away, but we now know who the winners are in two of the categories, and it’s Kelsea Ballerini and Kenny Chesney in both! The two singers won Musical Event of the Year and Video of the Year, both for their “Half of My Hometown” collaboration.

“Growing up in East TN, it’s a deeper kind of home,” Chesney said when the news was announced. “That’s what makes being part of #halfofmyhometown so special. I’m thrilled for Kelsea to have won Musical Event & Music Video of the Year! She couldn’t deserve it more & I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Ballerini grew up idolizing Chesney, never dreaming they would one day collaborate on a song together.

“If I could go back and tell little me driving around Knoxville, listening to songs like, ‘I Go Back,’ and thinking how crazy it was he was from the same place, if I could go tell her that we were going to sing this song about our hometown together on a stage like the ACMs, I’d just, I’d pass out,” Ballerini previously told Audacy.  “It’s very cool and very full circle.”

Not only did Chesney sing with Ballerini on a tune they wrote about their shared hometown, but the two became close friends as a result as well.

“Ever since [Chesney] decided to sign onto this song and do this with me, we’ve just become like brother-sister,” Ballerini said. “We have such a fun relationship.”

Ballerini might not have ever had the courage to reach out to Chesney, if he hadn’t sent her a congratulatory text first.

“He saw my name on the scrolling billboard in Times Square and took a photo of it, got my number and sent it to me and said ‘I’m so proud of you, hometown girl,’ because we’re both from Knoxville,” Ballerini told Taste of Country Nights. “It was the most encouraging, magical thing that could have happened to me two and a half years ago. I freaked out.”

The 2021 CMA Awards will air live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena at 8:00 PM ET on ABC.