NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Kenny Chesney's steamy duet, "You and Tequila" with Grace Potter, continues to radiate heat.
The song helped Chesney to nine Academy of Country Music Awards nominations Thursday morning, including the top honour of entertainer of the year.
In a phone interview from Key West, where he was about to step on his boat for a few days of fishing and fun, Chesney called the success of "You and Tequila," written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter, one of the highlights of his career.
"That song's been around for a while," Chesney said. "To me it just goes to show you a great song just has to some extent an infinite life and good songs never go out of style, and this one surely hasn't, thank God."
Jason Aldean, next with six nominations, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and 2011 winner Taylor Swift round out the fan-voted entertainer of the year category.
Lady Antebellum had five nominations, Paisley had four and several were deadlocked at three, including Swift.
Nominees were announced via social media with the help of stars like Reba McEntire and Lionel Richie. Fans were chosen to announce the entertainer of the year candidates. They'll have a chance to pick the winner in that category and new artist of the year for the 47th annual ACM Awards, which will air live April 1 from Las Vegas on CBS with McEntire and Shelton hosting.
Chesney is a four-time entertainer of the year winner and was the first victor under the academy's current fan-voted format. He's nominated for a 10th time in the male vocalist category and received double nominations as artist and producer for album of the year for "Hemingway's Whiskey" and single record of the year and vocal event of the year for "You and Tequila." He also receives a song of the year nomination as performer on "You and Tequila."
Potter, best known as an indie rock performer with her band The Nocturnals, received three nominations for the collaboration.
The nominations were in some sense a validation of Chesney's choice to take a year off the road in 2010. He used that time to focus on the music of "Hemingway's Whiskey," work on film projects, re-energize and even to give the fans a little break.
He returned to the road last year and again broke the million-mark in attendance.
"I feel like I did the right thing," Chesney said. "I know that this past summer was one of the most intense summers in a lot of great summers that we've had. The connection with the fans felt stronger than ever and I felt like the music we made because we took the year off was equally as strong. And the fact that the cycle's starting where people are recognizing that makes me excited and makes me feel great."
Aldean also is up for male vocalist, album of the year for "My Kinda Party," single record and vocal event of the year for the duet "Don't You Wanna Stay" with Kelly Clarkson, and video of the year for "Tattoos on This Town."
Lady Antebellum will compete for its third straight vocal group of the year win. The trio of Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley also is up for album of the year for "Own the Night" as artist and producer, and both song and video of the year for "Just a Kiss."
Kelley says the group sees the nominations as a sign of acceptance beyond the breakthrough success of "Need You Now," the crossover hit that changed their careers.
"It's nice to move past that and be given recognition for this new record and 'Just a Kiss,'" Kelley said from Tulsa, Okla., where the band is preparing to launch its spring tour. "For us this means a lot, too. There was a lot of pressure going into this third record and to see that we still can carry some of that momentum over on this record ... is kind of an affirmation of that."
Along with his fifth straight entertainer nomination, Paisley will be going for another win in the male vocalist category. He's won it five times in a row. He also scored a double nomination in the vocal event category for "Old Alabama" with Alabama and "Remind Me" with Carrie Underwood.
Eric Church's "CHIEF" and Miranda Lambert's "Four the Record" round out the album of the year category. Lady A won last year for its breakthrough "Need You Now."
Nominees for the new artist of the year will be announced after the close of online voting Jan. 30. Fans are currently picking the nominees in that category from a list of eight semifinalists.
Fans can begin voting at the ACM website for entertainer and new artist nominees on March 19. The other award winners are picked by the academy's membership.
It's Shelton's first nomination for the academy's top award. The news comes the week after Shelton's father, Dick, passed away.
"The support I have felt this week is overwhelming," Shelton said in a statement. "Thank you everyone for this honour."
"The Voice" coach isn't the only rising star reaching new heights at the ACMs. Chris Young took a large step into the spotlight, earning nominations in the male vocalist and single record of the year categories.
He said during a call from his stop in Baltimore on the Miranda Lambert tour that 2011 was a whirlwind of highlights. He was recently talking with friends about all the great things that happened, from the success of his album, his tour with Aldean to the response to his nominated song "Tomorrow."
"We were sitting there going, 'I don't know how you can top this,'" Young said. "And it looks just into January we've at least got a good shot at trying."
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