"Vocal Duo of the Year" Nominees: How They Met - Academy of Country Music Awards

“Vocal Duo of the Year” Nominees on How They Met

The country music industry is packed with talented collaborations, and it often begins with the chemistry in a writing session. On occasion, we’ve seen artists go from a solo act to a duo, because they enjoy making music together. Some duo’s have met each other in unlikely situations, but somehow found their potential as a successful pair. This lead them to industry success, including being nominated for “Vocal Duo of the Year” at the ACM’s.

How did the nominees find out they were a match?

Big & Rich


America’s technicolor cowboys met in the record industry wringer. According to CMT, John Rich had a brief solo career when he left the popular country group, Lonestar. Big Kenny was a full-time musician, who launched a short-lived group, luvjOi, then took on a solo career. Still pursuing their dreams, the two met each other at a club and began writing songs together. In 1998, they wrote Rich’s first single,  “I Pray for You”.

The duo became friends, writing partners and would play in each other’s shows. However, they had some reservations before deciding to officially be a duo. Rich was apprehensive about Kenny’s rock influences, however, after they collaborated on “Holy Water” he knew there was major potential for success.  They soon met the head of creative affairs at Warner Bros. Records who signed Big & Rich in 2003.

Dan & Shay

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The country newcomers met in a tent set up in Dan Smyers’ living room.  “We met in December, actually, at his house, at a party,” Mooney tells Taste of Country. “I get to this party, I’m walking in this old house,” he laughs, “It was a terrible house, of course, a typical Nashville starting-artist house.”

Smyers felt like justifying the reason for the fort: “I had no money to pay for heat, so I went to the thrift store and bought a bunch of sheets. [We] tented out the whole living room, and we retained all the heat in there. We all just hung out, huddled around … Shay and I were jamming that night, and we’ve been writing three songs a day ever since.”

That fort has created an upcoming country sensation. This is the duo’s first ACM Award nomination.

Florida Georgia Line

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Their platinum-selling single, “Cruise,” drove Florida Georgia Line to country stardom. Still topping the charts, the duo continue to tour and take the music world by storm.

Where did it all begin? The duo met at Belmont University through Tyler Hubbard’s roommate who took a class with Bryan Kelley. The duo talk about how it all started in an interview with CMT. “I transferred to Belmont University [in Nashville] and was in a third-year writing class with [Tyler’s] roommate,” Kelley says, “and he was like “Hey, my buddy does music, too, and you guys would get along.” So we met and hit it off and started writing together. Next thing you know, we’re playing out as much as we could.

The duo has received 4 ACM nominations, including “Album of the Year,” “Single of the Year” and “Vocal Event of the Year”.

Love & Theft


The guys from Love and Theft met in a religious community in their early 20s. Both of their fathers were pastors that did not want their sons listening to secular music; just gospel, oldies and country. The duo used their church roots to inspire their album. According to their website‘s biography, Gunderson said, “Preacher’s kids seem to have the most rebellious side and get in trouble more. That was kind of the inspiration for that. We wrote it from a personal place.”

They used to be a trio in 2006, but now enjoy their team of two. “We sound like brothers when we sing,” Gunderson says, “Stephen and I have always been on the same page as far as the vision for the band, and we feel like we have made the record we’ve always wanted to make.”

This is the duo’s first ACM Award nomination.

Thompson Square

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According to WGNA, the husband-and-wife duo, Keifer and Shawna Thomspson of Thompson Square, met at a the nightclub in Nashville, Tennessee.  The two connected during a singing competition. Shawna believes that what captured Keifer’s attention is taking her parents advice to beat him at a game of pool. “I didn’t tell him that my dad owned a pool hall and game room when I was a kid,” she said according to USC Today.

The duo performed together in venues, bussed tables and hosted at the Nashville Palace. They married in 1999, got a record deal in 2010 and won three ACM’s in 2011.

The ACM-winners are up for two nominations this year.

Find out who wins “Vocal Duo of the Year” at the ACMs on Sunday, April 6th at 8/7c on CBS.

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