LOS ANGELES — Lionize your rock and country heroes in songs and good things will follow — it worked for Taylor Swift, who launched her career six years ago with her single "Tim McGraw," and it worked for Eric Church, who leads the 48th Academy of Country Music Awards nominations with seven, including his single saluting the Boss, "Springsteen."
The hit track, which recently scored Church a pair of Grammy nominations, earned Church ACM nods both as the single record and song of the year. He's also vying for album of the year with "Chief," which contains that single, as well as male vocalist, video and vocal event of the year.
Close on the Granite Falls, N.C., singer and songwriter's heels is fast-rising Louisiana-bred musician Hunter Hayes, who collected six nominations including song and single for his ballad "Wanted" and new male vocalist.
Miranda Lambert and Swift each got five nominations, pitting them against one another in the top category of entertainer of the year, a distinction Swift has taken home three times, including the last two years in a row. Also up for the entertainer trophy are Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton.
Bryan, Little Big Town and first-time ACM nominee Kacey Musgraves collected four nods apiece, Musgraves making it into the always-heated competition for female vocalist of the year with Lambert, Swift, Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood.
Other album of the year nominees are Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away," Swift's "Red," Bryan's "Tailgates & Tanlines" and Little Big Town's "Tornado."
In addition to the Church and Hayes entries in the single record competition are the Eli Young Band's "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," Lambert's "Over You" and Little Big Town's "Pontoon," the latter having just earned the group a Grammy Award for country duo or group performance.
The ACM Awards will be announced April 7 in a ceremony to be held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and broadcast on CBS-TV. The show is scheduled to be hosted by Shelton and Bryan.