Review: CMT Music Awards 2023 Live From Austin, Texas

The 2023 CMT MUSIC AWARDS aired LIVE from Austin, TX’s Moody Center for the first time ever Sunday, April 2nd (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS (and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+).

So many artists, too little time.

Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini were co-hosts again and for good reason. They fed off each other, had fun, entertained us with jokes and eating famous Texas bbq on air. After all, we’re known for some of the best in the land. We love that Ballerini takes a stand and speaks up for inclusiveness and her set with the drag queens was gorgeous and made a statement.

After an emotional opening by Ballerini, honoring the Nashville school shooting victims, the night kicked off in high gear with the king, Blake Shelton (who was here with wife, Stefani) singing “Nobody”. Full line dancers and screaming fans included.

The set itself was incredible and planned out well- with several stages, gorgeous lighting, and Austin scenery. High tech all around with scenes displaying everywhere in the venue, even the ceiling. Huge video screens and a packed house made this a nonstop fun and entertaining night. The fans were up front and center (unlike most awards shows where there are rows of seats for the nominees and guests in the front near the stage). It was clear that this was fan driven from the start- including free admission to all the concerts and tapings leading up to the actual live show on Sunday night. Many artists did pre-tapings including Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker & The Black Crowes, Tyler Hubbard, Chapel Hart, Russell Dickerson, Keith Urban, and more.

Check out videos from the show on CMT.

The show was packed with killer collabs and performances. The coolest dude of the night (decked in art shirt, hat, sunglasses) Austin’s own Gary Clark Jr. had the house rockin’ to honor Austin’s Stevie Ray Vaughan with “The House is Rockin” with his killer band.

In addition to week long cool events at various locations around Austin, the award show held its first show in Austin after many years in Nashville. And we’re pumped that they did. The show was fire! We’re especially happy about our incredible local artists like Gary Clark Jr. who was added to the show lineup. This year is an eclectic mix from rock, blues, and country to please any music lovers.

Texas & local shoutouts

We love that there was a clear Texas and Austin presence, and so many with Texas roots, with the artist and presenter lineups. Midland, Gary Clark Jr., Jackie Venson, Lainey Wilson Parker Mccollum, LeAnn Rimes, Cody Johnson, Randy Rogers, Megan Thee Stallion, The Bros Fresh, ZZ Top/Billy Gibbons, and more.

Our favorite moments and highlights.

Skynyrd Tribute finale

By far the highlight of the night was the finale, all-star Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute that included rockers Billy Gibbons, Chuck Leavell, Cody Johnson, Paul Rodgers, Slash, & Warren Haynes who honored the iconic band and original founding member Gary Rossington, with LeAnn Rimes & Wynonna Judd joining as “The Honkettes”. Veteran Nashville studio and touring musicians Ethan Pilzer and Rich Redmond complete the lineup on bass and drums. The celebration comes 50 years after the launch of the band’s debut album, following the recent passing of final original founding member, guitarist Gary Rossington. It was unforgettable and to have Peter Frampton introduce them was memorable and special. They jammed on two big hits- a medley of “Simple Man” and “Sweet Home Alabama” and we couldn’t get enough-the crowd was on their feet singing every word. This crowd was not just country y’all- they were music fans!

Shania looked fabulous in her gorgeous red carpet glam plus her hot shorts purple sequin outfit and hat. She’s outspoken on hate and discrimination and won the big EQUAL PLAY AWARD for her groundbreaking, decades long work that paved the way for women in country music and radio play.

Wynonna with Ashley McBryde were gorgeous as a collab and it was emotional as Judd pointed to the sky in honor of her mama and said “You should be here”. They sang Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” and had the entire venue singing and crying. What strength it took for her to do what she did and it made the entire show.

Jelly Roll was clearly the fan favorite nominee (and took home 3 awards) and had the best speeches of the night, hands down. This underdog has come a long way and you need to read his story. He said “this is for the losers in house” and “we’re gonna shut down 6th street tonight!”. He was inspiring to so many as he shared his story and how he was a loser and a few years back said he wanted to be a country music singer and “here I am”. He sang his hit “Need a Favor’ which was backed by a full, beautiful gospel choir with marquee signage showing lyrics like “I only talk to God when I need a favor”.

Jelly Roll at CMT Awards

Gwen Stefani with Carly Pearce was high energy and brought us back with all the No Doubt vibes singing “Just a Girl”. The crowd freaked out at the collab, the production, the song, and the costumes, and performance.

Check out the complete CMT 2023 winners list.

See all our photos and coverage from the awards on Austin 101.

We secretly hoped we might have a Willie Nelson sighting (our local legend who turns 90 this month) and possibly epic guitarist Charlie Sexton, but that didn’t happen.


There were so many insanely talented artists at this year’s show: Alanis Morissette + Ingrid Andress, Lainey Wilson, Madeline Edwards and Morgan Wade, Blake Shelton, Carly Pearce, Carrie Underwood, Cody Johnson, Gwen Stefani + Carly Pearce, Jelly Roll, Kane Brown + Katelyn Brown, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Lainey Wilson, The Black Crowes + Darius Rucker, Tyler Hubbard, and Wynonna Judd + Ashley McBryde (more info). Avery Anna, Chapel Hart, Jackson Dean, Lily Rose, Megan Moroney and Nate Smith perform from the Ram Trucks Side Stage (more info).

NOMINATIONS: Lainey Wilson (4x) leads; Cody Johnson, co-host Kane Brown and first time nominee Jelly Roll (3x) follow (full list).
VOTING: Voting for “Video of the Year” remains active through the show at

If you missed the show, you can watch it-CMT MUSIC AWARDS EXTENDED CUT: Premieres Thursday, April 6th (8:00-11:30 PM ET/PT) on CMT featuring 30 extra minutes of new performances and bonus content.

Celebrated for its high-powered, world-premiere and cross-genre performances, the CMT MUSIC AWARDS have aired live since 2005, delivering Nashville’s biggest party to music fans across the globe. The 2022 show, hosted by superstars Anthony Mackie, Kelsea Ballerini and Kane Brown, featured performances from country music’s biggest stars with epic first-time collaborations and cross-genre pairings, including Jimmie Allen, Monica + Little Big Town, Kenny Chesney, Mickey Guyton + Black Pumas, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris + Ryan Hurd, Keith Urban, the last televised performance from legendary duo The Judds, and Carrie Underwood, who remains the most-awarded artist in CMT Awards history with 25 wins. 2022 CMT MUSIC AWARDS highlights here.

Check out all our CMT awards week coverage on Austin 101 Magazine.

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