The 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards nominees were announced earlier today, and there were plenty of surprises, a few easy picks and a lot of elated artists.

"I'm still on cloud nine from last ACMs. I had such an amazing time last year," Miranda Lambert, who leads the pack of nominations with seven, including Entertainer of the Year, tells CMT. "I set a goal for myself when I was 17 that I wanted to be nominated for Entertainer of the Year, and ten years later, here I am. I know I have tons of work ahead of me to take a crown like that, and I love that because it puts the drive in me. I have my foot in the door in this category, and the fact that I'm nominated is amazing. I'll keep working my butt off, and one day I'll win it, hopefully."

Jamey Johnson, nominated for two ACM Awards -- Album of the Year for 'The Guitar Song' and Vocal Event of the Year for his collaboration on Colt Ford's single, 'Cold Beer' -- says the industry recognition is for everyone who has helped him along the way. "The triumph of a gold-selling double album is shared by my family, my friends/bandmates/producers, my staff, my label, my booking agents, my publishers, my management, my publicists, my handlers, my wranglers, my fans, my dog, Willie's braids and that beautiful brunette in Toledo," Jamey says. "Thanks all for the hard work and dedication. You all deserve each accolade. And thanks to the Academy voters for the recognition."

Of his fellow nominee for 'Cold Beer,' Jamey had nothing but high-praise for the outspoken artist. "If working with Colt in the studio was a ball, touring with him on the road with the Grascals and Hank Williams, Jr. was several balls," Jamey jokes. "He's a unique artist in a day where uniquity is not usually rewarded. I'm proud to be nominated alongside my friend."

"I never dreamed I would get a nomination for anything," first-time nominee Colt Ford says. "I just wanted to make a good song with my friend Jamey. I am so humbled to even be mentioned with the amazing artists in this category. I promise no one is more grateful than me!"

Lee Brice, who received three ACM nods, was awakened early in the morning to learn the good news. "Wow! What a way to start the day!" he says. "I'm out on the west coast deep in dreamland and my hotel phone starts ringing at 5:30 AM. It's such an honor just to be nominated and such a boost personally after putting so much time and work into this."

Kenny Chesney has five ACM nods -- the most of any male solo artist this year. He's particularly proud of the Album recognition. "In making 'Hemingway's Whiskey,' it was important for me to push myself and my audience while at the same time staying true to who I am as an artist," he says. "That's why I'm so proud of this album and even more proud of the nomination for ACM Album of the Year."

The JaneDear Girls -- Susie Brown and Danelle Leverett -- are nominated for Top Vocal Duo of the Year. The recognition, they say, is the icing on the cake of their whirlwind year. "I am speechless – I can't believe we have been nominated for Top Vocal Duo of the Year!" Danelle gushes. "I remember playing out acoustically with Susie in backyards and colleges, living on taco soup, like it was yesterday. This doesn't seem real."

"This year has been such an amazing year so far!" Susie adds. "We are out on our very first tour with Jason Aldean, we just found out that we've broken the Top 15 with our first single 'Wildflower,' last night we performed for the first time on live TV on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' and today we released our debut album across the country. Now to be nominated for ACM's Top Vocal Duo of the Year is so overwhelming, and I feel deeply honored to be in a category with so many amazing artists. I just want to thank all the wonderful radio stations and fans that believe in us and have embraced us so warmly. We can't wait to see all of your smiling faces in 2011!"

The Randy Rogers Band, who received their third nomination for Top Vocal Group of the Year, say it means as much for their entire team as it does for the group. "It means the world to the band and crew," Randy says. "We take this seriously, and it's our livelihood, so being included in a category that is recognized nationally like that is validating for us for sure ... I am proud to represent all of the hard-working touring bands who are in the trenches playing 200 shows a year that have strong fan bases."

Newcomer Easton Corbin received three nominations, including Song of the Year. He admits his recent success, which includes three ACA awards and a Top 10 album, is a bit surreal. "This is a dream come true," he says. "This is something I've wanted all my life. To be able to do this for a living and have people like it, I couldn't ask for any better. I am so blessed ... I always like to thank everybody and God for giving me this opportunity, and for everybody accepting my music. I've had a lot of great people that I've worked with who gave me a chance. Without that chance, I wouldn't be here. And of course I'd like to thank the fans."

Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban took to Twitter to expess their appreciation. "Not much sleep, songs in head. But hearing that ['Up on the Ridge'] was nominated for ACM Album of the Year is like a really strong cup of good good coffee,' Dierks tweeted. "I want to start by saying a HUGE thanks to the ACM and the voters. Really special album for me. But it all comes down to the fans on this ... Of course I got to thank my girls back home."

Keith, nominated for three ACM trophies, including Entertainer of the Year, started his day on a high note after hearing the good news. "Goodness gracious!!!!! Absolutely beaming hearing the news this morning about our ACM nominations," he posted. "Can't wait to get to Vegas, and hopefully get the chance to actually say thank you."

The ACM Awards will air live from Las Vegas on April 3 at 8:00 PM ET.