In September, shortly after the nominees for the 2015 CMA Awards were announced, The Boot argued that at this year's awards ceremony, country music newcomers such as Kelsea BalleriniChris Stapleton, Maddie & Tae and Sam Hunt could give established artists a run for their money. And while the newbies didn't completely overtake Country Music's Biggest Night in 2015, their four combined wins are big news.

True, Ballerini and Hunt went home empty handed. However, to see Ballerini snatch away Miranda Lambert's Female Vocalist of the Year reign (and also win out over powerhouse Carrie Underwood) or Hunt claim a Song of the Year or Single of the Year victory over Little Big Town's "Girl Crush" (a fan and critic favorite) would have been perhaps too big of an upset. While it would have been nice to see the fresh faces of Ballerini and Hunt onstage to accept an award, and while they absolutely deserved their nominations, they were both "dark horses," so to speak.

But the dark horse sometimes wins. Case in point: Stapleton, who had a banner night, both with his too-good-for-words collaboration with Justin Timberlake (seriously, we cannot. stop. watching. that performance -- and neither can the rest of the internet) and with his clean sweep of the three categories in which he was nominated. The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter pulled off an epic trifecta by winning not only New Artist of the Year, but also Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. And while Album of the Year is a biggie, Male Vocalist of the Year came as the biggest shock, both to Stapleton and to viewers.

Country music fans are used to hearing Stapleton's songwriting -- he’s previously had success as the writer behind songs by George StraitTim McGraw and pop singer Adele, among others -- but as an artist, not so much. His debut solo record, Traveller, peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and earned a Top 20 spot on the Top 200 (No. 14), but it hasn't received much radio play, so for Stapleton to best Luke BryanBlake SheltonDierks Bentley and Eric Church for Male Vocalist -- well, even those who were pulling for him were surprised, not to mention Stapleton himself, who was seemingly more and more stunned each time he made his way to the stage for a new trophy.

“This is an unbelievable thing," he reflected while receiving Male Vocalist of the Year, "and I’m not going to take it lightly.”

We all are out here, and anybody that’s in here tonight, making music and working to the degree that it takes to be in the room, deserves the respect, and I think that of everybody that is out playing music.

Backstage, Stapleton admitted that his wins made him "feel very loved ... but I don’t feel like music is a war or it’s a battle or anything like that, and I think people have a tendency to try to make it into that.

"We all are out here, and anybody that’s in here tonight, making music and working to the degree that it takes to be in the room, deserves the respect, and I think that of everybody that is out playing music," he says. "If you don’t like a certain kind of music, that’s fine. It’s just not for you. If you like another kind of music, that’s great. Then listen to that. Nobody gets anywhere by hating on somebody else’s music. What’s the point? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

As for Maddie & Tae -- was there any doubt that Music Video of the Year truly belonged to them? Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye's debut single, “Girl in a Country Song,” and its laugh-out-loud funny music video, catapulted them to country stardom and got the country music industry talking. The young women are the perfect "how to make a splash at the start of your career" case study, and to see them not take home Music Video of the Year would have been just plain wrong.

“This whole video revolved around the role reversal that we really, really wanted to make intentional. If the song didn’t make it obvious, we wanted the video to,” Maddie Marlow told The Boot and other reporters backstage at the 2015 CMA Awards. “We were so grateful to have a team that was extremely up for being bold … So we’re just very, very [grateful] for a team that believed in that and got behind a crazy concept like that.”

As the video's director, TK McKamy, explains, the "Girl in a Country Song" clip "give[s] the audience something that they really didn’t know they wanted."

“... I have this theory that he who tells the best story wins, and I believe that’s what this was,” says McKamy, whose Music Video of the Year victory, as director, is his first CMA Award. “... And the girls, obviously the song is great, and it pushed itself, and that’s what it takes, a great story and a great song, so I’m very pleased.”

Great stories and great songs are two things that Maddie & Tae and Stapleton -- and all of the country newcomers nominated at the 2015 CMA Awards, really -- have in common, and with those in their back pockets, it will be exciting to see where they go from here.

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