Chris Stapleton was the big winner at the 2015 CMA Awards, taking home trophies in all three of the categories in which he was nominated. The singer won New Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, for Traveller, and Male Vocalist of the Year, and he says that the experience was "surreal."

"... Very unbelievable," Stapleton told The Boot and other reporters backstage after the awards ceremony. "It’s a wonderful feeling. And it’s a lot of love. I feel a lot of love."

The singer-songwriter is widely respected by the music industry and fellow artists, partially due to his history as a hit songwriter and his time as a member of the SteelDrivers; however, as an artist, he's been somewhat shunned by radio. Still, when given the opportunity to criticize radio programmers during his time in the press room, Stapleton refused to throw stones.

"Everybody has an opinion, and that’s okay," the singer-songwriter says. "We haven’t been played on country radio as much as we would like to be. Certainly we’re open to that. We’ve gotten a lot of support from folks like yourselves saying good things about us, and also [from] some other radio outlets and Sirius. We’ve had so many supporters, and a lot in country radio, too. Hopefully we can get more, and we’re looking forward to all those things.

"I don’t think there’s any one right way to do things necessarily," he continues. "I think it’s important to try to find your own way, and certainly we try to do things the way that we thought we could do them, and get it done."

As for the lack of acknowledgement that Stapleton has had until now, the Kentucky native insists that he holds no hard feelings.

"I feel very loved by the awards, 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," he acknowledges. "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.

"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," he adds. "Nobody gets anywhere by hating on somebody else’s music. What’s the point? It doesn’t make any sense to me."

Stapleton easily gave the most jaw-dropping performance of the night, singing with Justin Timberlake on Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away." Surprisingly, the Kentucky native insists that he wasn't at all nervous to share the stage with one of pop music's reigning superstars.

"I’m never afraid to get on stage and sing and play music," Stapleton says. "That’s my happy place, so that doesn’t make me nervous. I know who was standing next to me, but at the same time, he’s so great and a wonderful person and makes music even more fun. That was the least of my worries, getting up and playing tonight.

"The thing I’m most afraid of is saying the wrong thing in a [press] room like this," he continues. "You guys are more scary to me than that."

Purchase Traveller on Amazon and iTunes.

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