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Little Big Town Set to Make Big Splash at CMA Awards

FILE - Phillip Sweet, from left, Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook, of Little Big Town, arrive at the CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, June 10, 2015.

Everyone's crushing on Little Big Town — including the Country Music Association.

The foursome is nominated for five CMA Awards on Wednesday, including album of the year for their million-selling effort, "Pain Killer," as well as single of the year for "Girl Crush," one of the year's most popular — and semi-controversial — songs.

"We poured so much of our lives into the 'Painkiller' record. I know every artist does, so when you are part of those five spots that are honored, it just means so much," band member Karen Fairchild said in a recent interview.

The group, which includes Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet, is also nominated for music video of the year for "Girl Crush," musical event of the year for "Smokin' and Drinkin'" with Miranda Lambert and vocal group of the year, which it has won for the last three years.

"Girl Crush," which has sold 1.8 million tracks and topped Billboard's Hot Country songs chart, is about a woman who is obsessed with another woman because she's with the guy she desires. The song was pulled from some country radio stations because of its lyrics. It opens with the line: "I've got a girl crush, hate to admit it but ..."

The ballad is also nominated for song of the year, a songwriter's award. Liz Rose, who wrote the song with Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey, says she was thrilled Little Big Town loved the song because she didn't think anyone would record it.

"We played them the stuff that we had been writing, and I said, 'Well we've got one more and it's weird. It's obscure and ya'll ain't going to cut it,'" Rose said. "And halfway through, [Fairchild] is looking at me and Lori and Hillary like, 'Are you crazy? Why would we not cut this?'"

While Little Big Town may go home from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, with top awards, they're not up for the biggest honor: entertainer of the year.

Eric Church, who also has five nominations, is nominated for the top prize, pitting him against Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney and last year's winner, Luke Bryan.

Church will also perform onstage: He will open the show with Hank Williams Jr. Other paired performances include Keith Urban with John Mellencamp, Thomas Rhett with Fall Out Boy and Justin Timberlake with Chris Stapleton, who is nominated for album, male vocalist and new artist of the year.

"All of them were a surprise," Stapleton, a popular songwriter, said of his nominations. "CMA Awards are a very straight country radio-driven thing. I don't have a lot of that presence and I am sure there are a lot of people going, 'Who in the hell is this guy?' But thankfully, I guess I have a lot of fans in the industry who are like, 'Watch this, we're going to vote for him.'"

Sam Hunt, also nominated for new artist, is the only breakthrough act competing for both song and single of the year with his No. 1 hit "Take Your Time," which he co-wrote.

"It's kind of like being on the radio for the first time," Hunt said of his nominations. "It's like you're in the company of your peeps and the company you're in, they are the pros. They are the best."

Hunt will also hit the stage, as will Blake Shelton, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Aldean, Little Big Town, Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEntire, Dierks Bentley and Kelsea Ballerini. Presenters at the show, airing live on ABC at 8 p.m.

Eastern and hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, include Lee Ann Womack, Darius Rucker, Edie Brickell, Steve Martin and members of the U.S. women's soccer team.

Brooks, who marked a comeback last year with his first album in 13 years, said he's excited to be nominated for entertainer of the year as a country veteran.

"How great is it to get this honor this late in your career? Very sweet, very sweet, 'cause careers are for young people and new artists," he said.

"The truth is I am just going with the most gorgeous woman on the planet," he added as he hugged his wife, singer Trisha Yearwood. "And I will be leaving with the most gorgeous woman on the planet."