The CMT Awards kick up the country in Austin

If this is Austin ...

Photo courtesy CMT

For the first time ever, the CMT Awards kicked the dust off of Nashville and headed to the Lone Star State! CMT hosted free star-studded events throughout the week in Austin, all leading up to the big show at the Moody Center on Sunday, April 2. Here's everything that went down during the 2023 CMT Music Awards in Austin.

First, pre-show tapings happened all week long. Tyler Hubbard, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Kane Brown, and Katelyn Brown all recorded performances in front of the Capitol building on Congress Avenue. But it was CMT Crossroads that really rocked: Airing on CMT in May, the special features Darius Rucker and The Black Crows singing their most famous hits, including one from Hootie and the Blowfish.

Fans who couldn't make it to the main event could also attend a block party. The two-day, family-friendly event featured free live music, artist meet-and-greets, swag, games, and more. Guests could also take advantage of multiple chances to win tickets to the awards. CBS Austin's Trevor Scott hosted the parties, and both days featured DJ sets from Austinite DJ Cassandra. Performers included Hannah Ellis, Matt Koziol, Danielle Bradbery, and more.

As for the big show, the aqua carpet (red carpets are so last year) was packed with up-and-comers, musicians you've known and loved for years, and so many media outlets. The University of Texas band and cheerleaders even performed. On the outside portion of the carpet, fans could see entrances from big stars like Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, host Kelsea Ballerini and her beau, Outer Banks star Chase Stokes.

Getting things started on the live show, Shelton kicked things off by saying, "If this is Austin, I still love you!" He then performed his newest hit "No Body" against a neon backdrop that highlighted guitars, cowboy hats, and the Austin sign that once stood above the Real World Austin house. It was awesome to see how the Moody Center was transformed for the event with not a bad seat in the house.

Austin's own Gary Clark Jr. paid tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan while Jackie Venson played guitar for Female Video of the Year winner Lainey Wilson. Texans Cody Johnson and Billy Gibbons honored Lynyrd Skynyrd alongside Slash, Paul Rogers, Chuck Leavell, Warren Hayes, Wynonna Judd, and LeAnn Rimes. Other collaborations included Gwen Stefani performing "Just a Girl" with Carly Pearce and Alanis Morissette rocking "You Oughta Know" alongside a group of CMT's Next Women of Country.

The big winner of the night was Jelly Roll, snagging three CMT Awards for Breakthrough Male Video of the Year, CMT Digital-First Performance of the Year and Male Video of the Year. All three awards were for his song "Son of A Sinner" which he performed to a roaring crowd at the event. Upon winning Male Video, the rapper turned country singer got choked up saying, "I'm a little emotional. I started drinking. I didn't think I'd win again."

All in all, the entire week was filled with high energy and good vibes. Here's hoping it keeps going country strong here in Austin in 2024 and beyond!

If you missed the live show, CMT will air CMT MUSIC AWARDS EXTENDED CUT with an added 30 minutes of new performances and extra bonus content on Thursday, April 6, at 7 pm on CMT.

CMT Awards Carrie Underwood

Photo courtesy CMT

Carrie Underwood graced Austin with her presence last week.

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Austin 'Top Chef' winner emerges after controversy to open upscale Mexican restaurant, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From cross-country tours to best-in-state colleges and snacks, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Austin 'Top Chef' winner emerges after controversy to open upscale Mexican restaurant. Bacalar has opened after years of preparation and controversy surrounding the chef's departure from his last role.

2. Nebraska Furniture Mart to bring massive new store and 700 jobs to Austin suburb. NFM will anchor a development that will include a 250-room hotel and 30,000-square-foot convention center.

3. Hello Kitty Cafe Truck says hi to Austin on cross-country tour. Among the new items is a bright pink tote bag with rainbow straps and desserts decorating the front, and an assortment of Hello Kitty baked goods.

4. UT Austin rises to the top in new list of best Texas schools for 2024. UT Austin claimed No. 2 in Texas, and ranked No. 32 nationally. It fared similarly in Niche's list of top public universities.

5. How to get every possible discount at the 2023 State Fair of Texas. The fair starts its 24-day run at Fair Park in Dallas on September 29, bringing with it music, games, food, and more.

R&B singer Mélat epitomizes the independent Austin music experience in new album

local releases

Even though Mélat is always busy — appearing in seemingly every major community showcase — she hasn't released a new album in four years. That is, until today.

Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men — with an appropriately grandiose title for the R&B singer's prodigal return — is out on September 29, with 14 gooey tracks incorporating everything from trap beats to gospel harmonies. It follows up 2019's After All: Episode One, with similarly spacious orchestrations and a little more confidence this time around on the songwriter's part.

"I feel like [after] going through COVID and all the things that have happened in the past four years ... it's the dawning of a new era for me," says Mélat. "I feel like I've shed a significant amount of fear, and doubt, and all these things that as humans we have to work to get off of ourselves. It feels like a new beginning for me."

The title of this "foundational" album, in Mélat's words, reaches back to two EPs that the singer has since grown out of, but represented a similar feeling of self-definition as her first-ever releases. First was Canon Aphaea, then Canon Ourania; Both referenced Greek goddesses. This time, Metis — Zeus' first wife, a Titan goddess, and the embodiment of wisdom — was the inspiration.

M\u00e9lat Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal MenThe album cover ties in "Easter Eggs" from Black woman-owned brands: fashion by Savage X Fenty, Black Girl Magic wine by McBride Sisters Wine Company, and an Ethiopian necklace referencing the singer's heritage.Shot by Marshall Tidrick

The subtitle comes from humbler origins than it sounds; probably something she read on Wikipedia, Mélat says, but definitely borrowed nonetheless. The quote also gives a name to a track in which the singer speaks semi-candidly about false idols and the wisdom to duck away from the judgment of "mere mortals."

"I'm like a lot of people in that I can be my worst my own worst critic," she says. "I hate my speaking voice, but I put it on the album [because] my gut was telling me, no, this needs to be said. There are songs that were cut from the album [that were part of] the plan the whole time."

Much of Mélat's local pull comes from her transparency about being an independent artist, which she discusses often on social media and will surely expound upon more when the Austin chapter of Women in Music launches later this year, with her on the leadership team. Nothing about working without a label is foreign to Austin musicians (although the landscape is slowly growing), and the singer confirms that she doesn't "know any other way to do it," but hints of that freedom shine through some tracks.

"Canon Metis," the opening track, pieces together a sort of trailer for the rest of the album with atmospheric synths and spoken announcements by disembodied femme voices — a softly futuristic approach. But "Lambs to Lions" and "The Now" deliver nostalgia via backup vocals and instrumental stylings, while "I.D.M.T.L.Y. (Freestyle)" pares things down to a simple phone recording that the songwriter and her close collaborator, sound engineer, and manager, Pha The Phenom, chose not to develop any further.

No through-lines were questioned. Nothing needed to be justified, except to each other. Both have gotten into meditating, anyway, so it's all about feel.

"I feel like I've gathered all this wisdom," Mélat says. "You can't really trust the quote-unquote gods, which are the shiny things that will distract you ... and you can't really worry too much about the judgment of others, because everybody's just human. I need to do what feels right for me."

There is no tour planned to promote the album yet, but given the singer's track record, it won't be long until something is on the books. A music video for "So Help Me God," incorporates AI technology via Kaiber AI, will be released on October 4.

Listen to Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men on your favorite streaming platform.

Unique art sale champions thousands of works by Austin artists who may not have homes

art everywhere

The streets of Austin reveal a vibrant artistic spirit if you know where to look. Art From the Streets (AFTS), a nonprofit uplifting unhoused artists, invites art lovers to discover this local creativity at the annual Art Show & Sale on October 21-22.

Art from the Streets sale

Photo courtesy of Art From The Streets

Onlookers look through hundreds of unique art pieces by unhoused Austinites.

Art From the Streets has announced its 31st Annual Art Show & Sale at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, best known for its holiday market. This two-day event will showcase thousands of original artworks from unhoused and at-risk artists in the Austin area, from compelling portraits to vibrant abstracts, all while supporting an amazing creative community.

Attending this event gives the Austin community the special opportunity to meet these artists, hear their stories, and purchase their one-of-a-kind creations, with 95 percent of the art sale proceeds going directly to the artists themselves.

In turn, it provides platform for the artists to proudly display their works, coming into the arts scene in an official, marketable capacity. It brings visibility to their skills and lets them earn income from their passion.

"We believe that these artistic endeavors form a pathway to self-determination, and we invite the Austin community to join us this October in supporting these artists by making connections and purchasing some amazing art," said AFTS executive director Kelley Worden in a press release.

Volunteers form the backbone of AFTS by assisting with a wide range of tasks, from facilitating art creation sessions to helping with exhibition setup and more; the funds that AFTS collects through donations and art sales are directly funneled back into supporting these volunteers' efforts, providing art supplies, covering exhibition costs, and supplying other resources needed to uplift the unhoused artists in the Austin community.

The 31st Annual Art From the Streets Show & Sale will be held at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar from October 21-22. Attendance is free and open to the public, with a suggested $5 donation at the door to help support AFTS' mission of empowering unhoused artists. RSVP on Eventbrite.