NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Toby Keith says he has a healthier perspective about award shows than he once did, back when he copped a case of "sour grapes" for getting passed over.
It's a good thing, too, because Keith has a lot to gain and a lot to lose at tonight's 37th Annual Country Music Association Awards. He's nominated seven times - more than any other artist.
The show airs at 8 p.m. EST live from the Grand Ole Opry House on CBS.
Keith, a native of Moore, Okla., is nominated for best entertainer, male vocalist, and album of the year for "Unleashed." "Beer For My Horses," a collaboration with Willie Nelson, is nominated for best song, single, music video and vocal event.
Keith, whose other hits include "I Wanna Talk About Me," "Who's Your Daddy," and "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue," has long been a popular choice for nominations. Over the years he's received 18 from the CMA alone, not to mention the ones he's gotten from the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Television for their annual awards shows.
But the nominations haven't produced as many awards as Keith would like. Despite his multi-platinum sales success, he's won only one CMA award - male vocalist of the year in 2001.
"Early on I was sour grapes, and I think I had the right to be," he said.
Now, Keith says, "I appreciate those things and I'm glad that I'm being recognized, but you have to put them in the proper perspective. ... My reward is in album and ticket sales."
Tonight's show includes a tribute to the late Johnny Cash. The 12-time Grammy winner died Sept. 12 at age 71 of complications from diabetes. Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Travis Tritt and Hank Williams Jr. will perform Cash's music.
Cash also is nominated for four CMA awards this year, two involving his rendition of a song by rock act Nine Inch Nails.
CMA voters - about 5,000 industry insiders who belong to the association - nominated Cash before his death for best single and video for "Hurt," a song about drug addiction written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The video show at his now-closed museum in Hendersonville features a frail Cash along with wife June Carter Cash, who died in May.
Cash also is nominated for best album ("American IV: The Man Comes Around") and vocal event of the year for "Tears in the Holston River" with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
"A lot of people are picking him to win in at least two categories - video and album of the year," said Ed Benson, executive director of the CMA.
Meanwhile, the Dixie Chicks, country music's most controversial act this year, are nominated for vocal group and album of the year for "Home."
Singer Natalie Maines upset many country fans when she told a London audience shortly before the Iraq war that the group was "ashamed" President Bush is from Texas.
Maines apologized for the phrasing of her remark, but some radio stations banned their singles.
"People have told me they didn't think the Dixie Chicks would get any nominations because of the controversy," Benson said. "The fact that they got into two categories shows that the voters are discounting the stuff they said and are focusing on the music and the quality of the act."
The Dixie Chicks do not plan to attend tonight's awards, the group's Nashville spokeswoman said Tuesday.