"I wish I had somebody like Brandi when I was coming up," Tanya Tucker said during the 2019 CMT Next Women of Country event in downtown Nashville on Tuesday (Nov. 12), her arm around Brandi Carlile. "Now God's given me a little Brandi. I think he kicked her off a cloud and said, 'Get down there and help that girl.'"

The pair were standing onstage at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Carlile had just announced Tucker as the headliner of the 2020 CMT Next Women of Country Tour. The surprise came as a fitting end to this year's event, which also showcased the newly unveiled Next Women of Country Class of 2020 and saw Carlile win the 2020 CMT Impact Award. On next year's tour, Tucker will get the opportunity to be the kind of "little Brandi" to young artists that she wishes she'd had in her early days.

Carlile has long been a Tucker superfan, but in 2019, Carlile also became Tucker's producer. She teamed up with Shooter Jennings to helm Tucker's first new album in 17 years, While I'm Livin'also co-writing a majority of its songs. Since then, she's continued to champion the singer, joining her as a surprise guest at shows and collaborating with her on additional projects. At Tuesday's event, Tucker explained that Carlile has changed the way she feels about being an ambassador for women in country, too.

"I remember when I first started out, people would never put two women on the same show. I never could understand that," she reflected. "I'm so proud that this is all happening. I'm so glad to be a part of it. Brandi has taught me a lot of things about some the issues the are going on in this country, especially regarding women, and I am so glad to be asked to do this this year.

"So I wanna thank her, and I am so glad to be able to showcase and bring on tour some of the up-and-coming girls in this business," Tucker continued slyly, "because let me tell you something: All the boys are starting to sound a lot alike. They're all wearing the same kind of hat. And we all wear our own kind of hat, and we all sound different, and we're all individuals ...

"There's some wonderful talent coming up," she added, "and I think you can see some of it tonight."

There undoubtedly was. The announcement that Tucker would be headlining the CMT Next Women of Country Tour was bookended by performances from the incoming class of CMT Next Women of Country, unveiled by country legend Martina McBride and event head Leslie Fram, senior vice president of music strategy and talent at CMT. Abbey Cone, Avenue Beat, Caylee Hammack, Gabby Barrett, Hailey Whitters, Kylie Morgan, Madison Kozak, Renee Blair, Sykamore, Tiera and Walker County each delivered an acoustic performance of one of their songs during an in-the-round style, two-part show.

In between sets from the incoming Next Women of Country roster, Carlile also took her own turn in the spotlight to accept CMT's Impact Award. The singer's track record of championing artists such as Tucker is only part of the reason she was selected for the honor; Carlile also uses almost every aspect of her career to spotlight the female artists she supports. From her now-annual, all-female Girls Just Wanna Weekend to her position as one-fourth of the Highwomen, few performers have done more to enhance women's role in country music this year.

When she took the stage to accept her award, Carlile explained that she had written down notes for her speech on a picture that her oldest daughter had made for her earlier that day. Her children were at the forefront of her mind as she explained why it's so important to her that country music tells all of its listeners' stories.

"Because if country music is the story of rural America, then what is the story that we're telling to our young girls? I mean, I don't know about you guys, but country music raised me," Carlile related. "It was the only music I was allowed to listen to, the only music I had access to, and I'm really proud of that. I love it. And I think a lot of people that are involved in country music in this town, they know that, and they're already there. What we're hoping, and what we're inviting, country radio to do is catch up."

Carlile then addressed those in the room whose jobs are tied to country radio: "Ask yourself the question every morning before you go to work: 'What do I want my job to say to my daughter today?'" she concluded. "Because she's an "American Girl," "She's in Love With the Boy," she needs "Wide Open Spaces," she's a "Wild One." She's more than a pair of blue jeans in the cab of a truck."

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