The Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards celebrate the best of the year in nine states

One night about ten years ago, country radio talent and Greeley native Shawn Patrick was thinking about how he could honor the local country music scene and bring it to light.

“I knew a lot of these talented bands weren’t getting the recognition they deserved,” says Patrick, who directs programming at iHeartRadio country stations in Loveland, Greeley, northern Colorado and Cheyenne, Wyoming. It also hosts The Shawn Patrick Showa country radio show in ninety markets nationwide.

“Looking back, I wanted to finally bring everyone together in one room and thank this incredible pool of talent from Colorado and Wyoming,” Patrick recalls. “Having an awards ceremony was one way to do that.

He pitched the concept to iHeartRadio, who agreed to assume the financial risk, and the Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards were launched in 2016, with Patrick as the main founder. Since then, the event has grown. “It snowballed into something really cool, with nine states participating,” notes Patrick.

In 2017 Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas joined Colorado and Wyoming as participants, between 2017 and 2019 New Mexico, Montana and North Dakota followed suit .

On Saturday, February 19, Rocky Mountain area candidates will meet at Union Colony Civic Center in downtown Greeley to celebrate the 2022 Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards. Tickets on the show and the live streaming option are still available.

Singer-songwriter Caitlin Quisenberry, who moved from Denver to Nashville a year ago to pursue music full-time, is up for New Artist of the Year. She will perform an unplugged version of her single “Take only what you needat the awards ceremony.

“This nomination is very sentimental for me, as I am a fourth generation Colorado native, born and raised in Denver, and grew up singing in churches and choirs here, and that’s where I launched my career in country music,” Quisenberry said.

Clayton Smalley, of Spanish Fork, Utah, is up for the same prize as Quisenberry; he will perform an acoustic rendition of his latest song, “his guitar“, a true story about his grandmother who gave him his father’s 1935 Gibson guitar in 2019, after the release of his first EP, Whiskey Sunrise. “I didn’t know my great-grandfather played guitar. It still had the same strings since the last time he played it,” says Smalley. “It’s an honor to be able to play the song for everyone that night.”
Click to enlarge

Greeley native Shawn Patrick founded the Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards in 2016.

Shawn Patrick

Patrick says the 2022 RMCMAs are inspired by national award shows like the Country Music Awards and the Grammys. “When I was hosting the first event, the word ‘banquet’ kept coming back to me, and it was driving me crazy, because that’s exactly what I didn’t want it to be – a room full of tablecloths and tables. I wanted a true and elegant event as seen on television.

Newcomers to Saturday’s show can expect an evening of live music, laughs, the presentation of eleven awards to the best of the year and a host of celebrity presenters, including Craig Campbellwhich has four Top 25 country songs; young american, a Nashville act named CMA and ACM; the Ryan Beyer Experience, an act of local magic; and Longmont native Kody Lostroh, who was crowned Professional Bull Riders World Champion in 2009. Double Wide, a 90s comedy cover band, will also perform a song. Patrick, who leads the group, will be sporting his usual mullet wig and heavy mustache.

“The human eye can get bored, so we mix things up,” promises Patrick. “This year we put the drums on a moving wheel so they can roll and be in different places each time a band plays. And we have a giant screen that sits behind the bands that takes up the whole back part of the stage, which helps change the look with each act.”

Prizes will be awarded in the following categories: New Artist of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Venue of the Year, Event/Festival of the Year, Musician of the Year, Artist of the Year, and the Fan Army Award, which is the only fan-voted award.

Two specialty awards will also be presented: the Hadley Barrett Person of the Year Award and the Chris LeDoux Lifetime Achievement Award. The first honors the late Rodeo Hall of Fame announcer and is awarded to an individual in the music scene who has done incredible things for their community.

The Chris LeDoux Lifetime Achievement Award, which was inaugurated in memory of the late Wyoming singer-songwriter and former rodeo champion Chris Le Doux, is introduced to someone Patrick describes as “taking Rocky Mountain country music to new levels throughout his career”. A former recipient of the award is the country radio hitmaker Dierks Bentleywinner two years ago.

Kayla Ruby, who is up for female singer of the year, will perform her new single, “Ladies Night,” with her band. The Broomfield songwriter, who has been singing since she was a teenager — including a national anthem gig with the Denver Broncos for the past four years — says she’s proud to represent her home country. “It means the world to me! It’s such an honor to represent country music in the Rockies and Colorado region, and to be nominated alongside other powerful women in the genre. The full list of nominees can be viewed at RMCMA website.

Patrick says that to be eligible for an award, a band or artist must live in the nine-state area or have lived in one of the states for at least one year. Among other criteria, nominations are based on performances and/or releases that have taken place within the eighteen months preceding the date of the awards ceremony.

This year, it received about a thousand submissions. “Nominations come from pure votes from people in the industry, including bands, record labels, managers, publicists, crews and professionals involved in the music scene,” says Patrick. “We are announcing how to vote on our social and website two months before the awards ceremony.

Although fans could only vote for the Fan Army Award, a large portion of the submissions came from people outside of the industry. “About a third comes from fans every year, and those have to be thrown away,” says Patrick. It has a team that calculates legitimate submissions, as well as a silent ten-member committee that selects finalists.

Each of the eleven winners will win a $500 RMCMA bespoke belt buckle per Montana Silversmiths, a manufacturer known for the gold buckles featured at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Texas. In addition to the loop, based in Fort Collins OtterBox will give a cooler to each recipient.
Click to enlarge Nashville-based singer-songwriter, artist and Colorado native Clare Dunn is nominated in three categories.  -CLARE DUNN

Nashville-based singer-songwriter, artist and Colorado native Clare Dunn is nominated in three categories.

Claire Dunn

One of the former winners of the esteemed belt buckle is the country star Claire Dunnwho won Artist of the Year in 2020. Dunn, who grew up on his parents’ farm and cattle ranch in Two Buttes, southeastern Colorado, is up for three awards this year, including female singer of the year, song of the year for her single “Hold on for a cowboy“, and artist of the year again. She will perform the single on Saturday.

The singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer says this is the first time she’s attended the RMCMAs in person, though she was in town for the last one.

“I drove my van from Nashville to Colorado to spend a week with my family and go to the awards in March 2020,” Dunn recalled. “And the day of the show, I got a text from Shawn Patrick, letting me know it was canceled because of the pandemic.

She has not left her hometown since. “I’ve been hiding here, which has been incredibly liberating – being surrounded by family, nature, animals, helping and working the land like I did when I was younger.”

Being at home only deepened her creativity. Dunn wrote “safe haven”, a moving ballad wishing all safety and comfort during difficult times, and performed it during the virtual RMCMAs of April 2020. Last year, she released a five-song EP, In this kind of lightthat she produced in the basement of her family farm.

“I’m glad I got to live in Nashville for so many years, chasing my dreams,” says Dunn, who landed a record deal with Universal Music Group Nashville in 2014. (His Songs “pass,” “tuxedo” and “Following“everything is drawn on Billboard‘s Top Country Songs.) “But the silver lining that comes out of the pandemic is that creators like me have realized that we don’t have to live in Nashville to be part of country music. We can write and make music anywhere. I’m so excited about it!”

The 2022 Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards presented by iHeartRadio, 7 p.m. Saturday, February 19, Union Colony Civic Center, 701 10th Avenue in Greeley. Tickets at the show for all ages are $12 to $60; live streaming is also available for a fee.