From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
THE BAND PERRY

NOMINATED FOR TOP VOCAL GROUP

DOWNLOAD: "All Your Life"

The trio, who took home the ACM award for Top New Artist in 2011, liked this ballad the second they heard it. "We fell in love with it immediately," says Kimberly Perry. "It's about a want for love, and it's very pure." Audiences loved it too: The song became the group's second No. 1 hit. "It's about a girl daydreaming over somebody loving her forever," she says. "That rang true to the three of us. We spent the last three years trying to win the hearts of country music fans."



HUNTER HAYES

NOMINATED FOR TOP NEW ARTIST

DOWNLOAD: "Wanted"

After scoring a Top 20 hit with his debut single, "Storm Warning," the 20-year-old singer returns with a song he wrote as a "slow love letter" for a special girl who left him tongue-tied.



ELI YOUNG BAND

NOMINATED FOR TOP VOCAL GROUP

DOWNLOAD: "Even If It Breaks Your Heart"

The band follows up "Crazy Girl" with a song about keeping the faith. "It's the perfect song to describe our careers, but it works for anybody following their dreams," says bassist Jon Jones.



MONTGOMERY GENTRY

NOMINATED FOR TOP VOCAL DUO

DOWNLOAD: "Damn, Baby"

Troy Gentry and Eddie Montgomery channeled their blue-collar roots-and a little Alabama and Waylon Jennings-for what Gentry calls "a manly-sounding love song." "It's about the effect a woman has on a man," he says. "It's just 'Damn, baby. You do this to me.' It says it all in the name of the song."



CHRIS YOUNG

NOMINATED FOR TOP MALE VOCALIST

DOWNLOAD: "I Can Take It from There"

"It's one of the sexier songs on my current record, Neon," says Young, who clearly knows a good song when he hears one-his latest single, "You," is his fifth consecutive No. 1 hit. "I really love playing it live; I get a whole lot of reactions to it."



SCOTTY McCREERY

NOMINATED FOR TOP NEW ARTIST

DOWNLOAD: "Walk in the Country"

The American Idol champ racked up two Top 20 singles last year with "I Love You This Big" and "The Trouble with Girls" and went from high school student to Nashville star. Now the 18-year-old Garner, N.C., native is back with a song dedicated to a simpler life. "It's about forgetting the rat race, getting out in the country, living life and having fun," says McCreery of the song, written by Keith Urban. "That's something I try to do. When it gets to be too much, I go home."



LOVE AND THEFT

NOMINATED FOR TOP VOCAL DUO

DOWNLOAD: "Angel Eyes"

For their first single as a duo, Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker Liles sing about "a preacher's daughter with a wild side," says Gunderson. "She might be an angel, but she's also got a little devil in there," says Liles.



BRANTLEY GILBERT

NOMINATED FOR TOP NEW ARTIST

DOWNLOAD: "Country Must Be Country Wide"

Gilbert scored his first No. 1 with this country anthem he cowrote with Colt Ford and Mike Dekle. "We were talking about how people everywhere in the country were just like us-but with a different accent."