When the 2016 CMA Awards nominees were revealed on Wednesday morning (Aug. 31), it wasn't one of the genre's superstars or icons who was leading the pack; rather, it was a newcomer.

Rising artist Maren Morris leads the way among CMA Awards nominees this year. The singer-songwriter secured a total of seven nominations -- two for Album of the Year (as artist and producer of her debut disc Hero), one for Female Vocalist of the Year, one for Song of the Year (as a writer on her hit "My Church"), one for New Artist of the Year and two for Single of the Year (as the artist and producer of "My Church") -- and while she's up against big names in those categories, if the 2015 CMA Awards taught us one thing, it was to never underestimate the power of a great new act. Currently, Morris is more widely known than last year's CMA Awards king, Chris Stapleton (who trails just behind Morris with six nods), but if things go well, this year's show could move her quickly from country newbie to country star, just as last year's did for him.

After self-releasing a number of albums in her teens, at 21, Morris (now 26) decided that it was time to say goodbye to performing. The Texas native packed up and moved to Nashville to pursue a songwriting career, and she started finding success with some of her work, but her publisher had an issue with a number of her songs: They all sounded like they were meant for her. On Nov. 6, 2015 -- two days after the 2015 CMA Awards -- Morris dropped her self-titled debut EP; in January, The Boot named her a new artist to watch in 2016, and she released her first single, "My Church," the song that she says brought her back around to the idea of being an artist as well as a writer.

Good thing, too, because fans clearly want to hear what she has to say: "My Church" has been certified gold, and Morris' Hero record topped the charts in the week following its June release. And since breaking into country music, Morris has earned a number of high-profile gigs: She spent her summer on the road with Keith Urban and Brett Eldredge for Urban’s 2016 RipCORD World Tour; performed at SXSW 2016, the 2016 CMT Music Awards and the 2016 CMA Music Festival, among others; and, in a fun twist of fate, shared the stage with Stapleton in Nashville. Oh, and come December, she'll appear in an episode of Crossroads with pop star Alicia Keys.

If the 2015 CMA Awards taught us one thing, it was to never underestimate the power of a great new act. Currently, Maren Morris is more widely known than last year’s CMA Awards king, Chris Stapleton, but if things go well, this year’s show could move her quickly from country newbie to country star, just as last year’s did for him.

Still, Morris' resume is brief compared to her CMA Awards opponents; however, even if she doesn't sweep her categories a la Stapleton in 2015, she's likely to walk away with at least one trophy in hand. Beating out Thomas Rhett's "Die a Happy Man" or Tim McGraw's "Humble and Kind" for Song of the Year or Single of the Year will be tough -- Rhett's love song to his wife has stolen hearts and broken records, and "Humble and Kind" is something of the 2016 version of "Girl Crush" -- but New Artist of the Year is as much Morris' as it is any of the other nominees'.

As for Album of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year -- well, Stapleton beat out, among others, Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan for Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year in 2015, so never say never. Morris may be the underdog based sheerly on star power, but she clearly has the support of CMA voters, and her music has earned love from critics and fans.

The 2016 CMA Awards will air live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on ABC on Nov. 2 at 8PM ET. Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will return as co-hosts, and performers (hopefully including Morris) and presenters will be announced in the coming months.

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