While his album may be named Mr. Misunderstood, Eric Church was heard loud and clear at the 2016 CMA Awards on Nov. 2. Church took home of the night's biggest awards, Album of the Year, for his work on the critically-acclaimed project, which was released the same day as the 2015 awards show.

This brought the experience full circle for the singer. Speaking to reporters backstage after the 2016 ceremony, Church called himself a lifelong learner of country music.

“Being a fan of country music, I revere country music and the history of it,” Church says (quote via the Boot). “Part of the reason that this award means so much to me is, I’m a student of it; I’m a student of country music …"

Church performed one of the album's singles, "Kill a Word," during the CMA Awards alongside featured artist and founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens. Like many of his fellow artists, he was blown away by the night's tribute performances and country music legends sitting in the audience.

“The opening alone was mind-blowing," he says. “For me, to be a fan of country music and to have a night like tonight, when we all come together and we honor what it is — I’m most proud that we did that, that we didn’t just come out here and everybody play their single, that we honored where we came from, and I think it’s important for where we’re going. I think it was the best awards show I’ve been a part of."

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