Entertainment Music Country Carly Pearce Cries as She Wins Female Vocalist at 2021 CMAs: 'This Means Everything' "I really didn't think this was gonna happen," Pearce said onstage as Ashley McBryde helped her through the emotional moment By Daniela Avila Daniela Avila Instagram Twitter Editorial Assistant, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on November 10, 2021 11:21 PM Share Tweet Pin Email It's an emotional night for Carly Pearce! Pearce, 31, took the win for female vocalist of the year at the 2021 CMA Awards on Wednesday. Before her acceptance speech even started, the singer broke out in tears and remained speechless after saying she "really didn't think this was gonna happen." After a few seconds, Ashley McBryde stepped in to help her fellow performer and said, "What she meant to say was, 'There's a lot of love, respect and admiration in this category.'" Carly Pearce. ABC After gathering herself, Pearce thanked God and her record label — and noted the difficulties she overcame in the past year. For more on the 2021 CMA Awards and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day. "I've had just like a crazy year and I just want you guys to know that this means everything to me," said Pearce, who kissed her new beau Riley King before going onstage. "Country music saved me at a time that I needed it, and I just want you guys to know that this is all I've ever wanted in the entire world and I just hope you know that country music is all I love, so thank you so much." abc Eric Church, Chris Stapleton and Gabby Barrett Lead Nominations List at 2021 CMA Awards Ahead of the award show, Pearce demonstrated her nostalgic feelings in a Twitter post, in anticipation of two nominations. "5 years ago today, 'every little thing' was released. Today, I'm up for Female Vocalist of the Year & Album of the Year. Follow your dreams, y'all," she wrote. Blake Shelton, Mickey Guyton, Eric Church and More to Perform at CMA Awards The award for album of the year, however, went to Chris Stapleton. During the show, Pearce hit the stage with McBryde for an emotional performance of their duet "Never Wanted to Be That Girl." In September, Pearce spoke to PEOPLE about her third album, 29, which reflects on a difficult year for the country star. "I have accepted what has happened to me in my life, and I'm moving on," Pearce said at the time. "What you hear in this project is every stage of a relationship ending, the realization, the grief, the anger, the confusion ... I'm very much a situational writer, and as soon as I could see all of these songs, I saw the pieces that they represented, and I felt like it was finished." RELATED VIDEO: Carly Pearce Felt Like She Was 'Failing in Front of the Whole World' After Michael Ray Divorce Check out PEOPLE's full CMA Awards coverage to get the latest news on country's biggest night. Pearce was previously married to Michael Ray before finalizing her divorce in September 2020. She filed for divorce after eight months of marriage. However, she is now dating former Major League Baseball player King — and when asked about King on PEOPLE (the TV show!) in May, Pearce stayed coy but did share, "All I will say is I'm happy. I'll tell you, I'm very happy about that." The CMA Awards, hosted by Luke Bryan, are broadcasting live from Nashville on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.