The pair exclusively talk to PEOPLE about their heartfelt duet "I Hope You're Happy Now" nabbing the trophy for music event of the year ahead of Sunday's ACM Awards: "I am flipping out right now"

By Topher Gauk-Roger
April 16, 2021 02:40 PM

Carly Pearce is now officially an Academy of Country Music Awards winner!

The singer won the trophy for music event of the year for her heartfelt duet with Lee Brice, "I Hope You're Happy Now." Pearce, 30, couldn't be more thrilled to claim the prize, telling PEOPLE exclusively, "This is so awesome."

The star received the honor, her first, ahead of Sunday's 56th ACM Awards and explains how much it means to her.

"To think about how hard I and my team fought to get this song right, and how much [Lee's] voice lent ... just exactly what I always wanted for it," she says. "This last year has just blown my mind in so many ways. Country music, you saved me, so thank you."

Carly Pearce and Lee Brice ACM Awards win
Carly Pearce and Lee Brice
| Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

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Brice, 41, is grateful to his singing partner for allowing him to take part in the track, explaining, "Thank you so much for letting be a part of this, and thank y'all so much for letting us be in this category."

"I mean, from the label all the way through to my management and the people that work with me on a daily basis through all of this stuff this year," he added. "Everybody's worked extra hard to keep ourselves afloat and do things, and that's really big for me, but for this song, thank you."

Pearce confesses Brice almost didn't get involved with the personal track, which is based on the relationship she was in prior to her marriage to ex-husband Michael Ray, but she refused to let fear get the best of her.

"I have to say I was so scared to ask him. I had my manager ask him and literally within 30 minutes, he was like, 'I'm in,'" she recounts. "I'm such a fan as a songwriter of him, so I was so excited that Lee Brice liked my song."

Carly Pearce and Lee Brice ACM Awards win
Carly Pearce and Lee Brice
| Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

Pearce worked on the track with late producer Busbee, who tragically died in 2019 from brain cancer at the age of 43. The involvement of her longtime friend gives this win an even deeper meaning for the singer-songwriter.

carly pearce and busbee
Carly Pearce and Busbee
| Credit: Courtesy Carly Pearce

'This is the last song that he ever worked on and he was so special to me," she says, holding back tears. "And we now can say that his last song gave me my first CMA and ACM, so it's special."

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"I just want to thank [Lee], thank my co-writers for letting me go in and just girl-vomit on them, obviously Busbee, and my whole team that worked really hard to get this song across the finish line," she adds.

"I'm just the lucky man in the room to be a part of the song," adds Brice. "This is her story and for her to think about me just made me feel — and to this day, I just feel — blessed. This is awesome."

The pair are open to working together again, with Pearce pointing out they've "got a good thing going on," but are currently focusing on their performance during Sunday's show, where they are also up for single of the year.

"Now we're going to show them what we've got!," she admits. "I'm just excited to be standing here with him. I have not seen him in a while. I'm just so proud of this song and so proud to be singing with him."

"I was almost too nervous and now I feel like we should just get up there and kick butt," Brice exclaims.

Carly Pearce and Lee Brice ACM Awards win
Carly Pearce
| Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

The 2021 ACM Awards will air live on April 18 from 8-11 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+.