Odds are those fans will choose a first-time winner at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, from which the awards ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS. Keith is the only previous winner in the field of six, and with Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood, winners of the last six trophies, not nominated this year, it's hard to predict a winner.
Keith is joined by Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban. The latter three are winners of the Country Music Association's artist of the year award who haven't broken through at the ACMs yet. Rounding out the field are first-time nominees Miranda Lambert and Jason Aldean.
Lambert's nomination is not a surprise. She's been cleaning up on the awards circuit, beginning with three victories at last year's ACMs, and winning CMA Awards and at the Grammys as well. But Aldean wondered if he'd ever be nominated for a major award before getting nods for entertainer and top male vocalist this year.
He was especially stoked about the entertainer nomination, which goes to artists considered at the pinnacle of the genre in a variety of areas, including touring, album sales, and radio airplay.
Lambert is the top individual nominee with seven. She joins other familiar names with multiple nominations, including Lady Antebellum and the Zac Brown Band. All have had success on the awards circuit in the last year and a half.
But some new faces are nominated in top categories, adding freshness to the mix. The Band Perry and Easton Corbin are both nominated in more than one category, and both are nominated for single of the year for their breakthrough songs - the Band Perry's "If I Die Young" and Corbin's "A Little More Country Than That."
The album of the year category has no new acts, though only one nominee has won it before - Swift, who got it in 2009 for Fearless. Her Speak Now is up against Chesney's Hemingway's Whiskey, Lady Antebellum's Need You Now, the Zac Brown Band's You Get What You Give, Dierks Bentley's Up on the Ridge, and Jamey Johnson's The Guitar Song.
Brown, the night's most-nominated artist with five as a member of the Zac Brown Band and four as a producer and composer, says he isn't going to get wrapped up in the drama of who wins and who doesn't. He admits he has a "weird perspective" on awards shows and simply focuses on the chance to perform. Too often, nominated artists who don't take home a trophy are left with "a weird sense of defeat," he said.
"The truth is, if you've got a life being a country music entertainer, you win because you're able to do what you love and you've got a fan base that follows it and you can do what you like to do. You've already won," Brown said.