Lauren Alaina Reflects on 'Crazy' Year Ahead of CMA Awards

Lauren Alaina has certainly had a whirlwind year. The American Idol alum spent much of the year on the road, and won her first ACM Award for New Artist of the Year. She's also nominated for a CMA Award, again for New Artist of the Year, capping off one of the busiest – and best – years of her life.

"I was able to go out on the road and feel the difference, to see it first-hand with the fans, and to feel the impact that we've had. And I got engaged!" Ballerini told ABC News Radio. "It's just been a lot of pinch-me moments. And then winning the ACM and now to be nominated as [CMA] Best New Artist, I'm just really proud. It's been really crazy."

One of the best parts of the year was getting to know fellow New Artist of the Year nominee, Luke Combs, who joined Alaina in serving as the opening act on Jason Aldean's High Noon Neon Tour.

"I got to tour all summer with Luke Combs and the force that is Luke Combs is unstoppable," boasted Alaina. "And I just got to witness what he's done first-hand every night. I would obviously love to win but I'm really proud to represent the ladies, and just to be nominated at all. It's been a really amazing year."

Alaina and Combs share the New Artist of the Year category with Chris Janson, Midland and Brett Young, but Alaina has big hopes for the category in 2019.

"How amazing would it if next year, in the [New Artist] category, there's one male and four females?" Ballerini asked.

It hasn't all been great for Alaina this year. The Georgia native just lost her beloved stepfather, Sam Ramker, on Oct. 21 to cancer, after a lengthy battle.

"My stepdad, Sam, went to heaven at one o’clock this morning. He was the purest example of how to love and live life fully," she shared on Instagram following his passing. "His last few hours were some of the most amazing moments I know I will ever have the privilege of witnessing. He opened his eyes last night. They shined the brightest I’ve ever seen anyone’s eyes shine, and he said, 'Jesus.' We said, 'What do you see Sam?' He said, 'It’s so beautiful.'"

Ramker also said he saw people he knew, before bidding his final farewell.

"He later said, 'I love you all. I found it,'" Alaina recalled. "My mom asked him what he found and he said, 'Heaven. I’ve got to go.' An hour later he went to be with the Lord. I want this story to be an example of how real God is. We are only here for a short amount of time, and we have to live like there is no tomorrow. I want us to all be a little more like Sam. He was strong. He was the most compassionate person in the world. He would go without to help a stranger. He was a great dad. Now he is with the best Father in the universe."

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The 2018 CMA Awards will air live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Photo Credit: Allen Berezovsky / Contributor, Getty