Some entertainers say award shows don't matter.

Not Brad Paisley.

When the singer went to last year's Country Music Association gala in New York with a leading six nominations and left 0-for-6, it hurt. This year, with the show back in Nashville and Paisley back at the top of the nominations list, he's a little nervous.

"Last year was bittersweet," Paisley said during a recent interview at his management office. "It was kind of a big fiasco in many ways for me, and a very humbling one to some degree to go in with the most nominations and lose them all. It kind of makes you dig in your heels."

This time, Paisley is nominated for entertainer of the year, album of the year, male vocalist, single, musical event and music video -- the last three for his inspirational hit "When I Get Where I'm Going" with Dolly Parton.

Only Brooks & Dunn have as many nominations for the show, which airs 8 p.m. EST Monday on ABC.

"Being the local guy you always pull for him, but I think this could be his year," said Scott Feist, program director at WOGH in Steubenville, Ohio, about 40 miles up the Ohio River from Paisley's hometown of Glen Dale, W.Va. "His latest album was a strong album, probably his strongest."

If Paisley can avoid a second CMA shutout, it would cap a big year for him. His 2005 album "Time Well Wasted" continues to spin off hits. His tour is in the top five in attendance among country acts. He took home album of the year honors at the Academy of Country Music awards in May. He's just released a Christmas record. And he and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, are expecting their first child in February.

"It's at a level where things are fun and very creative for me. I get to be very hands-on and creative with our live shows and make sure it's got the bells and whistles, and we can afford those bells and whistles finally," he said.

As for the baby, they don't want to know the sex in advance and are picking out both boy and girl names. (Don't ask about their favorites -- he won't tell). "With modern technology, we've had to be very vocal about not wanting to know," he said. "They can accidentally show you 10 times in the pregnancy. If somebody doesn't mess up and walk in and say he or she when referring to some test result, we'll be all right."

Since his first hit, "He Didn't Have to Be" in 1999, Paisley has built a following with fun, clever songs such as "Celebrity," "Mud on the Tires" and the dark ballad "Whiskey Lullaby," with Alison Krauss.

He's a whiz on guitar, appearing on the cover of "Vintage Guitar" magazine and performing fleet instrumentals on his records and in his concerts, which are ambitious affairs with animation and short film bits.

Oddly enough, Paisley, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, got the idea for his live show from the psychedelic rock group Pink Floyd.

"Country music didn't do this kind of thing until now," he said. "Even when Garth Brooks was at his apex, it was all him -- him running and swinging from ropes.

"But at the time all I'd ever hear from these kids who were Pink Floyd heads in college and in high school was that their live show was incredible. I rented the DVD and checked it out and I understood why. It was all about this sort of ethereal experience. And the stuff really went well with the songs. It made me think `What can we do in country music that would double-whammy the lyrics and the visual aspect?"'

Paisley, 34, and Williams, 35, met when she appeared in the music video for his 2002 hit, "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)." But he'd had a crush on her a long time, since seeing her in the 1991 comedy, "Father of the Bride." These days, the actress is best known as Dana on the TV sitcom, "According to Jim."

They married in 2003 and have homes in Tennessee and California. It's a hectic life for them, being a country music star married to an actress, but Paisley isn't complaining.

"We don't like being apart, but I'm doing what I love, and she's doing what she loves," he said. He said they also make enough money to "travel in style" whenever they need to see each other.

"So, yes, you are apart three or four days, but I know people in my hometown who have difficult marriages, and I think some of that has to do with they were together too much. Some people like us do really well with two, three days off here and there."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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