For Carly Pearce, winning two 2021 ACM Awards trophies -- for Music Event of the Year and Single of the Year, both for her duet with Lee Brice, "I Hope You're Happy Now" -- marks the end of a long journey that began with a very personal story from her life.

"This was my story as an apology to somebody in my past," the singer explained backstage in the show's virtual press room. "I think what's [been shown to] me time and time again through country music is that writing my own stories and telling my truth -- so many other people are going through the exact same things.

"This just validates it on a crazy level. I feel so proud," Pearce adds.

More than the trophy itself, the singer goes on to say, she's proud of how powerfully her story has resonated with listeners. "It's the validation that my stories matter," Pearce reflects. "It's the validation that the kind of music I write and I get to sing and I get to perform matters to country music. That's all I ever wanted."

As Pearce's duet partner, Brice took home two trophies for "I Hope You're Happy Now," too, although he said he saw the awards as primarily a testament to Pearce. "It's so much for Carly, in my mind: It's her song. It's something that came from her life. I got to be a part of it, and I just feel really blessed to be a part of it," he points out.

"I loved Carly from the beginning," Brice goes on to say, explaining that they connected over their mutual work ethic in the studio and beyond. "She puts a lot of work and passion into what she does; everything she's got, she puts into it, and I try to do the same. So I just connect with her on that level ...

"I feel very lucky that I'm the dude she asked to sing it with her," he adds. "She could've asked anybody, and so I feel very blessed."

The best dressed on the 2021 ACM Awards red carpet brought color — lots of color — for an awards show that promises to be a celebration. Photos show stars like Carly Pearce, Kelsea Ballerini, Chris Young, Kane Brown and more wearing the hottest and often most expensive designer outfits, or suits they designed themselves, in the case of Jimmie Allen.

Check out a full gallery of country music's hottest stars on the ACM Awards red carpet. Who do you think is best dressed and worst dressed?

The 2021 ACM Awards took place at the Bluebird Cafe, Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on Sunday (April 18).

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