By Madison Vain
Updated September 09, 2015 at 04:44 PM EDT

Lee Ann Womack made a big return to country music last fall with her September 2014 full-length, The Way I’m Livin’. The critically acclaimed collection not only marked the end of a fairly long gap between new music (her most recent release was the best-of compilation Icon in 2011; her last collection of original material came in 2008) but also, as she told EW in June, the first time in her long career that she made an album that was purely “whatever the hell I wanted to do.”

The pay-off has come at every available turn. The Way I’m Livin’ was nominated for Best Country Album at the Grammys this past winter; the title track was nominated for Female Video of the Year at the CMT Awards this summer, it is currently nominated for Album of the Year at the Americana Awards (where she is also up for Artist of the Year), and propelled her to a CMA Award Female Vocalist of the Year nomination this morning.

“Of course it’s nice to have people pat you on the back and say, ‘Job well done,'” Womack said when calling to discuss the nom. “We’re the little engine that could this year. We don’t have a major label — we’re working really hard. It’s rewarding getting to celebrate this music with all of the people we made it with.”

As for her particular category, Womack agrees that the Female Vocalist of the Year race might be the most varied of the bunch between pop-country newcomer Kelsea Ballerini, sharp, side-eyed lyricist Kacey Musgraces, power pipe vocalist Carrie Underwood, and outlaw-tinged Miranda Lambert. “Don’t you love it when everything is embraced?” she asks by way of explanation. “People complain when it’s just more of the same and the same and the same. This draws more people in, it gets more people to pay attention.”