Country music has grown tremendously in the last couple years. With NYC starting its first country radio station and music festival, and a wide array of country-pop crossovers, country music has established a place for itself in the mainstream. And with Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini, A Thousand Horses, and Chris Stapleton, all 2014 artists to watch, making it big this year, it is time to find some new country up-and-comers. And lucky for you WGTB has got you covered!
Artist to Watch: Old Dominion
Sounds Like: Keith Urban, Parmalee
Why You Need to Pay Attention: Having spent years behind the scenes writing songs for the likes of Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney, the five-man Nashville based Old Dominion is ready to become a star in its own right. Their debut album, Meat and Candy, was released two weeks ago has a classic country sound mixed with some pop and rap influences. Shortly before the Meat and Candy was released, one of the tracks off the album “Break Up with Him” reached number one on Country Airplay.
WGTB Picks: “Snapback” and “Nowhere Fast”
Artist to Watch: Chris Lane
Sounds Like: Florida Georgia Line, Logan Mize, Dierks Bentley
Why You Need To Pay Attention: Chris Lane brings a very unique element to country music- a falsetto. Lane has stated country music’s present heavy hitters, such as Keith Urban, has his musical influences. With that modern country sound, mixed with slight R&B vibes, Chris Lane has created a new and infectious country sound for himself and deserved your attention.
WGTB Picks: “Broken Windshield View” and “Cool”
Artist to Watch: Waterloo Revival
Sounds Like: Thomas Rhett, Lady Antebellum
Why You Need To Pay Attention: Waterloo Revival maybe be from Texas, but their music sure isn’t Texas country. Band members George Birge and Cody Cooper have been friends since middle school, and that chemistry comes across in their songs. Both of their releases, “Bad for You” and “Hit the Road” are cotemporary pop country at its finest. After hitting it big in their hometown of Austin, Big Machine Records took and interest and signed the duo. Their album is due out some time this year/early next year and is sure to be a massive success, so definitely look out for it.
WGTB Picks: “Hit the Road” and “Bad for You”
Artist to Watch: Maren Morris
Sounds Like: Kacey Musgraves, Meghan Tranior, Little Big Town
Why You Need To Pay Attention: Maren Morris has the classic country sound and sass of Kacey Musgraves, yet the bubblegum pop capabilities of Meghan Trainor. Morris came to Nashville as a songwriter, and has written songs for the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Tim McGraw. However Morris is ready to step into the spotlight with her gospel twang and booming vocals.
WGTB Picks: “I Wish I Was” and “80’s Mercedes”
Artist to Watch: Canaan Smith
Sounds Like: Dierks Bentley
Why You Need To Pay Attention: You may know Canaan Smith from the reality show “The Amazing Race,” but he is also an incredible singer-songwriter. Smith has a knack for lyrically storytelling. His songs are evocative and draw the listener in with clean vocals and remarkable lyrics and melodies. A great example of this is “Bronco” a song honoring the memory of his brother. Leaning more towards the pop side of mainstream country, Canann Smith’s debut album “Bronco” is a must listen, making him a Country Rising Star.
WGTB Top Picks: “One Of Those” and “Stompin’ Grounds”
Artist to Watch: Olivia Lane
Sounds Like: Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt
Why You Need To Pay Attention: Olivia Lane left home at 16 years-old to move to Los Angeles, where she attended college, and then two years later ended up in Nashville. At 24 years-old she has already released two EPs and an acoustic mixtape. Her song “You Part 2” is a sassy kiss-off that is sure to take country radio by storm.
WGTB Top Picks: “You Part 2” and “Steal Me Away”
Artist to Watch: Mo Pitney
Sounds Like: Joe Nichols, Keith Whitley
Why You Need To Pay Attention: Mo Pitney is clever and country to the core. Pitney does necessarily sing about the current popular themes in country music, instead going for more tradition themes of family, and faith. Pitney is a breath of fresh air on country radio. His performance of “Clean Up On Aisle Five” earned him a standing ovation, making him a Country Rising Star. Here is to hopping his album is going to be released soon.
WGTB Top Picks: “Boy & A Girl Thing” and “Clean Up On Aisle Five”
Artist to Watch: Ryan Beaver
Sounds Like: Will Hoge, Kip Moore
Why You Need To Pay Attention: When Ryan Beaver released his second EP, soulful twangy country was on the outs. Instead bro-country was taking over the airwaves. Now with artists such as Sturgill Simpson, and Chris Stapleton making it big, Beaver’s time has come. Beaver’s tradition country sound mixed with some slight contemporary vibes, shows of his Bruce Springsteen and Will Hoge type grit and help him to develop a unique sound.
WGTB Top Picks: “Dark” and “How About You”
Lastly, here is a playlist featuring all of the WGTB Country Rising Star Top Picks: