It seems like only yesterday we were looking forward into the country music future and trying to predict those who would strike it big in the coming year. Now, we are standing in that position, once again, and find ourselves truly overwhelmed with the amount of talent that emerged throughout 2017, ready to make a run for the top of the charts in 2018.
Among the 18 the team at NashvilleGab is gabbing about for 2018 is an “Idol,” a father of a small army, someone who fought like a girl to get where she is, two men who have important roles in Kelsea Ballerini’s life, a No. 1 group, and an oldie but goodie making a surprise return to the spotlight.
Without further ado, we present to you the 18 “new” artists we expect huge things from in the next 365 days!
If you haven’t heard of Kassi Ashton, we urge you to jet right over to YouTube and get your fix of one of the most sassy and talented artists you will meet this year. Ashton just signed a record deal with Universal Music Group (UMG) and Interscope Records, and your musical world will be a better place because of it. From hilarious songs like “Taxidermy” to ones that will leave you breathless like “The Straw,” this girl is one you’ll be talking about in 2018 and beyond!
Kelleigh Bannen has been around for several years, but it was when she dressed up in her “Church Clothes” that the industry and its listeners stopped what they were doing and really took notice. With her relatable and honest 2017 ballad, Bannen stormed back onto the scene, also making recent headlines when she lent her attitude and talent to a Taylor Swift cover of “Look What You Made Me Do.” We’re sorry, the old Kelleigh can’t come to the phone right now… but you better believe you’ll be keeping an eye on the new one!
Like many of the others who made our list, Emily Brooke isn’t an unfamiliar name; but she has taken massive leaps most recently. With her first album since the 2012 Here Right Now due out the first week of 2018, Brooke, who is now nineteen years old, is poised to show how much she has grown since the nation fell in love with her on FOX’s American Idol stage during its last two seasons. And, this girl doesn’t only have a voice worth idolizing — her songwriting skills are top notch and can be found on every track on the forthcoming Emily Brooke EP. January 4, 2o18 will only be a launching pad for this unique and multi-talented rising star.
You may recognize Lance Carpenter’s name as one of the four songwriters behind Kelsea Ballerini’s debut No. 1 hit, “Love Me Like You Mean It.” This singer-songwriter-musician has come a long way since eating pizza with friends and penning a mega, life-changing hit. He recently collaborated with Toby Keith’s daughter, Krystal Keith, on a new single, which ultimately led to Carpenter announcing that he signed with Keith’s label, Show Dog Nashville. From writing in a room to taking center stage, Carpenter is about to become a big dog daddy himself in the upcoming year.
In January, Devin Dawson will release his debut album, Dark Horse, which features twelve songs co-written by Dawson. Look no further than the album’s title track for a sample of Dawson’s talent. In the song, he sings “my heart bleeds for country music, where the honest outlaw truth is,” and it’s lyrics like this that make him stand out in a sea of sameness. In 2018, we suspect Devin Dawson won’t be a country music “Dark Horse” much longer!
If you’ve been to a wedding in the last two years, chances are you’ve heard Russell Dickerson’s made-for-weddings song, “Yours,” which was initially released independently in 2015. In 2017, the track blew up, hitting the radio waves, taking Dickerson everywhere from The Bachelorette to opening for the likes of Kelsea Ballerini and Thomas Rhett. In 2018, we expect Russell to continue his explosion onto the country scene.
With his smooth and soulful voice, Adam Doleac certainly possesses a style worthy of a superstar. His current single “Whiskey’s Fine,” puts a clever and different spin on an old adage. While the Mississippi native has been in Nashville since 2010, he became one of SiriusXM’s Highway Finds in 2017, touring with Ashley McBryde and High Valley, we expect Doleac to become even “Bigger Than Us” in 2018.
When we first heard Hannah Ellis’ “Temporary Feeling,” she permanently won our hearts. Since the 2017 release of the song, Ellis has also found her name on the insert of Danielle Bradbery‘s new album, I Don’t Believe We’ve Met, as a writer on the track “Messy.” Having truly made a name for herself over the last twelve months, this stunning, sweet, and stellar artist was named to this year’s CMT Next Women of Country class…and we think CMT nailed it right on the head with this addition to its coveted list.
Signed to Warner Nashville after achieving success in Australia, Morgan Evans should be the heir to Keith Urban’s throne. Stylistically similar to the Australian superstar, Evans combines guitar skills and clever lyrics, as evidenced on his debut single “Kiss Somebody” and the recently-released ode to his new wife, Kelsea Ballerini, “I Do.” While Ballerini’s career continues to soar, we expect Evans to do the same, and we expect the pair to be a future country super-couple like Garth and Trisha or Tim and Faith.
As one of the first artists signed to Shane McAnally’s Monument Records, Walker Hayes went from releasing free mix-tapes on his website to releasing his debut album Boom at the close of 2017. With his hip-hop infused style and honest lyrics (and that jawline!), Hayes certainly offers a unique take on country music. While “You Broke Up With Me” is one heck of a jam, Hayes shines on his more honest offerings. Listen to “Craig,” “Beer in the Fridge,” or “Halloween” if you need further proof.
All it took for Brandon Lay to turn heads was, well, a little “Heads.” “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” that is. While Lay has been on many people’s radars as a signee to UMG, it was his cover of Jo Dee Messina‘s 1996 debut single that caught the ear and eye of country music outlets everywhere a few months ago. Keep an eye on this son of a preacher man in 2018; it looks like he’s only just beginning to capture our attention!
Talk about an insanely talented group of guys. Levon, a group signed to Columbia Nashville, made up of Michael David Hall, Jake Singleton, and Ryan Holladay, isn’t your ordinary trio. Each of these men, in his own right, has a collection of talents up his sleeve, and when you put them together, magic happens. After seeing these guys perform at Vanderbilt’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital earlier this year and witnessing their abilities, as well as their kind hearts, we have no doubt Levon deserves a chance to soar in the year ahead.
With a sound and a style that recall the heyday of country music, Big Machine Records’ trio Midland is already gaining a ton of buzz and a Top 5 Billboard single with “Drinkin’ Problem.”‘ We expect the Midland buzz to rightfully continue in 2018, as the trio take their show on the road with Little Big Town and Kacey Musgraves, for what is sure to be one of country’s hottest tours.
In 2017, the country music world took notice of a relatively unknown singer named Ashley McBryde. In 2018, if all is right in the world, McBryde, who recently signed to Warner, should become a household name. SiriusXM’s The Highway broke “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” and we’re so glad they did. While one of McBryde’s most poignant songs may be “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” we’re pretty sure Ashley is going somewhere big in 2018.
She fought like a girl to earn her spot on “must watch” lists everywhere, and Kalie Shorr certainly earned it! One of the most recognizable names and faces of Nashville’s own Song Suffragettes, Shorr’s second single, “Two Hands,” is now gaining airplay on Sirius XM’s The Highway (following her debut “Fight Like a Girl“). If that isn’t enough to celebrate, Shorr just scored her dream gig and will be heading out on the road in early 2018 with RaeLynn and Sara Evans on the CMT Next Women of Country Tour. We promise you, this is one live performer you will not want to miss when she comes to your town in the coming months.
While it may seem surprising to see Sugarland on a list of relatively new artists, we couldn’t be more excited to see with the duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush has in store for 2018. While the pair released their new single “Still the Same” on December 21, it’s just a tease for what’s to come, with rumors swirling of a full album and tour. In 2018, we ain’t “Settlin” for anything less than “Something More” from Sugarland. They better “Stay” around for awhile!
Temecula Road is a trio of talented teenagers, featuring Dawson Anderson and sisters Maddie and Emma Salute. Recently signed to Buena Vista Records, which is part of Disney Music Group, the group has already received a ton of attention from Radio Disney. If you want a taste of their talent, look no further than their 17-Song mashup of 2017’s most popular country songs. Perhaps their 2018 mashup will feature one of their own songs? We sure hope so!
Big Loud Records artist Morgan Wallen didn’t end his 2017 on a shabby note. In fact, we will go ahead and say he ended it on a major up…not a down. The new artist teamed up with decorated duo Florida Georgia Line on tour and on a new single “Up Down,” gaining him enough notoriety to prepare to embark on a headlining tour in 2018. Wallen will begin his travels in February and remain on the road for three months, surely collecting a larger legion of fans as he continues. In fact, we are positive that by the end of 2018, his name is going to be a household one.