We don’t want to toot our own horn, but the NCW staff is pretty in tune with picking the next wave of country newcomers who are poised for a breakout year. Last year we predicted Kelsea Ballerini, Cam and Old Dominion, among others, were on the verge of stardom, and by George, they made us look like soothsayers with the monster year they had in 2015. If we were bettin’ folks—and the NCW staff actually is—we’d tell you to bet big on these 10 bright new stars in 2016.
If you listen closely, you can hear the musical legacy bestowed to Aubrie Sellers. Songs like “Light of Day” and “Sit Here and Cry” possess the poetic lyrics and thoughtful turns of phrase that her dad, hit songwriter Jason Sellers, passed down through the gene pool, and the captivating half-whisper, half-growl in her voice is reminiscent of mom Lee Ann Womack’s. Even without those facts, it only takes a moment to be intoxicated by the graceful grit of her new album, New City Blues.
Learn more at aubriesellers.com.
William Michael Morgan
No more complaining about the absence of “real” country music on the radio. Not while William Michael Morgan is in town, anyway. When the Vicksburg, Miss., native released his debut single, “I Met a Girl,” listeners uttered a Scooby Doo-style “huh?” Steeped in all the goodness of ’90s country, including influences like Keith Whitley and Mark Chesnutt, William Michael stands in stark and proud contrast to the plethora of urban-influenced and inspired country songs on the radio today. And that’s a good thing.
Learn more at williammichaelmorgan.com.
You might know him as Miranda Lambert’s new boyfriend, but Anderson East is far more than a piece of arm candy. Born Michael Cameron Anderson and hailing from Athens, Ala., he’s an exciting new addition to the Americana scene who released his debut album, Delilah, in 2015. It was produced by roots-recording wizard Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) and features a sound soaked in swampy soul and R&B. With poetic songs and a smoky, full-throated vocal presence that commands attention, he could be the next supernova to blow up along the lines of those previously mentioned stars.
Learn more at andersoneast.com.
If you’ve ever heard Eric Church’s “Homeboy,” then you kind of already know Tucker Beathard. Tucker’s dad—hit songwriter Casey Beathard—co-wrote the tune about Tucker, and although he doesn’t have gold teeth or a neck tattoo, he does have a rebellious streak and the swagger to match. His five-track EP, Tucker Beathard: The Demos Vol. 1, is a modern take on country that owes much to Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean, and his “Rock On”—a clever jam full of double meanings—has begun to heat up. Tucker’s currently working on his debut album and will tour this summer with Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban.
Learn more at tuckerbeathardmusic.com.
The country music industry can be tough, to say the least. But don’t expect that notion to deter Ryan Kinder. He’s seen “tough” before. Ryan and his wife, Heather, were both students at the University of Alabama in 2011 when tornadoes tore through the surrounding area and killed more than 60 people. That became the catalyst for Ryan moving to Nashville, where he signed with Bigger Picture Music Group, which shuttered in May 2014 and left its roster of Chris Janson and Craig Campbell high and dry. Last fall, Ryan’s luck began to change when he signed with Warner Bros. His new single, “Tonight,” is available now. The strength of Ryan’s smoky, growling vocals and his guitar chops are a one-two punch that whets our appetite for his forthcoming album.
Learn more at ryankinder.com.
Don’t let her Pennsylvania roots fool you—Morgan Myles has Southern soul. The proof is in her new six-song EP, Miss Morgan Myles, which dropped on Jan. 8. A fusion of her big voice with her soulful sensibilities, the EP is a thought-provoking throwback and it’s destined to shine in 2016, thanks in part to the turning tide of listeners who are gravitating toward the authentic sounds of yesteryear. As Morgan continues working toward a full album release in 2016, check out her new single, “Whiskey Dreaming,” as well as her cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”—it’s only a YouTube search away.
Learn more at morganmyleslive.com.
It’s already been a much-hailed year for Maren Morris, and it’s not even March yet. The young Texan has been drawing rave reviews for “My Church,” the first single from her forthcoming album, due later this year. The tune set a Country Aircheck/Mediabase record for the highest-charting debut single by a female. She was also named to the 2016 CMT Next Women of Country class, and this summer, Maren will join Keith Urban and Brett Eldredge on Keith’s Ripcord World Tour 2016.
Learn more at marenmorris.com.
They really are sisters, all bearing first names beginning with “C”—Cirby, Carli and Celbi. Like most groups of singing siblings, the trio started harmonizing as youngsters and built a following around their home state of Texas. They first came to national attention as finalists on TV’s X Factor, working with coach Simon Cowell. Now, they’re collaborating with some of country’s heavy hitters. Sister C’s current single, “Faint of Heart,” was produced by Lee Brice and top songwriter Jon Stone. They’ve also released an EP, Demo Sessions, which is available now.
Learn more at sisterc.com.
Country music fans learned in 2015 that Adam Sanders knows how to write a hit song—he co-penned Cole Swindell’s “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” and Dustin Lynch’s “Hell of a Night”—but now it’s his turn in the spotlight. So far, all signs are pointing toward 2016 being a very promising year for the artist. His single, “Somewhere That You Don’t Go,” was the perfect introduction to mainstream audiences, showing Adam’s playful side with the quirky breakup song. His latest, “Thunder,” displays another side of him by taking on a more serious tone. Many fans already have Adam on their radar after seeing him serving as opening act on Cole’s Down Home Tour in fall 2015, and now it’s everybody else’s turn to sit up and take notice.
Learn more at adamsandersmusic.com.
Drew Baldridge has been building his songwriting career for the past few years, but becoming an artist has always been at the forefront of his mind, and 2016 is shaping up to be his big year. The January release of his new EP, Dance With Ya, helped him gain some momentum, and the disco-infused title track is shaping up to be an infectious earworm. Dance moves and dimples aside, Drew will be dropping his debut album in May, but you can catch him on tour with the likes of Granger Smith and Lee Brice until then.
Learn more at drewbaldridgemusic.com.
Aubrie Sellers by Allister Ann/Sacks & Co.; William Michael Morgan courtesy WMG; Anderson East by Becky Fluke/Sacks & Co.; Tucker Beathard by Joseph Llanes/The Greenroom PR; Ryan Kinder courtesy WMG; Morgan Myles by Jeremy Ryan/Morgan Myles; Maren Morris by LeAnn Mueller/Sony Music Nashville; Sister C by John Fisher/PFA Media; Adam Sanders courtesy Red Light Management; Drew Baldridge by Russ Harrington/Shore Fire Media