MusicRow proudly announces its Next Big Thing (NBT) Class of 2019. Now in its fifth year, the Next Big Thing honor celebrates 11 artists who are making strides early in their careers, whether through touring, streaming, radio or songwriting success. Each artist is profiled as part of MusicRow‘s 2019 Touring Issue print magazine, which releases today, Dec. 4.
“It’s a privilege to bestow MusicRow’s 2018 Next Big Thing title to these talented artists who are set to excel to higher prominence in the coming year,” says MusicRow Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson. “There’s no doubt these deserving artists will have a significant impact in 2018 and we look forward to following them every step of the way.”
Among the hit artists who have previously been honored as members of MusicRow‘s Next Big Thing are Kelsea Ballerini, Kane Brown, Luke Combs, Dan+Shay, Brett Eldredge, Sam Hunt, Midland, Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton, Cole Swindell, and Brett Young.
MusicRow‘s 2019 Next Big Thing Honorees:
(NBT edit by: Sarah Skates)
BBR Music Group (Stoney Creek Records)/Wide Open Music management/UTA/Wide Open Music publishing/SESAC
Jimmie Allen crosses boundaries in country music simply by being himself. We ain’t got to be just alike, not everything is black or white, he sings on “All Tractors Ain’t Green,” adding a progressive slant to a classic topic. It’s a common thread on his debut album, which makes his appeal two-fold: smooth, polished, pop-heavy production balanced by traditional subject matter.
As a songwriter and artist, this Milton, Delaware native frequently revisits his roots for inspiration, even naming his album Mercury Lane after the street where he grew up. Allen says it’s where he learned to dream, work hard and take chances. His current success is the fruition of his unwavering pursuit of that dream, yielding the No. 1 single “Best Shot.” Inspired by advice from his grandmother, the message of perseverance during the ups and downs of a journey continues to resonate with fans as Allen gears up for tours with Kane Brown and Scotty McCreery in 2019.
Black River Entertainment (Black River Records)/CAA/Black River Publishing/BMI
With a vibrant personality and determination that belies her age, it’s no surprise rising star Abby Anderson left home to move to Nashville at 17 years old. Since then this talented singer-songwriter has rarely slowed down.
Her debut EP, I’m Good, is an aptly named showcase of sass and confidence. The album bops along on “Dance Away My Broken Heart,” and beats with driving rhythm on “Naked Truth.” When Anderson slows the tempo, the result is equally captivating. Her piano-ballad debut single, “Make Him Wait,” delivers the important and timely message of self-worth. It’s a reflection of the strong foundation cultivated by Anderson’s family in her hometown Dallas, Texas, where she grew up with five sisters and one brother.
This sense of empowerment made her an ideal performer for MusicRow Magazine’s 2018 Rising Women on the Row event, which champions leading industry females. Her Grand Ole Opry debut happened in September, just before she embarked on Brett Eldredge’s The Long Way Tour with Devin Dawson.
Universal Music Group (MCA Records/Interscope Nashville)/Creative Nation publishing/WME/Creative Nation management/BMI
Having officially released just two songs, Kassi Ashton’s upcoming album is a tantalizing enigma. With awe-inspiring vocals and a unique point of view, this Belmont University graduate appears destined for the pop-music stratosphere.
Like most people, Ashton is a beautiful paradox; what sets her apart is her embrace of these differences. On one hand she’s country—a small-town escapee who learned to shoot guns on her dad’s farm in Missouri, and was influenced by her mom’s love of traditional music.
On the other hand, Ashton is as potent as the arsenic pictured in the video for her single “Taxidermy” (which is what you’ll become if you ever her hurt again). With a personality as colorful as her fashion choices, look for this rising star to reveal an ocean of depth and heart on her upcoming album.
Hickman Holler Records/Thirty Tigers/WhizzbangBAM!/Paradigm Nashville/Hickman Holler Songs c/o Do Write Music/BMI
Tyler Childers is a prodigious talent birthed in the sounds of Appalachia and baptized in the rural tradition of raw, confessional lyrics. People, landmarks and moments from his home in Lawrence County, Kentucky populate the songs on his album Purgatory. Produced by Sturgill Simpson and David Ferguson, the project combines lyrics representative of present-day circumstances and a sound as ancient as the mountains where the stories unfold.
Childers’ lyrical style is a sophisticated complement to his roughhewn vocals. He doesn’t back down from fiddle twang or bluegrass stylings, and the songs come together with an overarching intimacy. He’s the country artist you won’t hear on country radio. Instead, he won the 2018 Americana Music Association Award for Emerging Artist of the Year—today’s umbrella for rootsy offerings. He’s already selling out multiple nights in clubs across America, and in 2019 will tour Australia and New Zealand with one of his heroes, John Prine.
Universal Music Group (MCA Records)/Red Light Management/WME/ole publishing/ASCAP
Jordan Davis already has a major No. 1 in his back pocket with the ear-candy hit “Singles You Up.” Earning Platinum certification and gathering 200 million streams along the way, the track is proof of his highly marketable sound.
After graduating from Louisiana State University, the Shreveport native moved to Nashville to break into the music scene. He worked hard to develop his songwriting and performance craft. The result is an ideal mix of commercial viability and professional songwriting skills.
Davis teamed with producer Paul DiGiovanni for his debut album, Home State, which is primed with more singles, including currently rising “Take It From Me,” and the ace-in-the-hole hit “Slow Dance in a Parking Lot.”
Warner Music Nashville / Warner Bros. Records/Fitzgerald Hartley Company/WME/Warner/Chappell publishing/BMI/APRA
Morgan Evans has been charming audiences with fun songs and laid-back vibes since signing with Warner Music Australia in 2012. Now he’s gone global, taking his first U.S. single “Kiss Somebody” to No. 1. Along the way, he also charmed and married fellow artist Kelsea Ballerini.
Evans is multi-talented. Onstage he’s a groovy one-man show, keenly adopting a loop-pedal in place of his former bandmates who didn’t make the move from Australia.
For his album, Evans co-wrote all the tracks and played multiple instruments alongside producer and co-writer, Chris DeStefano. Titled Things That We Drink To, the project is inspired by Evans’ very eventful last few years, including moving, marriage, and loss. In the midst of more serious subjects, he’s still up for a good time as proved by sunny current single “Day Drunk.”
Big Machine Label Group (BMLG Records)/Rogue Management/WME/Warner/Chappell publishing/BMI
Riley Green’s youth in Jacksonville, Alabama, is relatable to country music fans far and wide: running backroads in a truck with a beer and a girl. It’s not a cliché; it’s a snapshot of real life. It’s also the reason Green’s debut single “There Was This Girl” from his In A Truck Right Now EP is already a hit. He worked with producer extraordinaire Dann Huff to create songs of small-town nostalgia, mixing in a touch of feel-good ‘90s country flavor.
Growing up, Green learned to hunt and enjoyed hanging with his grandfather at the local music hall. It’s an ideal backdrop for country stardom. Now he’s headlining venues on his debut Outlaws Like Us Tour. With his inevitable career growth, look to see if his interests also evolve.
CoJo Music/Warner Music Nashville/Durango Artist Management/Red 11/Cori’s Daddy’s Publishing c/o Me Gusta Music/BMI
Cody Johnson’s self-built brand is hard won—and much deserved—after years of heavy touring and sharpening his sound and stage presence. Now he’s ready to take CoJoNation to the next level through a new partnership with Warner Music Nashville.
Johnson has released six independent albums and in 2018 became the first independent artist to sell out the Houston Rodeo at NRG stadium with over 75,000 tickets.
Johnson has a knack for picking excellent material to record, and his upcoming album Ain’t Nothin’ To It, produced by Trent Willmon, is Texas-bred country music at its newest and finest. What separates Johnson from some of his rebel-rousing peers is a sense of maturity in the subject matter of his songs, from marriage to Christianity. Take for example the power ballad drama of lead single “On My Way To You,” and Johnson’s self-penned insight about leaving his former bull-riding career on the reflective “Dear Rodeo.”
Riser House/Sony Music Nashville (Columbia Nashville)/Riser House Management/WME/Sony/ATV publishing/BMI
Look for Mitchell Tenpenny to dominate playlists in 2019, as the trend has already begun with debut hit single “Drunk Me” earning Gold certification. There are multiple layers of appeal for this singer-songwriter. His smoky voice is wrapped in R&B soul and can sink low or soar high. The sound created with producer Jordan Schmidt is unique enough to catch ears but not so left-of-center that it alienates listeners.
And while Tenpenny doesn’t sugar-coat his feelings (see the song titled “Bitches”), his brazen honesty is likely part of the attraction for fans. Polarizing the brash exterior is honesty and heart, such as the song about his late father “Walk Like Him” and the fun of “Truck I Drove In High School.” Meanwhile, the title track of his debut major-label album, Telling All My Secrets, seems destined for No. 1— something his late grandmother, former Sony/ATV leader Donna Hilley, could be proud of.
Sony Music Nashville (RCA Nashville)/Maverick (Clarence Spalding)/WME/UMPG/ASCAP
Rachel Wammack will quietly grow on you. Easing her way into your world with soulful songs filled with meaning, like her piano ballad debut single “Damage,” a weighty song about how “love can do some damage.”
Growing up in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, she absorbed classic influences from FAME Studios (Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett). Sony Music Nashville’s Jim Catino discovered Wammack when she was 17, during a performance in her hometown.
Now Wammack is 24, and has sensitivity beyond her years. Accordingly, she doesn’t take the responsibility of making music lightly. She tapped award-winning producer Dann Huff to guide her in the studio and the result is a lovely self-titled EP, which shows an artist ripe with potential.
Big Loud Records/Maverick (Big Loud)/WME/Big Loud/BMI
Morgan Wallen is country music’s coolest new redneck, but the authentic twang of this east Tennessee preacher’s son is only part of the package. Wallen is a talented artist and songwriter on the rise.
His first major single, “Up Down,” was a load of summertime fun that went straight to No. 1 and was certified Platinum. Now the follow-up “Whiskey Glasses” is on a fast climb. His album If I Know Me is a buzz-worthy collection full of catchy, quality songs focusing on everyman themes, including his honest, “The Way I Talk.”
In addition to writing many of his own songs, Wallen has penned songs for Dustin Lynch, Kane Brown, and Jason Aldean’s No. 1 hit, “You Make It Easy.”