CMT announced the members of the 2020 Class of its Next Women of Country franchise earlier Tuesday (Nov. 12) at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s CMA Theater.
This year’s class of 11 artists includes Abbey Cone, Avenue Beat, Caylee Hammack, Gabby Barrett, Hailey Whitters, Kylie Morgan, Madison Kozak, Renee Blair, Sykamore, Tiera and Walker County. The announcement was made by event co-hosts Leslie Fram, SVP, Music Strategy & Talent, CMT, and country music superstar Martina McBride.
The class of 2020 marks a total of 75 female acts that have been named as part of the program since its inception in 2013.
Brandi Carlile accepted the 2019 CMT Next Women of Country “Impact Award,” an honor presented to a female artist that has impacted songwriting, recording, radio airplay, record sales, streams, media impressions, awards and touring in country music over the past year. The award was presented by singer-songwriter Brandy Clark (Class of 2016) and Change the Conversation co-founder Tracy Gershon.
In a surprise appearance, Tanya Tucker appeared onstage as Carlile announced that Tucker will headline the upcoming CMT Next Women of Country Tour in early 2020. Supporting acts and cities to be announced. The 2020 tour is sponsored for the second consecutive year by Burlington Coat Factory.
Singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton began the event with a performance of “Sister,” performing with fellow Next Women of Country alumnae Clare Dunn (2014), Leah Turner (2018), Rachel Wammack (2018) and Tenille Townes (2018).
Notably, the leaders of several Nashville record labels–including BMLG’s Scott Borchetta, WMG’s John Esposito, Sony Music Nashville’s Randy Goodman, BBR Music Group’s Jon Loba, and UMG Nashville’s Cindy Mabe.
Mabe offered an honest and inspiring speech about the current state and future for women in country music.
“We can all keep moving through and thinking that things have changed at the rate they need to change, and they haven’t,” Mabe said. “This platform and these artists today are so much more than a positioning statement that makes it to a press release this afternoon. This is about how we give a voice and a perspective to half the world. There is so much said about women not wanting to hear other women’s voices, but speaking for all the women that I know and raising two little girls of my own, and I can only speak for them, but they only want to hear female voices. You are the ones that show them the way. You are the ones that will dictate the next generation’s impact. You represent how they are felt and represented in the world and their feelings, and their thoughts and their voices and then show them that they matter. I think back to my childhood and I think how music spoke to me and I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be here without the voices of Dolly and the Judds, and Reba in my ear, because they raised me. On the eve of country’s biggest night, I can’t help but think about our sole female Entertainer of the Year nominee and the fact that Carrie Underwood wouldn’t exist without the impact of Martina McBride,” she added, to the applause of the crowd.
“The impact that her music made on Carrie as a little girl is what changed a whole generation and this is how it works and this is how each of you that are sitting in this audience need to understand your impact of where you go from here. I would be remiss to say that it’s going to be an easy way to get there, and you are all going to forge your own way and not all of them are going to look like radio. But we have artists like Kacey Musgraves that are showing there are now ways to you can expose new music to the masses and I think that if there is anything to say today, it’s that the women are bringing interesting, state of the art, cutting edge music and it doesn’t all fit in a box, that’s the truth of the matter. We will spend the next years figuring how how we get it exposed, one foot in front of the other, because great music should always rise and it’s not about fitting into a box. I’m speaking on behalf of Universal Music Group. We are committed—I can say I get out of bed every day and move it toward making women’s voices matter.” Mabe said.
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