2020 MusicRow Awards Category Profile: Breakthrough Artist of the Year

Following the announcement of this year’s nominees for the 32nd annual MusicRow Awards, we take a look at the MusicRow Breakthrough Artist of the Year category. This category is voted on by MusicRow’s subscribed members to honor a Nashville artist who achieved significant career progress for the first time.

The MusicRow Awards will be announced virtually among multiple MusicRow platforms on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Presenting Sponsor of the 2020 MusicRow Awards is City National Bank.

Click here to see the full list of MusicRow Awards nominees.

Winners are determined solely by MusicRow Magazine subscribed members. Voting is now open and closes on July 17 at 5 p.m. CT.

To receive a ballot to vote in the MusicRow Awards, become a MusicRow member here.

Blanco Brown swaggered onto the music scene as the mastermind behind the international viral sensation “The Git Up.” Though he had been working in studios and songwriting for years, the track was his breakthrough as an artist. His album, Honeysuckle & Lightning Bugs, is inspired by his youth growing up in Atlanta during the school year and rural Georgia during the summer, along the way learning to value diverse styles of music.

Gabby Barrett scored big with her blockbuster hit “I Hope,” which she co-wrote, and continues the momentum with her debut album, Goldmine, and follow-up single “The Good Ones.” Upon release, Goldmine earned the most first-week debut album streams for any country act in history. Barrett built a strong independent touring base, performing more than 130 shows a year in 2017, before rising to national prominence as a finalist on ABC’s American Idol.

HARDY continued gaining ground as a songwriter and artist during the last year. His album HIXTAPE VOL. 1 welcomes 17 all-star collaborators such as Keith Urban and Thomas Rhett, and features rising single “One Beer” with Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson. As a songwriter, HARDY tallied recent No. 1 singles by Chris Lane (“I Don’t Know About You”) and Blake Shelton (“God’s Country”). The Mississippi native has been working on his upcoming full-length project with producer Joey Moi.

Ingrid Andress is experiencing an amazing rise to the top. Her self-penned single, “More Hearts Than Mine,” is one of only two solo-female-debut singles to go No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart in 2020. (The other is fellow nominee and Warner Music Nashville labelmate Gabby Barrett.) Andress co-wrote and co-produced her entire album Lady Like, which debuted as the then-highest streaming country female debut album of all time. The Colorado native follows the success of “More Hearts Than Mine” with new fast-climbing single, “The Stranger.”

Matt Stell soared on to the airwaves with his self-penned “Prayed for You,” which was the only Billboard chart-topper by a debut artist in 2019. He is continuing to attract fans with new music, including his currently climbing single, “Everywhere But On,” and another new track “If I Was A Bar.” Stell is an Arkansas native and self-taught vocalist and guitar-player. He made the move to Music City in 2014, where he landed a publishing and management deal with fellow MusicRow Awards nominee Ash Bowers.

Travis Denning celebrated his first No. 1 with “After A Few,” which he co-wrote, and has gone on to have 130 million streams globally. The song catapulted his artist career, and he is following that with new single “Where That Beer’s Been.” The Georgia native first made impressions with the release of his Top 40 debut single “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs.” Denning kicked off 2020 as direct support for Dustin Lynch and has previously opened for Cole Swindell, Alan Jackson, and played his own headlining tour.

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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