MusicRow is proud to reveal its list of artists, who in 2021, are predicted to become the Next Big Thing (NBT). The annual NBT list features 11 artists, who are each profiled in MusicRow‘s latest 2021 Touring Issue print magazine, which hits shelves today (Dec. 1).
MusicRow Magazine’s Next Big Thing Class of 2021 has set itself apart from today’s artists with talent and hard work. Some of these NBT artists have just released their first singles, while others are celebrating chart-topping hits. All have broken through by bringing unique styles and by surrounding themselves with team members who champion them.
They are diverse in sound, style and level of success, but what they have in common is extraordinary talent and a passion for today’s ever-evolving country music format. These future stars are sure to lure a broad spectrum of listeners to the genre’s growing umbrella. And with touring at a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of these up-and-comers are making the most of their social media savviness.
MusicRow Magazine’s 2021 Next Big Thing Artists:
Bad Realm/Atlantic Records / self-published / WME / Why & How Projects/SAL&CO / BMI
BRELAND roared into the burgeoning territory of country-trap with his co-written and self-released smash “My Truck.” The track blew up on social media, reaching Gold certification and a music video with more than 30 million views, and solidified his place as a pioneer of the sub-genre that melds rural lyrical references and hip-hop beats.
As a songwriter, BRELAND previously scored cuts by rappers ELHAE and YK Osiris, and recently Trey Songz. After “My Truck” took off, a record deal followed, and BRELAND’s self-titled EP affirmed his country status with guest appearances by Sam Hunt, Lauren Alaina, and Chase Rice.
Mercury Nashville/InDent Records / BMI
Buzzed-about singer-songwriter Priscilla Block signed with Universal Music Group Nashville this fall, bringing with her a significant fan base and fast-rising single “Just About Over You.” No wonder the labels were chomping at the bit—this Raleigh, North Carolina native is going to be a showstopper.
She’s a spitfire on sassy songs “Thick Thighs” and “PMS,” but has plenty of songwriting depth and vocal talent to back up these candid tracks.
One of five children, Block approaches life and music with an unapologetic, let-it-all-hang out attitude that resonates with listeners. Her fans rallied together to finance the studio recording of “Just About Over You” after hearing her play it online. Produced by Ross Copperman, the song shot to the top of the iTunes all-genre chart within 12 hours.
Warner Music Nashville / BMG / WME / T.R.U.T.H. Management / BMI
Shy Carter is a go-to songwriter and producer behind some of the biggest songs of the last decade—now he’s ready for his turn in the spotlight. He’s been criss-crossing the country on a quarantine-friendly bus tour, taking debut single “Good Love” to radio, spreading a message of gratitude destined to be his next hit.
The Memphis native merges gospel, R&B and soul influences with a love of storytelling, and the results have garnered critical acclaim and captivated millions of listeners.
His track record includes Charlie Puth’s “One Call Away,” Billy Currington’s “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To,” Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue,” Rob Thomas’ “Someday,” and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s “Speak To A Girl.” That’s in addition to his trio of Kane Brown hits (“Good As You,” “Worldwide Beautiful,” “Heaven”) and as a featured guest on Keith Urban’s “Never Comin’ Down.”
Mercury Nashville / RED Creative / WME / Red Light Management / BMI
Travis Denning scored his first No. 1 in 2020, with the enticing, driving rhythm of “After A Few,” and with 340 million streams under his belt buckle, this Georgia boy is just getting started.
Heading into 2021 he’s adding fuel to the fire with the clever new single “Where That Beer’s Been” (hint: he knows where it’s going). Denning also released fan-favorite track “Goodyears” after it grew to popularity during his live shows. “After A Few” and “Where That Beer’s Been” are from his recently-released debut EP Beer’s Better Cold.
Kicking off his career as a talented songwriter, Denning moved to Nashville and secured cuts by Jason Aldean, Justin Moore and others. Adding to his success this year is Michael Ray’s Top 20 single “Her World Or Mine,” which he co-wrote.
Curb Records / Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville / CAA / Victory Entertainment / BMI
When FILMORE moved to Nashville in 2011, he already had a load of performance experience, ranging from musicals to leading a band. As a solo artist he started independently releasing music, including the 2018 track “Slower” which racked up millions of streams and caught the attention of Curb Records.
His hooky debut album, State I’m In, is a hefty 18-song project chronicling a chapter of his life filled with ups and down, taken from experiences on the road and his hometown of Wildwood, Missouri.
FILMORE draws from a broad palate of influences, from his Colombian mother’s salsa music to his father’s 1980s favorites like John Mellencamp and Def Leppard. The result is a pop-friendly and radio-ready sound.
RCA Nashville / Warner Chappell / CAA / Make Wake / River House Artists / SESAC
Niko Moon is bringing laid back vibes to country radio—just like he’s been doing for more than a decade. The rising star, known as co-writer of five No. 1’s by Zac Brown Band, is riding high with his own Gold-certified single, “Good Time.” It is climbing the country charts and marks his first solo entry on the Billboard Hot 100 all-genre chart.
Originally from Texas, Moon relocated to Georgia as a child, absorbing the state’s country music influences as well as Atlanta’s hip-hop sound. Along the way he grew to embrace elements of the rural lifestyle and his musical family introduced him to artists such as John Prine and Patty Griffin.
He melds these influences into tracks “Paradise To Me,” and the newer “Dance With Me,” which he co-wrote with wife Anna Moon, and longtime co-producer Joshua Murty.
River House Artists/Columbia Nashville / Combustion / CAA / Red Light Management / ASCAP
Jameson Rodgers is one of today’s best new artists, offering rock sensibilities which fit snugly into a country radio playlist—that’s part of the appeal of his No. 1 debut single, “Some Girls.”
He can lean a little dark (“Midnight Daydream”), or veer smoothly into the mainstream sunshine with “Grew Up In The Country” and “Cold Beer Calling My Name” featuring Luke Combs. What all of Rodgers’ songs have in common are smart lyrics and his knack for selecting quality material.
It’s no surprise he’s a song man, he’s co-writer of Platinum-selling hits for Florida Georgia Line (“Talk You Out of It”) and Chris Lane (“I Don’t Know About You”) as well as the title track of Luke Bryan’s Born Here Live Here Die Here. Rodgers is the 2020 MusicRow Awards Robert K. Oermann Discovery Artist of the Year.
BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records / Rome Phrey Publishing / UTA / Maverick / BMI
Elvie Shane’s soulful Southern rock sound first caught the attention of the national audience during his 2016 appearance on American Idol, and grew exponentially two years later with the self-release of his song “My Boy.” The heartfelt song about his stepson became a viral sensation, and an anthem for non-traditional family dynamics.
Raised in Kentucky, Shane took small town sensibilities to heart, grew up on gospel music at the local Baptist church, and absorbed influences as varied as John Fogerty, Steve Earle, Roger Miller and The Temptations.
In 2019 Shane signed with BBR Music Group. The label began working “My Boy” at country radio in late September, with Shane performing about five full-band shows per day for six weeks as part of his virtual radio tour.
Big Machine Records / Eclipse Music Group / WME / The AMG / BMI
20-year-old guitar slinger Payton Smith is on the fast track to stardom. The Louisiana native’s debut single “Like I Knew You Would” is rising quickly at radio, powered by a sound sure to entice fans.
It’s one of the songs Smith co-wrote for his upbeat, self-titled EP produced by hitmaker James Stroud. On the tracks, Smith shows off a mix of solid songs, youthful charm and his killer skills as a multi-instrumentalist.
Smith’s onstage performance chops first caught the attention of BMLG Pres./CEO Scott Borchetta when the young artist was playing on a small stage at CMA Music Festival in 2018. After seeing Smith tear through his original songs, Borchetta signed him to the label.
Pigasus Records/Big Loud Records/Songs & Daughters / CAA / BRND MGMT/Make Wake Artists / ASCAP
The Dream has come to fruition. Hailey Whitters is on a hard-fought, well-deserved path toward lasting success. Long championed by the Nashville music industry, this singer-songwriter has come into her own as an artist, being recognized beyond Music City.
Her excellent album The Dream explores struggle, perseverance, happiness and hope, all delivered by her lovely, distinctive voice. Whitters doesn’t shy away from honest perspective—both her own and others’—offered by vivid characters like “Janice at the Hotel Bar.” Among many excellent songs on the album, one obvious standout is “Heartland,” about finding comfort in your hometown.
Whitters frequent collaborators include heavyweights like Lori McKenna with whom she co-wrote “Happy People,” which was previously recorded and released by Little Big Town and is now on The Dream. In 2020, Whitters was voted AIMP Nashville Rising Artist-Writer of the Year and was part of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2020.
Broken Bow Records / Sony/ATV / WME / Red Light Management / ASCAP
Lainey Wilson’s debut EP, Redneck Hollywood, is an impressive piece of work from a debut artist, accented by her lilting twang and elevated songwriting. Adding to the appeal is production courtesy of studio wizard Jay Joyce.
Wilson wraps up a balance of spitfire and sensitivity into a radio-ready package. It’s a winning combination found on her current single “Things A Man Oughta Know.” The Louisiana native isn’t afraid to get rowdy on “Straight Up Sideways” and embraces her home state on the loosely autobiographical “LA.”
After landing her record deal with BBR Music Group/BMG, Wilson was selected as part of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2019, and earned a spot opening for Morgan Wallen during his 2019 If I Know Me tour.