On Friday night (Feb. 25), five breakthrough country artists graced the prestigious New Faces stage to close out another Country Radio Seminar.
Formed in 1970, the annual New Faces of Country Music Show is one of the most anticipated events at CRS, and has featured some of the format’s biggest acts in their early days. Each of the 2021 New Faces have had some traction at country radio, and were voted on by the industry to perform.
The evening was hosted by radio professionals Elaina Smith, Kelly Ford and Ania Hammar.
First to perform was MCA Nashville’s Parker McCollum. The Texas-born singer-songwriter kept things simple, kicking things off with a sizzle reel of his many career achievements. McCollum started his set with “To Be Loved By You” and seamlessly transitioned into his first No. 1 at country radio, “Pretty Heart.”
McCollum thanked the radio personnel in the crowd for their part in his success before launching into a piercing rendition of “Hell Of A Year.” The breakout star exuded quiet confidence as he smiled out to the crowd, sounding great with his unique country voice. He closed with his “I Can’t Breathe,” and promptly received the night’s first standing ovation.
Next up was Warner Music Nashville star Gabby Barrett. Like McCollum, she got things started with a sizzle reel listing off her stunning achievements, including her 5X Platinum debut, “I Hope,” being the most-streamed country song of 2020. The powerful singer came out rocking with “Jesus & My Mama.”
She followed that up with her second No. 1 hit, “The Good Ones,” before playing her newest single, “Pick Me Up.” Barrett took an opportunity to share her Christian roots with a beautiful, acoustic rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”
Barrett closed her set with the song that kicked off her meteoric rise, “I Hope.” “This song completely flipped my world around,” she said, thanking country radio for their support.
Columbia Nashville/River House Artists breakout, Jameson Rodgers, was up next. After a funny video skit about turning in his two weeks and his 9-to-5 to focus on music, the singer-songwriter oozed charisma with a four-song set.
Rodgers got things started with his second No. 1, “Cold Beer Calling My Name,” and followed it with his first chart-topper, “Some Girls.” The singer was all smiles during his set, saying: “It’s a damn honor to be a part of this show tonight.”
After playing a hit he had as a songwriter for Chris Lane, “I Don’t Know About You,” Rodgers closed with a standout track from his debut album Bet You’re From A Small Town–”Missin’ One.” The track starts with a line about the Eagles, so Rodgers and his band thrilled the crowd with a bit of “Seven Bridges Road” to start the song.
Broken Bow’s Lainey Wilson kept the charisma going for her set, starting off with the best video of the night: a hilarious skit that featured country artists Cole Swindell, Jon Pardi, Jimmie Allen, and Tracy Lawrence in Wilson’s signature bell bottom britches.
After a big laugh from the crowd, Wilson was ready to rock, kicking off her set with her party anthem, “Straight Up Sideways,” with a verse of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” to introduce the track.
“I’m so honored to be here,” she said before playing her first No. 1 hit, “Things A Man Oughta Know.” “Everyone in this room changed my life,” Wilson added.
To close her set, Wilson gave the room a sneak peek of her new single that could be called “Heart Like a Truck.”
Monument Records’ Walker Hayes was the last performer of the night. His video recounted the seismic boom that “Fancy Like” had on the world over the last year. The entertainer started his set with “Drinking Songs,” before launching into his newest fan-favorite, “AA.” When it came time for Hayes to play the song of the year, industry members in the audience joined him in the dance.
Hayes stunned the audience with his last song: “Briefcase,” a song about his father’s struggle with working too much and being away from family. The hook of the song reveals that although Hayes doesn’t have a briefcase, he’s begun to understand why his dad’s work took him away from their family so often. “I guess a guitar doesn’t fall too far from a briefcase,” he sang.
Before he sang the touching song, Hayes’ briefed the crowd, saying this song probably wouldn’t be on the radio. The rousing applause and big standing ovation that Hayes received for the track, though, might make him reconsider.
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