MusicRow is proud to reveal its list of artists who, in 2023, are predicted to become the Next Big Thing (NBT). The ninth annual NBT list features 11 artists, who are each profiled in MusicRow‘s latest 2023 Touring & Next Big Thing print issue, which releases today (Nov. 30).
MusicRow‘s Next Big Thing Class of 2023 boasts a stand-out group of artists on the rise. 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 will expand the boundaries of country music, carrying the torch of the format both to its fans and into the mainstream.
MusicRow Magazine’s 2023 Next Big Thing Artists:
19 Recordings/BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records | KP Entertainment | UTA | BMG | BMI
Chayce Beckham impressed the nation when he won season nineteen of American Idol, becoming the first artist to win the competition with an original song. The winning track, “23,” is a semi-autobiographical tune the California-native wrote about his struggles with alcohol. “23” topped numerous viral charts upon release, and has since racked up more than 122 million on-demand streams. Fresh off his win, he signed with BBR Music Group’s Wheelhouse Records and 19 Recordings, and subsequently released a duet with label-mate Lindsay Ell, “Can’t Do Without Me.” Beckham followed that success with a six-track debut EP Doin It Right, which featured the singer-songwriter flexing his gritty yet clear vocals on songs such as “Tell Me Twice,” “Doin’ It Right,” and “Where The River Goes,” all of which he co-wrote. The EP skyrocketed to No. 1 on the iTunes All Genre and Country charts, signaling a consistent hunger for the artist’s music. Beckham joined Jimmie Allen’s “Down Home Tour 2022” earlier this year, as well as some dates opening for Luke Combs. Beckham’s rabid fanbase will only grow as the artist continues down his path to success.
Warner Music Nashville | WHY&HOW | WME | 50 Egg Music/Sony Music Publishing | BMI
Tyler Braden grew up in Slapout, Alabama with parents who loved country music and friends who loved rock ‘n’ roll. Combining those influences, he started playing local shows and touring in his twenties, all while serving as a first responder in Montgomery, Alabama. When a gig in Music City prompted Braden to move north, he continued firefighting in the suburbs of Nashville while working on his music. After capturing the attention of industry executives, Braden signed with Warner Music Nashville in 2019. Since then he’s earned more than 120 million streams with songs such as “Secret,” “What Do They Know,” “Ways To Miss You,” and his No. 1 on SiriusXM’s The Highway Hot 30 Countdown “Try Losing One” is currently at U.S. country radio. He released his label debut EP, What Do They Know (WDTK), in late 2021. Braden joined David Nail on tour this fall after opening for Brooks & Dunn on the 2022 “Reboot Tour.” He recently hosted his annual Engine Co. 18 Golf Outing, which raised more than $20,000 for first responders. Braden’s talent as a songwriter and performer, as well as his heart of gold, will undoubtedly propel him forward into a successful career.
Big Loud Records | Big Loud Management | The Neal Agency | Big Loud Publishing/UMPG | BMI
ERNEST has come into his own as an artist in the past few years. While enjoying massive success as a songwriter, celebrating No. 1 hits for Morgan Wallen, Chris Lane, Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line, and Kane Brown, ERNEST was building an arsenal of songs suited for his own unique artistry. After releasing a few EPs and singles as an artist, ERNEST broke through with his George Jones-inspired “Flower Shops” featuring label-mate Wallen. The song took off, becoming the most-added single on its add week at country radio and hitting No. 1 on MusicRow‘s CountryBreakout Radio Chart. The tune led to the release of ERNEST’s Big Loud Records debut album Flower Shops (The Album), which also included fan favorites such as “Some Other Bar,” “Tennessee Queen,” and “Feet Wanna Run.” After touring on Wallen’s “Dangerous Tour,” ERNEST hit the road this fall for his “Sucker For Small Towns Tour.” The charming artist also hosts a podcast, Just Being ERNEST, welcoming guests such as Keith Urban, Diplo, Jason Aldean, Bobby Bones, and Craig Wiseman. Between his hit-making penmanship and charisma, ERNEST is headed for country music stardom.
JT3D | JT3D Management | APA | Hyperphlyy Music | BMI
Made up of sisters Danica and Devynn Hart, along with their cousin Trea Swindle, Chapel Hart blend their Mississippi roots and Louisiana spunk to make their music. After working hard for many years, the trio was lifted up by CMT’s Next Women of Country program, which has helped up-and-coming country females rise to fame such as Kelsea Ballerini and Ashley McBryde. They released their second album, The Girls Are Back in Town, shortly after. The 12-track project included “You Can Have Him Jolene,” a response to Dolly Parton’s iconic “Jolene” that twists the lyric to say that no one should fight over a man. The trio’s infectious three-part harmonies have earned Chapel Hart notoriety overseas, but the United States fell in love with them when they competed on America’s Got Talent earlier this year. With their “You Can Have Him Jolene,” Chapel Hart earned the coveted Golden Buzzer on the show, sending them straight to the final, live performance stage. Following their performance, Darius Rucker invited the women to sing on his redemptive ballad “Ol’ Church Hymn.” With their infectious harmonies, sharp songwriting ability, and charm, this lovable trio stands out among their peers.
UMG Nashville (EMI Records Nashville) | SMACK Management | CAA | SMACKSongs | BMI
Kylie Morgan’s unique vocal tone paired with her relatable songwriting set her apart from the rest. The Oklahoma native spent many years grinding as a singer-songwriter before signing with UMG in 2019. Since her signing, Morgan released her Love, Kylie EP, which contained fan-favorites “Shoulda” and “I Only Date Cowboys.” Morgan found a strong hunger for her music when she started engaging with TikTok, going viral with songs such as “Independent With You,” a tune about being in a relationship without losing your independence, and “If He Wanted To He Would,” a brutally honest track about self-worth. Both appeared on her next EP, P.S. In October, Morgan released another EP Songs To Say I Do to commemorate her tying the knot—which included another viral hit, “Bridesmaids.” The singer-songwriter joined Tyler Rich on the road this fall for his “Thinkin’ We’re In Love Tour” after previously opening for acts such as Dan + Shay, Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Brett Eldredge, and more. Morgan’s bold penmanship and accessible stories will only grow her already eager fanbase.
Big Loud Records | Big Loud Management | CAA | Sony Music Publishing | SOCAN
With five No. 1 songs north of the border, MacKenzie Porter has already made her mark on the Canadian country market. She moved to Nashville in 2014 hoping to translate that success to Music City. Her hard work began to pay off when she began to release successful pop-country tracks such as “These Days” and “Seeing Other People” via Big Loud Records. In the spring of 2021, Porter was recruited by country star Dustin Lynch as his duet partner on “Thinking ‘Bout You.” The track became a six-week No. 1, and made history as the longest-running top 10 single at 27 weeks since the Billboard Country Airplay chart launched in January 1990. As the massive duet was introducing Porter to country radio, the talented singer released her single “Pickup.” The glittery track hit the top of the Canadian charts and has garnered more than 30 million streams across the U.S. and Canada. Porter was direct support on Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like Tour” and has opened for Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Jordan Davis, and more. We will definitely be seeing more of Porter in 2023.
Big Machine Label Group (The Valory Music Co.) | HOMESTEAD/Red Light | WME | Warner Chappell Music/Home Team Music/Miller Crow Music | BMI
Conner Smith was introduced to the music industry via his mother, who interviewed songwriters as part of her work when he was a small child. He started writing songs at age six and was aligned with BMI by the time he was nine. The songwriter signed a record deal with The Valory Music Co. in 2019. It’s no surprise he co-wrote five of the six songs on his debut project, Didn’t Go Too Far. The collection included his first top 40 hit “Learn From It” and fan-favorite single “Take It Slow,” which has already amassed nearly 60 million global streams to date. Smith followed its success with another viral sensation, “I Hate Alabama,” where he laments that everything about the Crimson Tide reminds him of a love lost. He doubled down with another football analogy song that took off on social media, “Orange And White.” Smith joined Thomas Rhett on his “Bring The Bar To You Tour” this summer. The tunesmith will undoubtedly make his mark on the genre with his clever tunes and far-reaching popularity.
Sony Music Nashville (Arista Nashville) | The CORE Entertainment | WME | Sony Music Publishing | ASCAP
Nate Smith’s powerful voice with a unique vocal tone could make any head turn. He first attracted industry attention with his debut EP Reckless and the popular single “Wildfire,” inspired by a devastating fire that struck his home of Paradise, California and destroyed everything he owned. He followed the success of “Wildfire” with “Sleeve” and “Under My Skin,” which have amassed over 60 million on-demand streams to date. He signed with Sony Music Nashville in 2021 and shipped his new single, “Whiskey On You,” to country radio. The tune took off. It has garnered over 128 million total on-demand streams, was recently certified Gold, hit No. 1 on SiriusXM The Highway’s Hot 30 Countdown, and is currently climbing the country radio charts. Smith went viral with label-mate Tenille Townes on the powerful “I Don’t Wanna Go To Heaven.” The duet, as well as “Whiskey On You,” will appear on Smith’s self-titled debut album, out in February. He went on his first headlining run this summer with the “Whiskey On You Tour,” and will hit the road with Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell on Rhett’s “Home Team Tour 23” in May. Smith is powering through his own lane and will only go up from here.
Columbia Records New York/Sony Music Nashville | Eighteen Company | UTA | Warner Chappell Music | BMI
Alana Springsteen picked up the guitar at age seven and wrote her first song at age nine. From then, the Virginia Beach native felt the pull to Nashville. She moved to Music City when she was 14 and landed a publishing deal almost immediately. After years of grinding as a singer-songwriter, Springsteen began to independently release music. With nearly 40 million streams under her belt, she put out a seven-song EP, History Of Breaking Up (Part One), in 2021. She followed its success with an eight-song collection, History Of Breaking Up (Part Two). The project featured popular tracks “Trust Issues,” “New Number” and “Me Myself and Why.” On her 22nd birthday in October, Springsteen made her Grand Ole Opry debut and announced her label signing with Columbia Records NY/Sony Music Nashville. She has since notched her stream-count up to over 71 million. Springsteen has opened for Mitchell Tenpenny and pop band LANY, and will support Adam Doleac’s “Barstool Whiskey Wonderland Tour” in 2023. With her songwriting chops and unique vocal stylings, Springsteen is on the fast-track to stardom.
Sony Music Nashville (Arista Nashville) | Hillpeople Artist Management | WME | UMPG | ASCAP
Morgan Wade is one of the most unique artists to have signed a major label record deal in Nashville in many years. She kept her voice hidden until she started singing in public at 19. The Virginia native’s blend of country, bluegrass, and pop-rock first caught the industry’s eye with her 2021 debut album Reckless. The 10-song collection featured illustrious songs such as “Last Cigarette,” “Don’t Cry,” and “Take Me Away,” but the clear fan-favorite was “Wilder Days,” a tune about a relationship with a large age gap. Wade signed with Sony Music Nashville following the success of Reckless. The label sent “Wilder Days” to country radio where it hit No. 1 on SiriusXM The Highway’s Top 30 Countdown. Wade released a deluxe edition of Reckless in January with six additional songs. She joined Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, and Brooks & Dunn on the road throughout 2022 and will hit the road on her own headlining “No Signs of Slowing Down Tour” in February. As an artist assuredly in her own unique lane, we will definitely be seeing more of Wade in 2023.
Warner Music Nashville/Elektra Records | The CORE Entertainment/10th Street Entertainment | WME | Warner Chappell | BMI
Bailey Zimmerman’s rise to his breakthrough is a story of manifestation. The Illinois native grew up listening to country radio on long hauls across state lines with his father, who owned a trucking business, while his mother instilled in him a love of rock ‘n’ roll. He got his first job, a gig at the local meat processing plant, at 16, and continued to work from then on. After friends encouraged him to try singing, Zimmerman uploaded the tune “Never Comin’ Home” on TikTok, creating a viral sensation. He did it again with “Fall In Love,” which caught the eye of Warner Music Nashville and Elektra Music Group who signed him. Zimmerman dropped his debut full-length release, Leave The Light On, in October. Upon release, the nine-song project became the most-streamed all-genre debut of the year, as well as the biggest streaming country debut of all time. Leave The Light On arrived at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and No. 9 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. With a passion for tricked out trucks, Zimmerman played his first headlining show in Nashville at a lifted truck show block party. Zimmerman’s rabid fanbase will only grow as he continues to rise to success.