Ahead of the Academy of Country Music Awards on Thursday (May 11), winners have been announced for New Male and New Female Artist of the Year, with Zach Bryan and Hailey Whitters taking home the titles.
Bryan and Whitters’ wins were announced via social media.
An Oklahoma-native and Navy veteran, Bryan rose to prominence in 2019 when a video of him singing his soulful song “Heading South” by a campfire went viral. The track, which is now RIAA Platinum-certified, has amassed more than 19 million views. Later that year, Bryan released his debut album DeAnn, followed by his second album, Elisabeth in 2020. He went on to sign to Warner Records in 2021 and was honorably discharged from the Navy to focus on his music career full-time.
In May 2022, Bryan released his major-label debut, American Heartbreak, and embarked on a massive U.S. tour with multiple sold-out shows. Following his record-breaking debut, Bryan released the nine-track EP Summertime Blues, which debuted in the top 10 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. He closed out 2022 by dropping a surprise 24-track live album, All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster on Christmas Day, which was recorded just seven weeks earlier at his sold-out show at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater and topped the Apple Music Country chart.
Whitters, the Iowa-born, Nashville-based rising country star scored her breakthrough moment in 2020 with the release of her self-funded debut album The Dream, which went on to appear on more than 15 year-end best of lists. The subsequent deluxe album Living The Dream found Whitters’ self-fulfilling The Dream’s prophecy and enlisting her friends and collaborators Brent Cobb, Jordan Davis, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Little Big Town, and Trisha Yearwood to appear on five new songs. In 2021 alone, Whitters toured with Luke Combs and Midland, was named the inaugural Opry NextStage Artist of the year, scored her first CMT Music Award nomination for Breakthrough Video of the Year and received her first Grammy nomination for Song of the Year for “A Beautiful Noise,” which was performed by Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile.
On March 18, 2022, Whitters released her third studio album Raised via Pigasus / Songs & Daughters / Big Loud, followed by her debut headline “Heartland Tour,” performances at Tortuga Music Festival and Stagecoach Festival, and a national tour with Jon Pardi and Lainey Wilson. Now boasting over 150 million streams across her catalog, Whitters’ breakout single “Everything She Ain’t” is currently climbing multiple charts and has inspired multiple viral TikTok trends.
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