Following the announcement of this year’s nominees for the 35th annual MusicRow Awards, we take a closer look at the Breakthrough Artist-Writer of the Year category.
The Breakthrough Artist-Writer of the Year is voted by MusicRow’s subscribers to honor a Nashville songwriter and recording artist who, for the first time, wrote or co-wrote a Top 10 song during the eligibility period of June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023. Outside nominations from Nashville’s publishing community are considered for this award.
This year’s winners will be announced online on all MusicRow platforms on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Presenting Sponsor of the 2023 MusicRow Awards is City National Bank.
Winners are determined solely by MusicRow Magazine subscribers. Voting is now open and closes on Aug. 18 at 5:00 p.m.
To receive a ballot to vote in the MusicRow Awards, become a MusicRow subscriber here.
Zach Bryan made an indelible impact this year with the release of multiple projects. His 34-song American Heartbreak debuted at No. 5 on the US Billboard 200. The album was preceded by six singles, including Bryan’s most successful single to date, the solely-written “Something in the Orange.” The tune became the longest charting country single for a male artist on Billboard’s Hot 100 at an astounding 65 consecutive weeks. The evergreen track surpassed Carrie Underwood’s “Before he Cheats” to become the second longest-charting country song of all time. American Heartbreak has remained in the top 10 in the US for more than a year after its initial release. To date, Bryan has accrued in excess of 6.3 billion global streams and 11 total RIAA track and album certifications. He is currently on the road on his completely sold-out “Burn Burn Burn North American Tour.”
Jackson Dean broke ground this past year with his old school, gritty, lyric-driven, outlaw style of country. His co-written single “Don’t Come Lookin’” was the fastest debut to reach No. 1 in 2022 and cemented Jackson as the youngest solo male country artist to reach the top of the charts with a debut. The song landed spots on the Billboard Hot 100, the soundtrack for Netflix’s The Ice Road and a John Dutton scene in Yellowstone. The rugged music video for the track also earned a nomination at the 2023 CMT Music Awards for Breakthrough Male Video of the Year. His sophomore single, “Fearless (The Echo)” is currently climbing the country radio charts after being most added upon impact. Dean’s breakout landed him on a slew of artist to watch lists. Jackson has joined bills with superstar acts like Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Brantley Gilbert, Carly Pearce, Parker McCollum, Kane Brown, Jake Owen, Brooks & Dunn, Lee Brice, Hardy and Brothers Osborne.
Megan Moroney is a country newcomer with massive staying power. She broke onto the scene with her breakout, cowritten single “Tennessee Orange,” an immediate smash that soon led to her signing with Sony Music Nashville/Columbia Records, in addition to notching her first No. 1 at country radio and earning an RIAA Platinum certification. Named a 2023 Artist to Watch by the likes of Amazon Music, Pandora, and Spotify, as well as an iHeart On The Verge Artist and one of CMT’s Next Women of Country for 2023, Moroney released her debut album Lucky in May. Her accolades also include winning Breakthrough Female Video of the Year at the CMT Music Awards. She kicked off her first headline run with the sold-out “Pistol Made Of Roses Tour” and will embark on her sold-out “The Lucky Tour” this fall, bringing her magnetic live show to iconic venues across the U.S. — all while continuing a meteoric rise that now includes over 426 million total global streams to date.
Genre-bending singer-songwriter Jelly Roll has quietly been building a remarkable career, under the radar and on his own terms. Since his days selling his mix tapes out of his car, he has constantly been releasing new music, touring relentlessly, engaging a rabid fanbase and creating videos that have amassed more than 4 billion views on YouTube. His 2020 single “Save Me” set the stage for his new season of life and took him to new heights, with more than 160 million views on YouTube and a Platinum certification from the RIAA. His 2021 album Ballads of the Broken featured a multi-week No. 1 rock hit “Dead Man Walking” and his No. 1 country debut single “Son of a Sinner,” both of which he co-wrote. His newest album, Whitsitt Chapel, was released earlier this year earned the biggest opening week for a first entry on the Top Country Albums charts since the list adopted a consumption-based methodology in 2017. The three-time CMT Award winner is currently on the road on his 44-city “Backroad Baptism Tour.”
Since Nate Smith made his way to Nashville, he has made a huge splash with songs such as his Platinum-certified multiweek No. 1 hit “Whiskey On You,” which he co-wrote. The tune amassed over 7.5 million total global on-demand streams in its first week, reaching No. 10 on the Country On-Demand Streaming Chart and has racked up over 320 million total global on-demand streams to date. Smith released his debut, self-titled album along with the deluxe version earlier this year. The hefty 26-song project hit No. 6 on Billboard’s Country album charts and No. 30 on the Billboard Top 200. His latest single off the album, “World On Fire,” is impacting country radio now. The CMT Awards and ACM Awards nominee is currently on tour with Thomas Rhett and will hit the road with Cole Swindell this fall.
At light speed, Bailey Zimmerman has already surpassed 2 billion global streams to date and recently celebrated a six-week No. 1 single with his multi-Platinum smash “Rock And A Hard Place.” His record-shattering 2022 debut EP, Leave The Light On, propelled the breakout superstar to close out 2022 as Billboard’s No. 2 Top New Country Artist. In addition, he received two Platinum certifications from the RIAA, beginning with his co-written No. 1 debut single “Fall In Love,” the fastest debut single to reach No. 1 at country radio since 2015 and the first debut hit to make it all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart in 2022. His recently released debut, Religiously. The Album., marked not only the biggest streaming debut album of the year across all genres, but also the biggest streaming country debut of all time. Zimmerman is currently out on the road on the Morgan Wallen’s “One Night At A Time World Tour.”
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