Country music is probably the most accepting and welcoming genre in music. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that newcomers enter the scene often and immediately imprint our hearts with their sincerity and gratitude, and win our support with their undeniable talents. The staff at Keepin’ It Country has compiled a list of those we are Keepin’ Our Eyes On in 2014. We suggest you all take notes and keep a close lookout for these up and coming artists. We have a feeling they will be filling your iPods and blaring from your stereo speakers in the very near future.
Jenn Bostic – With a hit record in the United Kingdom and nearly half a dozen Independent Country Music Awards under her belt, “Jenn Bostic” is becoming a name commonly uttered by country music fans alike. If you haven’t heard Bostic’s breakout song, “Jealous of the Angels,” you are missing out on a song that will simultaneously touch and break your heart, all the while soothing your soul. It won’t take long until the United States’ radio stations take notice of this talented, warm, and beautiful artist. Mark our words.
Brandy Clark – She may hate orange and she may not look good in stripes, but she sure does sound sensational singing about same. With impressive songwriting credentials under her belt, Clark contributed her vocal talent to Sheryl Crow’s 2012 tour. Clark later released an EP, entitled Brandy Clark, and a full-length album, 12 Stories, which has received countless rave reviews. With the release of 12 Stories taking place so late in 2013, the album has barely had time just yet to circulate to its fullest potential, but we anticipate that radio stations are going to take notice sooner, rather than later, and make Clark a household country music name.
Lucy Hale – You may have been watching Hale for years in her role as Aria Montgomery on ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars. However, you might have been unaware that Hale first entered our homes on the small screen due to her musical talents. Ten years after Hale introduced her vocal abilities to America, she has returned, honoring her Tennessee roots, and recently released her debut country music single. If “You Sound Good To Me” is any indication of what Hale’s entire album is going to prove, consider Hale the next successful crossover artist from television to music.
Caroline Kole – She entered the scene as a pre-teen, sharing the stage with iconic country singer, Reba McEntire. She shares management with McEntire, Blake Shelton, and Kelly Clarkson. She is only sixteen years old. At sixteen, Kole has had experiences that most of us could only dream about and she is not even close to being done. Kole’s debut EP is being released this Tuesday, January 14, 2014, and is unmistakably a perfect introduction to country music fans. What will fans take from this album? Kole is mature; Kole is talented; Kole is bringing country back … and Kole, along with her classic country sound, are here to stay.
Jamie Lynn Spears – You have likely known of Spears for most of her life because of her family. You might have watched her on Zoey 101 or read about her in a magazine or twenty. However, this is a Jamie Lynn Spears you never knew before and is worth taking time to get to know. Bursting into country music with a song that people were initially skeptical about, Spears shocked the country music world with her raw, beautiful vocals on “How Could I Want More?” The track left country music fans wanting more, and we anticipate that Spears will provide more … and continue to make a name for herself in music.
Frankie Ballard – Although Frankie Ballard had moderate country success a few years ago with “A Buncha Girls,” his current single “Helluva Life” is currently climbing the radio airwaves in anticipation of the release of his forthcoming album with Warner Brothers, Sunshine and Whiskey. Ballard possesses a laid-back style and an effortlessly country voice that is sure to continue to endear him to country fans and help him truly break out in 2014.
Austin Webb – We dare you to listen to Austin Webb’s “Slip On By” and not stop in your tracks and feel the goosebumps rise on the back of your neck. Then give a listen to “It’s All Good” and you’re sure to find a smile creep over your lips. Webb possesses a soulful voice and storytelling ability that is hard to come by in today’s music scene and he’s also killer on the harmonica. His sound hearkens back to a seemingly bye-gone era in country music that we’d fully support him ushering back. He’s currently working on his debut album with Byron Gallimore (Lee Ann Womack, Tim McGraw) and we can’t wait to hear it.
Chase Rice – Once upon a time, Chase Rice was just another contestant on CBS’s Survivor, and although he may not have won that reality show, his country career took off in a big way due to a little song named “Cruise.” He co-wrote the Florida-Georgia Line megahit and released his own EP “Ready Set Roll” that is sure to win over country music fans. Rice will hit the road with Billy Currington and Brett Eldredge later this year, while also hopefully completing a full-length album.
Sam Hunt – Sam Hunt may not be a household name just yet, but chances are, you know at least one of his songs. If you’re reading this blog, it’s safe to guess you’ve heard Kenny Chesney‘s “Come Over,” Billy Currington‘s “We Are Tonight” and Keith Urban‘s “Cop Car.” Yep, each of those tracks were co-penned by Hunt, whose debut “Raised On It” is currently burning up Sirius XM’s The Highway. Hunt may not look like your typical country star, but with hits like that behind him, there’s no denying his country star potential and we expect big things from him in 2014.
Eric Paslay – There’s absolutely no denying the ear-wormability of Eric Paslay’s current single, “Friday Night.” While that catchy tune has finally given Paslay attention as an artist, you’re undoubtedly already a fan of his work. He’s written tracks like Jake Owen‘s #1 hit “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Love and Theft‘s “Angel Eyes” and Eli Young Band‘s “Even if it Breaks Your Heart.” At six feet, four inches, the man is a giant walking hit factory and we expect to hear much more from Paslay in 2014, as he continues to hone his leading man skills on tour with Brantley Gilbert and Thomas Rhett.
Dan + Shay - This Warner Music Nashville duo, consisting of Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, was formed just a little over a year ago, but they have come onto the country scene in full force. They released their debut single “19 You + Me” back in October, and it was the most added debut single of 2013. It is currently climbing the Billboard Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts, and this week, it also debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100. “19 You + Me” is one of those songs that you love on first listen and then hit repeat, and we expect it to continue its rise. Plus, we hear a bit of Rascal Flatts in there, and really, that’s always a good thing. If the single and their YouTube videos are any indication of what is to come, Dan + Shay will definitely be making a big name for themselves.
Jill and Kate – We have been fans of Jill Pickering & Kate Rapier, collectively Jill and Kate, for years. After being long-time members of Kelly Clarkson‘s band and touring worldwide, the girls decided in 2012 to focus full-time on their own music. They have independently released a handful of albums and EPs (their most recent – Heart of Stone), and will be releasing new music this year. There are not many voices who sound as cohesive and blend as effortlessly well together as Jill and Kate’s do. Keep your eyes on this talented duo… we think this may be their break-out year.
The Swon Brothers – With Cassadee Pope and Danielle Bradbery already impacting country music in a big way, we think this fellow The Voice/Team Blake duo is next (Blake Shelton really has an ear for talent, doesn’t he?). The Swon Brothers, signed to Arista Nashville, recently released their new single “Later On” and the song hit number one on the iTunes Country Songs Chart within 24 hours. It will officially be sent to radio next month and their debut album is set for later this year. The brothers – Zach and Colton – are well on their way.
Striking Matches - Striking Matches, made up of Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis, recently signed with Capitol Records’ new label, I.R.S. Records Nashville. They have been gaining momentum and much notoriety with writing several songs for the hit ABC television show, Nashville, as well as partnering with CMT and having the backing of the Grand Ole Opry. The duo already has a self-titled EP under their belts, and they are now hard at work on their debut album. They are sure to continue their rise in country music.
Blackjack Billy – Composed of Rob Blackledge, Noll Billings, Jeff Coplan, Patrick Cornell, and Brad Cummings, this country rock band independently released their debut single “The Booze Cruise” last March. The song became a SiriusXM “The Highway” find as well as the biggest-selling song on iTunes by a band without a major label for the first half of 2013. Later in the year, the band was signed to Bigger Picture Music Group and released a five-song EP entitled Get Some. They have the sound; they have the look… With the backing of the label, we are sure to hear even more from them this year.