The future is female and CMT is supporting that sentiment with their Next Women of Country program. Since its launch in 2013, CMT has shone a spotlight on up and coming female artists, highlighting the new female voices that are poised to make an impact. This applies to the impeccable acts selected for the 2019 class: Tenille Townes, Stephanie Quayle, Lauren Duski, Rachel Wammack, Emily Hackett, Lainey Wilson, Leah Turner, Anna Vaus and Ingrid Andress.
Many of these acts, along with Carly Pearce, Clare Dunn, Kelleigh Bannen and more, performed during the 2018 ceremony, offering a piece of themselves to an audience of industry personnel and fellow female artists who gathered to champion them in Nashville. Each singer touched on a range of topics and emotions that prove the diversity of the genre’s female voices. Leading up to the event, Tenille Townes shared that being inducted into the 2019 class reminds her of the strong female voices she grew up listening to. She proved herself to be a powerhouse with her performance of the empathetic “Somebody’s Daughter” that left a sincere impression on the audience, while Rachel Wammack had many of her fellow honorees in tears after her harrowing performance of “Damage.”
“It makes me think about the incredible women in my life who have inspired me in music. I grew up listening to all kinds of different powerhouse female voices,” Townes said of influences like Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks. “All of these people that really gave me the courage watching their path. I feel like being here is being able to be a part of that legacy in some way. It’s a true honor to get to be a part of this community.”
Lauren Duski, who rose to fame as the second place finalist on season 12 of The Voice, shared her struggles of feeling comfortable in her own skin before showcasing her enduring vocals on her haunting ballad “Costume Party.” “I think it means that we have a lot of responsibility to represent this genre, and I don’t take that lightly,” she shares about what it means to be a member of Next Women of Country. “I think that remembering that we’re all here to represent country music in our best way possible and to shine a light on the women here in country.”
Stephanie Quayle echoes this statement. Since moving to Nashville 10 years ago, Quayle is an example of an artist who’s been hitting the pavement hard, serving as a determined female voice waiting for a breakthrough. She’s now seeing a dream fulfilled as one of the newest members of Next Women of Country, a goal she’s been working toward since the program launched. “I think it’s a huge responsibility. I think that it’s commitment to continuing to be a voice for women and that’s something that I’ve always strived for,” she says. “I think this just adds more to that fire in my belly, which is always fighting for those that I need to fight for.”
Lainey Wilson, who drew attention with her dynamic self-titled 2018 EP, is adopting the pay it forward model with her induction. She looks at the 2018 class, which includes Ashley McBryde, Kassi Ashton and Kalie Shorr, hoping to inspire other young artists the way they did for her. “I see a lot of girls who were inducted last year who are paving the way for us girls who are trying to just get our foot in the door. I hope that I can also pave the way for the girls next year and the girls after that. So I think it’s just got to be this steady process,” she describes.
The event also honored Maren Morris with the 2018 Impact Award for the massive success she’s achieved in the genre, along with her wildly successful crossover hit “The Middle” and serving as a staunch supporter of female artists in country music. “I am so in tune with what’s going on in Nashville with women right now. These women are so effing good and deserve this platform because eventually, country radio is going to get its sh– together and play everyone,” she said to cheers from the crowd.
The event was hosted by Cassadee Pope and Leslie Fram, CMT’s senior vice president of music strategy and Next Women of Country curator. Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild, who delivered one of the most buzzed about moments at the 2018 CMT Artists of the Year when she listed more than 30 female acts for country radio to support, announced the names of the 2019 Next Women of Country class.