While 2017 saw a number of new country acts from last year’s Artist to Watch list break through and garner several No. 1 songs, including Luke Combs (“Hurricane,” “When It Rains It Pours”), Brett Young (“Sleep Without You,” “In Case You Didn’t Know”) and Carly Pearce (“Every Little Thing”), 2018 is sure to bring even more chart toppers from talented newcomers.
Here are 13 acts to keep on your radar in 2018 (in alphabetical order).
Jimmie Allen released his debut self-titled EP in October and country fans swiftly helped his earworm of a song “Blue Jean Baby” rise to No. 8 on Spotify’s Viral Top 50 playlist and No. 5 on its Wild Country playlist. The Delaware native is signed to Stoney Creek Records and his five-track EP is just a hint of what’ to come from the sultry singer. With smooth vocals and radio-friendly production, it’s songs like the uplifting “Underdogs” that will resonate with music fans everywhere and convince us all to keep chasing after our dreams.
Louisiana born Jordan Davis is seeing his first success at radio with the catchy “Singles You Up,” currently at No. 26 on the charts. The beat-heavy track features Davis’ smooth vocals as he sings of catching a girl’s eye at a bar who is in a relationship. While she’s currently taken, he promises, “If he ever singles you up / If he’s ever stupid enough / I’m gonna be the first one calling you baby.” Other tracks, like the romantic “Slow Dance in a Parking Lot,” showcase Davis’ knack for vivid songwriting and captivating storytelling alongside memorable drum loops and guitar parts. Spending part of 2017 on tour with Kip Moore, country audiences got a glimpse of what’s sure to be a bright future for the budding singer/songwriter.
Devin Dawson will drop his debut album, Dark Horse, on Jan. 19 and it promises to be a contender for Album of the Year. The 12-track LP blends elements of country, rock, soul and pop for a striking and versatile release. Having a hand in penning each of the tracks, it’s an honest album that blends Dawson’s love of country storytelling with stirring musical accompaniment. Fans can get an early taste of his music with lead single “All On Me,” currently in the Top 15 on the charts.
Adam Doleac had a long journey before releasing his first single to country radio. The Mississippi native moved to Nashville in 2010 and eventually signed a publishing deal, soon having cuts with Kane Brown and Darius Rucker. Signed as an artist just last year, he released his six-song EP in June. Co-writing all of the tracks, Doleac’s honest storytelling and yearning vocals draw the listener in. Meanwhile, songs like “Refill” and current single “Whiskey’s Fine” highlight his soulful voice.
Morgan Evans got his start in Australia before moving to Nashville. It was an intimate Keith Urban showcase there in Newcastle that he realized if he was serious about a career as a country artist, he’d have to move to Music City. In May, his dreams were realized when he signed with Warner Music Nashville and released his debut single, “Kiss Somebody.” Along the way, he scored an opening slot with now wife Kelsea Ballerini where he’d create a full-band experience with the help of a loop pedal each night. New song “I Do” continues to showcase Evans’ talent as a songwriter who has a skill for catchy melodies and honest lyrics.
Pennsylvania native Jillian Jacqueline is wise beyond her years. Signed to Big Loud Records earlier this year, she released her excellent Side A EP that blends her rhythmic singing style and top-notch songwriting for songs that stay with the listener long after they’re played. She’s shared the writing room with A-list hitmakers like Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna, Natalie Hemby and Sarah Buxton, all of whom rave about working with the singer/songwriter. Serving as an opener for Dwight Yoakam, Ryan Adams and Billy Currington previously, it’s only a matter of time until she’s the headliner.
Tennessee native Brandon Lay hit the ground running this year with his debut country single, “Speakers, Bleachers and Preachers.” The most added song to country radio the week of its release, Lay co-wrote the infectious autobiographical song with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally. Additionally, his smooth and rhythmic singing style at times evokes Sam Hunt and Old Dominion’s Matthew Ramsey. Having already built a college following thanks to touring with Old Dominion, Cole Swindell and Dierks Bentley, Lay is well on his way to becoming a household name.
One listen to Levon and it’s like being transported back in time. Songs like “Why Oh Why” embody spot-on harmonies that recall the Eagles and impressive musicianship that bring to mind the Band. Fittingly, the trio’s name pays tribute to the Band’s Levon Helm and Elton John with his song, “Levon.” Inspired by the Laurel Canyon Sound of the 1970s, Levon’s self-titled major label EP released earlier this year is just a taste of what’s to come from the group.
Ashley McBryde has been wowing country audiences opening for the likes of Eric Church and Chris Stapleton. With the fury of Gretchen Wilson and the songwriting chops of Miranda Lambert, it’s easy to see why she received a standing ovation during her Opry debut while performing the poignant “Girl Goin’ Nowhere.” Now signed to Warner Music Nashville, expect to hear a lot more from this Arkansas native in 2018.
Dylan Schneider released his third EP, Spotlight’s On You, in April and it swiftly rose to No. 1 on iTunes. He’s had a busy year, finding himself opening for both Granger Smith and Chris Lane, and in November he became the first direct country signing with Interscope Records. With a radio friendly sound, smooth vocals, and often rapid fire lyrics, Schneider is one new voice bound to make a major leap next year with new single “No Problem.”
Stephanie Quayle released her debut album, Love the Way You See Me, earlier this year. The Montana native co-wrote six of the album’s 11 tracks, all of which showcase her infectious and emotive vocals. Embracing both pop and country elements on the project, at times Quayle recalls a young Faith Hill. Songs like the powerful “Ugly” and previous single “Drinking with Dolly” show the depth to Quayle as an artist and promise there’s much more to come from her in 2018.
Temecula Road have gained a following thanks to their unique covers of artists like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt. Now, the trio is readying new music of their own. Named after the town they grew up in California, Temecula Road is made up of sisters Maddie and Emma Salute and friend Dawson Anderson. The three met through a vocal coach and after winning a songwriting contest realized they were closer to their dream of being artists. Earlier this year they released their debut single, “What If I Kissed You,” and follow-up “Everything Without You.” With a spot secured at 2018’s Stagecoach Festival, Temecula Road is one band to keep on your radar.
This brother and sister duo from Canada is making a name for themselves with their feel-good anthem “Hometown Kids.” Released earlier this year, Jenna and Stuart Walker’s memorable harmonies make it an instant jam. A song that looks back on summers from long ago, it’s hard not to get nostalgic for the careless days of youth and pick up the phone to reminisce with childhood friends while playing The Reklaws’ “Hometown Kids.”