Lauren Alaina, Carly Pearce, Luke Combs, Midland and Michael Ray are the newest artists selected to join the Country Radio Seminar’s 2018 New Faces Showcase. The five acts were voted on by country radio professionals to perform during the final night of CRS where they highlighted their diverse talent and countless No. 1 hits.
Pearce kicked off the evening with a comical video that highlighted her successes throughout 2017 and showcased her love of wine. As she was set to take the stage, the clip showed several radio programmers as well as tourmates Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox and Blake Shelton congratulating her success and gifting her a bottle of wine. By the time she made it to the stage she was loaded down with wine.
The singer then performed a mesmerizing four-song set that highlighted her smoky vocals and stirring lyrics. Songs included “Careless,” “If My Name Was Whiskey,” “Hide the Wine” and her debut No. 1, “Every Little Thing.”
Throughout her performance she continually thanked country radio for her success and got emotional while recounting her whirlwind year, which began at last year’s CRS.
“I moved to Nashville nine years ago because all I’ve ever wanted to do in the whole world is sing country music,” she said. “Because of you guys, you changed everything about my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity.”
Female talent was showcased best at the New Faces event as Alaina also gave a standout set that focused on her jaw-dropping vocal ability. The American Idol alum began her performance with the emotional “Three” on piano where she sang of “six years of missing home for three minutes on the radio.” The powerful song about skipping some of the more important events in life to chase after one’s dream garnered her a standing ovation as did the remainder of her set. Alaina proved why she’s one of the most promising voices in country music with current single “Doin’ Fine,” her reinterpretation of her Kane Brown duet “What Ifs,” and her first chart topper, “Road Less Traveled.”
While the talent of the women was the major takeaway of the night, Combs, Midland and Ray also showcased their distinct vocals throughout New Faces. Combs began his performance with a video that featured several “Luke-alikes” as the camera captured the many red bearded men spotted at his show. On the heels of his two sold-out performances at Ryman Auditorium, he showed the crowd of radio professionals his love for traditional country music while playing “Honky Tonk Highway” before covering Brooks and Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” His vocal ability was further showcased on his current single, “One Number Away,” as well as first two No. 1 hits “Hurricane” and “When It Rains It Pours.”
As Ray remembered the influence his grandfather had on his love of country music, a new song called “Her World or Mine,” which he promises will be on his sophomore album, reminded the audience of the power of storytelling. With memorable vocals and heartbreaking lyrics, Ray began the song alone on acoustic guitar as he told a tale of a man hurting at the end of a relationship. His versatile performance included previous hits “Kiss You in the Morning” and “Think a Little Less” as well as current single “Get to You.”
Midland, meanwhile, took a cue from Elvis Presley as they appeared on the stage donning capes. As the music began for first song “Make A Little,” they dropped the capes and showcased their stunning three-part harmonies and throwback flavor. Additional highlights from their performance included “Burn Out” and their previous No. 1 hit, “Drinkin’ Problem.” They went on to thank the industry for their whirlwind year, which also began with their introduction at CRS in 2017.
“CRS changed our lives,” Mark Wystrach said, noting the full-circle experience. “Thank you for believing in us and thank you for helping us make our debut single go No. 1.”