Little Artists, Big Sounds: Five New Artists You Should Hear

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Written by T.M. Brown
Little Artists, Big Sounds: Five New Artists You Should Hear

The best thing about Nashville is that no one forgets where they came from. Every newly minted batch of country stars makes sure to pay their opportunities forward by mentoring and working with young hustlers trying to make their way through the gauntlet of Music City. And with the influx of influences of genres swirling around the scene, it’s never been a better time to be a young artist in this city. We’ve put together a list of five artists working their way up the Nashville ladder, and each one is about to hit that next rung so make sure to catch them before they make it big.

Artist publicity photo

Artist publicity photo

Who: Mickey Guyton

Hometown: Arlington, TX

The Music: From the minute Mickey Guyton belted out the first few notes “Better Than You Left Me” at the Grand Ole Opry, you knew her stardom was only a matter of when not if. She’s been grinding in Nashville since 2011 when she signed to UMG’s country imprint Capitol Nashville and has been releasing a steady stream of solid singles since 2015. But something about “Better Than You Left Me” struck a chord in the country community and launched the single into the top 20 of the Billboard charts.

Why You Should Listen:  Guyton’s role as a trailblazer in the country community was explored by the Guardian back in 2015, where her unfamiliar status as an African American woman in a genre typically awash by white men took center stage. She hasn’t let herself be pigeonholed though, and her crossover country bonafides are undeniable including opening for Brad Paisley on his 2015 tour. Expect to hear her triumphant 2016 single “Heartbreak Song” a lot more in the coming months.

What’s Next: Guyton is playing a handful of shows stateside in the next couple months and she’ll be working on her first full-length album over the coming year.

Listen to This: “Heartbreak Song”

Clare Dunn

Artist publicity photo

Who: Clare Dunn

Hometown: Southeast Colorado

The Music: Nashville is filled with talented women that can write hits and sing their hearts out, but Dunn brings considerable guitar chops to the table as well. Those skills are on full display with tracks like “Move On,” which sounds equal part breakup anthem and stadium-ready hit. Dunn’s crossover appeal is also immediately apparent from songs like “Tuxedo” that has a Charli XCX-style hook in its chorus.

Why You Should Listen: For someone who grew up on a ranch in southeastern Colorado, Clare Dunn sure does have some worldly influences. The songwriter and expert guitarist cites her rural upbringing as the main reason behind her love of both country icons like Waylon Jennings as well as bluesy rockers like the Rolling Stones. “When you are from where I’m from, you can’t be choosy on what music you listen to,” she told CMT this year. That ability to roll with the punches has earned Dunn a ton of attention in the music world, culminating with an appearance on CMT’s Next Women of Country Live.

What’s Next: Dunn will be playing festivals all over the country in the next few months including stops in Kansas, Indiana, and Florida.

Listen to This: “Tuxedo”

Photo credit: Joseph Llanes

Photo credit: Joseph Llanes

Who: Ryan Hurd

Hometown: Kalamazoo, Michigan

The Music: Ryan Hurd cut his teeth like a lot of other Nashville denizens: writing hits for big time stars. Hurd’s songwriting credits read like a who’s who of the current country landscape including tracks for Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, and Tim McGraw. He struck out on his own last year with an excellent (and eclectic) four-track EP Panorama, a tour de force in miniature that brings equal parts indie, blues, and pure Nashville twang into the mix in under 20 minutes.

Why You Should Listen: His fierce independence as an artist and songwriter has already yielded solid hits for dozens of other Nashville stalwarts and it’s only a matter of time before Hurd makes a bigger name for himself across genres. “Drunk People” is that rare track you can throw on for that friend that turns their nose up at country. It’s honky tonk, it’s blues, it’s modern country. And that makes it pure Ryan Hurd.

What’s Next: Hurd is still hard at work in Music City, as he’s crafting a full-length follow-up to Panorama in the coming months. There’s no doubt you’ll be hearing about it.

Listen to This: “We Do Us”

Photo courtesy Warner Music Nashville

Photo courtesy Warner Music Nashville

Who: High Valley

Hometown: Blumenort, Alberta, Canada

The Music: Canadian country fans will be familiar with Brad and Curtis Rempel, the brothers from a small town in Alberta that make up High Valley. They’ve made their mark north of the border over the last five years and scored a verifiable hit with their fourth album County Line which yielded six top 10 hits on the Canadian country charts. The duo’s sound is flecked with bluegrass but dominated by their big hooks, stadium-ready set pieces reminiscent of Dierks Bentley or Blake Shelton.

Why You Should Listen: The Rempel boys signed their first major record label deal with Atlantic Records, so they’ll be heading to the studio with some significant firepower behind them. Considering they’re already veterans of the small but dedicated Canadian country scene, it won’t take them much time to adapt to Nashville given their familiarity with some of the biggest names in the business. They’ve already dominated the scene north of the border, it’s just a matter of time before they do the same stateside.

What’s Next: High Valley will be looking to put out their much-anticipated major label debut in the coming months and it’s bound to make waves in Nashville and beyond.

Listen to This: “Make You Mine”

Artist publicity photo

Artist publicity photo

Who: Drake White

Hometown: Hokes Bluff, Alabama

The Music: There’s a tropical tilt to Drake White’s music. The Alabama-native is making records that sound equal parts Gulf Shores and Waikiki, a blend that gives White’s major label debut Spark a bright energy and lets him fill a unique spot in the country landscape. But White can also veer gracefully into funkier territory than most artists his age are comfortable with, and that fearless embrace of wider genres are paying huge dividends for the Dot Records-signed artist. Spark is brimming with energy — ”It Feels Good” is a maximalist, bluegrass jam and is seamlessly followed up by more mainstream fare with “Livin’ the Dream” — but it never loses its cohesion as a tightly crafted album that speaks to White’s maturity as an artist.

Why You Should Listen: Artists so unapologetically themselves are few and far between, but White can’t do anything but be himself. That independent spirit has led the young artist to a major record deal and a hit debut album, two milestones in what should be a long career in the country scene. He’s already opened for acts like Zac Brown Band and Darius Rucker, but it’s only a matter of time before White is searching for opening acts of his own.

What’s Next: White is hitting the road opening for Zac Brown Band to support Spark, as well as playing some solo gigs all over the country.

Listen to This: “Livin’ The Dream”