Each year, we pull together a collection of artists we think are worthy of your time to pay attention to in that following year. The first year we did such a list, 2009, we featured Love and Theft (“Angel Eyes”), Joey+Rory (“Cheater, Cheater”), and David Nail (“Red Light” and “Let It Rain”) while 2010′s list featured artists like Josh Thompson (“Beer On The Table”), Jerrod Niemann (“Lover Lover”), Easton Corbin (“A Little More Country Than That”), and The Band Perry (“Better Dig Two”). In 2011 our list included rising stars Hunter Hayes (“Wanted”), Casey James (“Cryin’ On A Suitcase”), Katie Armiger (“Better In A Black Dress”), and Thompson Square (“Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”). Finally, the list last year featured breakout stars Thomas Rhett (“Beer With Jesus”), Jana Kramer (“Why Ya Wanna”), and Dustin Lynch (“Cowboys And Angels”) along with guys like Andy Gibson (“Wanna Make You Love Me”) and Wade Bowen (“The Given” LP) and Kristen Kelly (“Ex-Old Man”) with late arrivers The Henningsens (“American Beautiful”) closing out the list.
With a track record like that, it is a pretty good bet that two or three of the newcomers are gonna hit it big during the year, and, for the first time, we will be repeating an artist on this list because we believe so much in their talent and chance for success. The other 12 are ones we believe can and should make some sort of dent in 2013 (if they haven’t started already). Below is our 13 New Artists For 13: The Ones To Watch in 2013.
Kacey Musgraves (Mercury Nashville)
Kacey Musgraves signed to UMG Nashville’s Mercury Nashville in 2011 and by the latter part of 2012, she has her first Top 20 hit with “Merry Go Round,” a well-written and produced track that has smart wordplay with the ‘Merry/Marry/Mary’ words and a strong vocals that showcase a growth from the first time I heard of Kacey Musgraves as a young vocalist on a season of Nashville Star a few years back. Expect her debut album to be released sometime around March or April 2013.
Chris Janson (Bigger Picture)
Chris Janson is the previously-mentioned newcomer that we’ve had enough high-hopes for to include him on this list twice. Normally we wouldn’t even consider such a ‘re-placement’ but his start in 2010 with Sony Nashville was closed out when label management staff changed hands and lead him to parting ways with the label. Now set to officially release “Better I Don’t” (listen here) to country radio in early January, we’re confident that Janson – who co-wrote Tim McGraw’s Gold Top 10 hit “Truck Yeah” – is a neo-traditionalist worth paying attention to once again. And that the second time will be the charm.
RaeLynn (Republic Nashville)
A talented teenager who wasn’t always on pitch during her run on NBC’s “The Voice,” RaeLynn has taken the 8-9 months since appearing on #TeamBlake to work on her songwriting with fellow The Voice contestants and her debut album with Republic Nashville. Her success will all be tied to the kinds of songs she releases and “Boyfriend” is a short, new single that certainly sounds like a hit in waiting and showcases a soft, unique side to RaeLynn that may not have always been present
Drake White (UMG Nashville)
This newcomer first came to our attention during 2012′s CRS where he showcased some of the tunes he’d been working on and that was enough to keep our attention. Take a look at his YouTube “Front Porch Pickin’ Series” and you’ll find a talented artist who may just bridge the gap from Mumford & Sons and mainstream.
Rosehill (Tenacity Records)
This Texas-based duo has worked with Radney Foster and Jay Clementi on their two records, including 2012 release Crooked Thoughts. The record showcases a band that is very capable of making the jump from Texas to national audiences with a blend of smart songwriting, tight harmonies and roots-rockin’ country tunes and also a willingness to cut songs that may not get cut all that often anymore (“That’s How I’m Going Out”).
Parmalee (Stoney Creek Records)
Stoney Creek has been able to not only score success with Thompson Square but the label also helped resuscitate the talented Randy Houser. Now working on trying to break this edgy country/rock band, Stoney Creek has found a tight 4 piece band that fits right in with the sort of mainstreamed rock-tinged tunes that has helped Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line and Brantley Gilbert become front-line stars. Parmalee’s First Top 40 single “Musta Had A Good Time” announced their arrival. Look for “Carolina” to make them stars.
Chase Rice (Independent)
One of the co-writers of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” Chase Rice is an artist who certainly can also find his way into a similar path of success. His voice isn’t unlike that of Luke Bryan or Eric Church in that it’s not a rang-y instrument but Rice knows how to use what he has to great effect. Apparently CAA, the touring agency, agrees because they’ve signed Rice to a deal to get him out on live shows across the country. We’re still wating to hear “How She Rolls” on radio nationwide. The track is one of the highlights of Chase’s debut album Dirt Road Communion.
Blackberry Smoke (Southern Ground)
Once signed to a record deal that was going no place with a CEO now in jail, Blackberry Smoke has been revived as a recording band (they’re already a top-shelf touring act) by Zac Brown and his Southern Ground Artists label. And despite top-notch artists on the label, perhaps no other talent on the roster is ready to break-out nationally as Blackberry Smoke is. True heirs to the southern rock throne, the band has a tight, cohesive sound full of twin guitars and keys/organs. The harmonies are strong and the songwriting its even better. The Whippoorwill is actually already out and has sold nearly 50,000 albums. This tells me America’s ready – or at least Country Fans – for a band like Blackberry Smoke.
Rachel Farley (RedBow Records)
Known to fans who’ve been out to see Jason Aldean’s tour in 2012, this young Georgia-native is set to storm the charts next year as the flagship artist on RedBow Records. A powerful vocalist with a rockin’ attitude and edge, Farley is working with her manager Michael Knox to craft her upcoming debut album for the label. look for her to hit with her debut single in early 2013 with an album to follow in the summer.
Levi Lowrey (Southern Ground Artists)
Levi released one of my favorite albums from 2011 (I Confess I Was A Fool)and now that he’s working in the studio on the follow-up, the talented artist (also signed to Zac Brown’s label like Blackberry Smoke) deserves a slot in this list. He’s a co-writer on Zac Brown Band hits like “Colder Weather” and “The Wind.” A talented fiddler in addition to his gifts as a songwriter, Lowrey also is a sneaky-good singer. Look for the Matt Mangino and Clay Cook-prouced sophomore album to have a single sent to radio in early to mid 2013 with the album to be released afterwards.
Angie Johnson (Sony Nashville)
First known to America for her time as part of Cee-Lo Green’s team on NBC’s “The Voice” last spring, Angie Johnson also scored hundreds of thousands of fans via her impromptu performance of “Rolling In The Deep” while on base with her military mates. A stunningly good looking woman in addition to being an Air National Guard Tech. Sergeant, Angie Johnson revealed that she had signed a deal with Sony Nashville in late October and given her powerful talent, I think it’s only time before the rest of America is catching up and getting on board with what Angie Johnson has to offer.
The Lone Bellow (Descendant Records)
A month ago, this three-piece band of Brooklyn-based, southern-bred act was nowhere on my radar. Then after catching their show at Nashville’s The Basement venue (part of Grimey’s Music), I had no choice but to put a band that can carry the torch The Civil Wars started in 2011 with their music. The Lone Bellow features tight harmonies (they rival any vocal harmony group), rootsy good tunes and a strong live show. Look for a more in-depth feature of the band soon in these pages. Their debut comes out in early January with the single “You Never Need Nobody” out now at digital sellers.
Tate Stevens (Syco/Sony Music Nashville)
I decided that after his rise on the Fall 2013 season of Fox’s “The X Factor” that I had to include Tate Stevens on this list. The fact that the 37 year old won the show wasn’t even a factor at the time. I just knew that Nashville wasn’t going to let somebody like him not get a chance at some sort of success after how well he placed on the show. Now with the contract in hand and his labels working towards getting a single out rather quickly into 2013, I’ll venture to say that Stevens has no less a career than Buddy Jewell, a similarly aged singer who won a contest with a Sony record deal. The difference here is that Stevens was on a bigger show (not Nashville Star) and won a great deal more money to help get that career off the ground.
Bonus Artist To Watch:
Florida Georgia Line (Big Loud Mountain/Republic Nashville)
This band doesn’t really need any introduction as their debut single “Cruise” spent two weeks at #1 and knocked Taylor Swift out of the new Billboard Top Country Songs chart’s pole position last week. They sold 60,000 albums of Here’s To The Good Times, the most of any new act in 2012 and already are being treated by radio as instant-add stars like Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan and so forth. It might not be long before these guys are headlining their own shows.
Well, there you have it y’all, the 13 (#1 bonus) new artists to watch for in 2013. We hope that this roster of new talent can top the past few years talent and that it helps you know of some artists to watch. We try to keep previously listed artists off. As always feel free to leave comments below to let us know if we missed anyone (also follow links to the previous years to see who was featured in the past four year’s previews. *Note, The Hennigsens would’ve been on this list but were featured in our 2012 list (linked below).