Just like every other year, 2008 saw its fair share of newcomer success stories in the likes of Ashton Shepherd, Chuck Wicks, Julianne Hough and Lady Antebelum. Other artists, like Jamey Johnson, James Otto and Jimmy Wayne seemingly rose from the ashes that were their careers like a phoenix. All of these artists scored Top 10 hits (Wayne and Otto #1 singles) and scored successful album releases. Darius Rucker, Jewel and Jessica Simpson managed to cross-over into country music with their debut country albums.So with that kind of success last year, what does 2009 hold for these eight newcomers?
Whitney Duncan (Warner Brothers Records)
West Tennessee-native Whitney Duncan first rose to prominence in the early part of this decade when a song she wrote, “My World Is Over,” was recorded with Kenny Rogers for his 42 Greatest Hits Project. After working hard to write songs around Nashville, Whitney has gained exposure via this route as Crystal Shawanda (“My Roots Are Showing”), Katie Armiger (“Unseen”) and Lee Ann Womack (“I Found It In You”) have all cut her songs. Whitney also gained notice on Nashville Star in 2007 where she was a finalist. That exposure lead to the partnership with Producer/Word Records executive Mark Bright and eventually they teamed with John Shanks (Keith Urban) to co-produce Whitney’s upcoming debut album “Right Road Now.” Fans who wish to hear some tracks from “Right Road Now” can purchase the digital EP “Selections from Right Road Now.” The EP (Read the review here) features the singles “When I Said I Would” and “The Bed You Made.” With the latter song's fun Shania-like melody, radio should really warm-up to the 24-year-old. Want more info? Read our interview with Whitney here.
Jonathan Singleton & The Grove (Universal Records South)
Another West Tennessee native, Jonathan Singleton is probably most notable around Nashville for his songwriting acumen. The co-writer of such hits like Billy Currington’s current Top 10 smash “Don’t” and Gary Allan’s 2008 #1 single “Watching Airplanes,” Singleton gained enough notice to be signed to his record label last year. Backed by roots-y (IE traditional) instruments, Singleton sings his lyrics with a deeply soulful voice that has a tinge of a whiskey-soaked rasp to it. Working with producer Dann Huff, Singleton and The Grove have crafted a country album that should bridge a gap of traditional and modern country together. Their first single "Livin' In Paradise" is now getting airplay on Country radio. The debut album is set to be released in late spring.
Joey + Rory (Sugar Hill/Vanguard Records)
While some would say the inclusion of this talented husband-wife team on this list is a form of cheating, the duo certainly deserves mention here. Their debut album, "The Life Of A Song," was released in late-fall and scored critical accolades with its unabashed country production (courtesy of Grammy-winning Carl Jackson), strong lyrics and that voice from Joey Martin. Rory Feek is a respected songwriter in his own right and the duo’s story is a phenomenal story that could really make for a wonderful TV movie. “Cheater Cheater,” their first single, is still rising up the radio charts and Should find itself Top 30 very soon. While the duo may have got their national debut on the CMT show “Can You Duet,” Joey + Rory have proven that talent does win out and that the best will always find a way to get their music heard. “The Life Of A Song” features some fantastic, radio-ready gems —like “To Say Goodbye”— that 2009 should be an even better year for the couple than 2008 was. Read our interview with Joey + Rory here.
Love And Theft (Carolwood Records)
10 years ago, Lyric Street Records launched with known male and female vocalists in Aaron Tippin and Lari White. The label then launched a vocal-harmony trio in Rascal Flatts. Now Carolwood Reocords, the sister-label to Lyric Street, is following the same path with Trent Tomlinson, Jessica Andrews and Love and Theft. Stephen Barker Liles, Brian Bandas and Eric Gunderson make up Love and Theft and the trio —which has a live EP available on iTunes— have garnered a lot of buzz out on tours as one of the openers for Taylor Swift. With that exposure the vocalists, who all share lead vocals, have crafted a highly catchy, pop-leaning sound that should, unsurprisingly, appeal to fans of Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift and the like. Their Debut CD, produced by Jeff Copelan and Robert Ellis Orrall (“Boom! It Was Over”) is scheduled for a mid-late 2009 release.
Holly Williams (Mercury Nashville)
In 2004 Holly released an alt-pop record through Eb+Flo/Universal Records South that was criminally ignored by most radio stations and fans. The daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., Holly wrote all of “The Ones We Never Knew” by herself. Now signed by Luke Lewis to UMG’s Mercury Nashville, Holly has certainly overcome a lot to get to where she’s at now. She initially didn’t want to be a country artist due to her heritage but now has embraced it wholeheartedly with a sound that recalls Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her untitled album is scheduled for an early May release. You can read our review of her first single “Keep The Change” here.
Megan Munroe (Diamond Music Group)
From the opening instrumental fills to her vocal on “Angel On My Shoulder (Devil On My Back),” the Seattle-born artist really reminds one of Miranda Lambert. The instrumentals sparkle while she confidently sings about her rebellious streak. Megan’s vocals at times also recall Dolly Parton and Jewel and the talented vocalist sings a few vocal runs (“Moonshine”) that never border on grating. Her “One More Broken String” album is already available online but drops in stores on February 10th.
Adam Gregory (NSA/Midas/Big Machine)
By the time he was 13 he was already a major-label recording artist in his native Canada. After scoring a few big hits (and releasing three albums) while touring with artists like Lonestar, Gregory grew up and made the Move to Music City to pursue his dream of being a Country star in the USA. Last summer saw the release of “Crazy Days,” as his first single. Now partnered with Big Machine Records, Adam’s second single, “What It Takes” is currently moving up the charts. Adam’s Self-titled USA debut drops in late spring. Last fall we got a chance to speak with Adam. Read the interview here. Watch his music video for "Crazy Days" here and the video for "What it Takes" here.
Caitlin & Will (Columbia Records)
Since music contest shows return to favor earlier this decade, the typical course of action was to release an album of material shortly after the winner won the program. Thankfully for Caitlin & Will, the duo who stunned audicences by beating out other artists, like Joey + Rory to win CMT's "Can You Duet" last summer, their label didn't rush anything but the nice coronation single out. Instead the talented duo took their time and recorded material that suited their powerful vocals. Mixing the drama of the greatest Reba songs with the contemporary edge of Lady Antebellum, Caitlin & Will should have a successful chart run. They will release a digital EP on March 31, 2009. Listen to some of their new stuff on MySpace.
David Nail (MCA Nashville)
David Nail's story is an interesting one. Signed to a record deal by Mercury Nashville around 2002, David ended up losing that deal after a single - "Memphis" - had failed to do anything on the charts. The 30 year-old singer continued to work on his craft and ended up back at the same record label company, only this time on sister-label MCA Nashville. David's debut single "I'm About To Come Alive" didn't do any better than Memphis but it seems as if MCA is sticking with David. Look for next single "Red Light" soon and an album to follow that.