Country Music's Ones To Watch for 2016

Our Annual look at artists we think will be making waves in 2016 is THE place to get the lowdown on who to keep an eye out for as our past history of selecting breakthrough artists is legendary.

Since our first list of ones to watch way back in 2009, we’ve chosen artists to watch like Joey+Rory, Love And Theft,  Jerrod Niemann, Thompson Square, Hunter Hayes, Dustin Lynch, Parmalee, Chase Rice, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, David Nail, Sam Hunt, Dan+Shay, Danielle Bradberry, Brothers Osborne, Josh Thompson, and Chris Janson, an artist who was on our radar from the earliest of days. Some others are still gestating but last year we introduced you to Old Dominion, Clare Dunn, Chase Bryant, Mickey Guyton and Maddie & Tae among others. Even our bonus one to watch, Aaron Watson, broke out nationally with a #1 album. What this means is you should probably save this page as a reference point for the new artists we think will break out in 2016. Now without further rambling, here’s our list of new artists!


Talented band blends blues, country and rock into a blender and has their own authentic sound that can appeal to fans of bands of each of those genres and that’s nots something many bands can say. Look for a big year from the band as they join the many promising up and comers on Sony Music Nashville’s roster.

Jordan Rager

The Broken Bow Records newcomer will remind many of a younger Jason Aldean and that shouldn’t be a surprise as Jason is and was an early influence and mentor. Despite that influence, the handsome young singer and songwriter will release his debut single “Feels Like One Of Them” to radio soon.

Hailey Whitters

One of the most-talented singers you’ll find anywhere, Whitters is primed to break out thanks to style that recalls Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack and Ashley Monroe. Whitters, who is signed to Frank Liddell’s Carnival Recordings, is a talented songwriter too, having written 8 of the 10 tracks on her debut album Black Sheep.

Aubrie Sellers

Like Hailey, Aubrie is signed to Carnival Recordings (Frank Liddell is her step father) but don’t consider that any real form of nepotism. Sellers’ parents are Lee Ann Womack and songwriter and talented singer Jason Sellers. She comes to her talent (which definitely recalls Lee Ann at times) honestly if a bit more country/rock and “modern” than Lee Ann’s sounds. Aubrie is a delightful performer already and her forthcoming (January 29) debut album, New City Blues, is one that will likely end up on many best-of-the-year lists.

Granger Smith

The Texas artist has been around a lot longer than most in the mainstream are aware. Now with his alter ego Earl Dibbles, Jr. Granger’s primed to be the next big star in the mainstream with a sound that blends his Texas country roots and ability to write hits that just stick with you for days. His current EP 4x4 was produced by Frank Rogers and that pairing has proved to be the final spice needed to gain Granger the attention of Nashville’s labels. His current single “Backroad Song” is rising the charts and is poised to hit #1 which would be his first and his label Wheelhouse (part of Broken Bow Music Group)’s first chart topper.

Pete Scobell Band

The retired Navy S.E.A.L. released his debut album Walkin’ A Wire in 2015 and it’s a solid effort. The title track is the second single from the project and it joins “Wild” (one of our favorites of 2015) in helping cement Pete Scobell as an act worthy of your attention. His music is consistently good, his vocals on point and his band talented.

William Michael Morgan

Working with Jimmy Richey (Jake Owen, Mark Chestnut), William Michael Morgan joins 2015 New Artist to Watch choice Mo Pitney as a neo-traditionalist to watch. His first single “I Met A Girl” has a purity to it that makes it easy to listen to, sing a long with and just sounds great coming out of any bluetooth speaker, headset or phone.

Chris Lane

The first artist being broken nationally via Big Loud Records, Chris Lane has been on our radar for a couple of years. As he’s grown into the artist he now is, he’s changed a little bit but it’s all for the better. He’s discovered a falsetto that helps set him apart from the herd of new talent and his lead single “Fix” is all the better for it (even if it causes some to call it a pop song).

Brooke Eden

When you talk about an artist having the whole package, Brooke Eden certainly comes to mind. She sounds great, she looks great and she is just ready to be a big star. She’s got the vocal power of Carrie and the swagger of Reba combined with the sass of Shania. What’s not to like?

Maren Morris

Talented singer/songwriter is poised to join LANco as one of Sony Nashville’s next big stars. Her self-titled EP is out now and features lead single “My Church.” That song has an autobiographical story to it and it feels like a cousin to what Kacey Musgraves does. It’s a fun song but it’s only the tip of her iceberg of strong songs on the EP. If anyone can follow CAM to stardom and breaking the glass ceiling of how many female artists can have hits at one time, Just Maren might do it.

Tucker Beathard

The son of songwriter Casey Beathard is also from the football family of the same name (His brother is a top player for Iowa as of this writing) so it’s not like he doesn’t come by his talent honestly. Much like past OTW selections Thomas Rhett and Levi Hummon, Tucker started in the business even though he knew how tough it was and he had someone to help guide him, an invaluable resource for anyone. His songs recall Eric Church at times (no surprise as he was the inspiration for Church’s “Homeboy,” a song Casey Beathard co-wrote with Church).

Kane Brown

“Used To Love You Sober” showcased that the singer could disrupt the music business a little bit as an indie artist and now, with him close to sign a major record deal, he can work on recording other songs (like “I Love That I Hate You” and “Last Minute Late Night”). With the right producers and song writers, he could become another superstar of the mainstream country/pop charts.

What do you think? Did we miss anyone for the year (keeping in mind we have six other lists like this to look through as we don’t often choose someone more than once for these lists).

Previous Ones To Watch Lists

2014 (rising stars) (the new artists)