We've been publishing these lists since 2009 and have chosen artists who have broken big and some who didn't but we usually see some sort of success from the artists we feature in these Ones To Watch stories. While some choices have hit it big in the year we choose (Hunter Hayes - 2011), others, like Chris Janson and Drake White (2013) took a while longer. Rather than focus solely on brand new artists who are on major labels, we focus on independent artists, new artists and artists who have been around a bit but are poised to break out in the coming year. We hope you enjoy our list below as much as we enjoyed creating it. Without further adieu, here's our lists of the Ones To Watch In 2017.
Midland (Big Machine)
Like Class of 2016 member William Michael Morgan, this band blends a classic country sound into a modern presentation. Like fellow Class of 2017 members Levon, this trio has fantastic harmonies. Look for "Drinkin' Problem" to hit big and for,their already out EP to become a full-length album by the end of the year.
Farewell Angelina (Dreamlined Entertainment)
One of our favorite new acts is this band which underwent one member change in mid 2016 before embarking on their radio tour for the stunning "If It Ain't With You." The four part harmonies are intricate and their self-titled EP is worth picking up. We can't wait to hear what else they have up their sleeves.
Cody Johnson (CoJo Music)
He stunned Nashville for a second time when album Gotta Be Me hit the top of the charts. The album's sales are strong enough to get mainstream label attention and it's a good bet that the hard touring singer follows Aaron Watson, Randy Rogers Band and Granger Smith into the next Texas-based star to breakout nationally. "songs like "With You I Am" and "Kiss Goodbye" are good reasons for our belief but it is tunes like "The Only One I Know (Cowboy Life)" and "Every Scar Has A Story" which suggests future stardom.
Candi Carpenter (Sony Nashville)
Seemingly coming outta nowhere in late 2016 with debut single "Burn The Bed," Candi Carpenter has nonetheless become an an intriguing artist to follow as she breaks out with that lyrically impactful song which is actually made better thanks to Candi's convincing vocal. Touring and performing since she was 12 (including with country legend Jack Greene), Candi says she " write(s) (her) best songs when men piss (her) off." Now that's country, not unlike Loretta.
Carly Pearce (Independent)
She cracked the Top 40 with Josh Abbott Band on "Wasn't That Drunk" and now has her own indie single, "Every Little Thing," making waves. The talented vocalist from Eastern Kentucky is a strong writer too and we cannot wait to see where she goes next as the nation gets to know Carly.
Seth Ennis (Arista)
Seth has already scored considerable airplay on SiriusXm with "Woke Up In Nashville" and he's about to bring his emotive single to the nation as his debut for Arista Records. The single is already charting on digital charts and an album, produced by Corey Crowder, is scheduled to follow later in 2017.
Luke Combs (River House/Columbia)
Blending strong songwriting with a powerful voice, Luke Combs proves that talent comes in all shapes and sizes (he has the body build of a football linebacker) and he's already sold over 100,000 copies of debut single "Hurricane" before breaking at country radio (outside of The Highway). His debut album for Columbia is scheduled to hit retailers in the first quarter of the year.
Cale Dodds (Independent)
Already known to millions of Madden NFL 17 game players via "Acting Our Age," Cale Dodds now brings an anthemic pop influence to his music (not unlike High Valley) and that was enough to garner attention with his People Watching EP produced by Corey Crowder after Warner Chappell music signed him to a publishing deal in 2016 after he cowrote the hit "Drunk Dial" with Michael Hobby of A Thousand Horses and Crowder.
Walker McGuire (Wheelhouse Records)
Newly-signed to Wheelhouse, the duo first met at a songwriters open mic night in Nashville and showcase some brotherly harmonies on songs like debut single "Til Tomorrow" and "Mama's Table." Originally independent, the duo caught Wheelhouse's attention via the aforementioned singles and hard work writing and recording in Nashville after that infamous meeting at the Commodore Grille. The duo's debut will hit radio in the early part of the year.
Michael Tyler (Reviver)
The fresh talent cowrote Dierks Bentley's "Somewhere On A Beach" and Locash's "I Know Somebody" and now he's ready to break out on his own with "They Can't See,". Country/soul jam which feels like an amalgam of Thomas Rhett's "Die A Happy Man" and John Mayer's "Daughters." With a style that suits Tyler more than first single “Crazy Last Night,” it’s easy to see why multiple labels were interested in signing Tyler before he agreed to sign with startup label Reviver and after their success with Locash, we suspect that Tyler will make the label 2-2 with artists who connect with audiences.
Sean McConnell (Rounder)
McConnell released his self-titled Rounder Records debut in May of 2016 and while it did garner a bit of buzz, there hasn’t been enough Buzz for one of Nashville’s best vocalists and transformative songwriters. The album was a highly-personal collection of songs but while sonics spread between rootsy (“Beautiful Rose”) and rock-like (“Queen of St. Mary’s Choir”) it is songs like the beautiful “One Acre Of Land” and “Ghost Town” which should be announcing the arrival of a superstar talent.
Devin Dawson (Atlantic Records/Warner Nashville)
Signed to both Atlantic Records in NY and Warner Music Nashville, Dawson is a new era star with YouTube helping him garner big label attention. His sound is sort of like a twangy Andy Grammer, an intriguing sound. He should be releasing a debut single in early 2017 and will open shows for Maren Morris this spring as well.
James Dupre (Independent)
Formerly signed to Warner Bros. after a run on The Voice, James is a stunning singer and his single "Stoned To Death" was one of our favorite singles from 2016 and is poised to break big in 2017 as it garners a large market push. We cannot wait to hear the YouTube original's full length scheduled to hit stores and streamers in 2017.
All it takes is one listen to "Why Oh Why, the band's debut single, to see why Levon was signed to a record deal in both NY and Nashville. They blend the authenticity of Zac Brown Band with the harmonies of The Eagles and the artistry of The Band, an influence which is shown via their name, in honor of both the band's drummer/vocalist Levon Helm and Elton John's song "Levon."