From honky-tonk outlaws to mainstream powerhouses, these 10 female country artists represent the next generation of country music.
In 2014, country music was overwhelmed with testosterone. The “bro-country” phenomenon hit an all-time high while new female voices seemed to be drowned out on mainstream country radio. This year, these 10 talented songstresses are ready to reclaim their rightful spots at the top.
10. Michaela Anne
An Americana artist grown out of the concrete jungle of Brooklyn whose sweet soprano tells tales of young heartbreak, mournful yearning and pure joy. Her ability to make a song feel more like a story being told to an old friend is something many singers never quite grasp. Her straight to the point lyrics are earnest and captivating, telling stories of tragic heartache and disdain for small town life. Even though her voice can at times teeter on a whisper, the overall artistic potential that is housed inside of Anne is hard to miss.
What she sounds like: A jazzier Allison Krause combined with the ease and wistfulness of Emmylou Harris.
Required listening: The pleading admissions of insecurity and fear in “Ease My Mind” are set to a punchy bluegrass beat that’s hard to resist.
9. Erin Rae
Another figure that’s no stranger to the Nashville scene, Erin Rae has made a name for herself as a talented vocalist and songwriter. Her distinctly pure voice has a crisp sparkle that shines even through reflective ballads like “Hard Time Believing.” Rae brings a refreshing, young perspective to the predictable Americana genre without pretension. Although she has spent most of the last year collaborating with other Nashville artists, her solo work stands out in a sea of endless singer-songwriters. Erin Rae has stood out as a hidden gem in plain sight, and one that will likely only attract more attention and praise through this coming year.
What she sounds like: A sweet and high-spirited mixture of Gillian Welch and Mary Chapin Carpenter
Required listening: “I Hope You Get What You Need,” her melancholy goodbye to a love that’s run its course.
8. Caitlyn Smith
Even if you don’t know Caitlyn Smith by name, it’s safe to assume that you know at least one of her songs. She’s penned tracks for big names like Jason Aldean, Cassadee Pope and even Garth Brooks. Beyond her songwriting skills, Smith’s sweet voice has a way of washing over you like a wave and drawing you in completely. She’s another artist that has wisely used videos on YouTube as a way of introducing herself to the world and keeping herself relevant while working on new material. With a fresh EP and an ever growing online following, she’s one to keep an eye on.
What she sounds like: Country’s version of a more seasoned Carly Rae Jepson
Required listening: The light and dreamy “Everything To You,” where Smith effortlessly demonstrates how both simple and incredibly difficult it is to explain how to vocalize how much someone means to you.
7. Audra Mae
Audra Mae has consistently bounced between genres throughout her career, but her roots are distinctly country. Originally from Oklahoma City, her incredibly soulful powerhouse voice and songwriting talents have brought her a wealth of opportunities. Swedish EDM mastermind Avicii has featured her vocals on a recent track, and she’s currently working as a co-writer for The Band Perry’s latest album. Her own album, “Queendom Come,” is set for release later in the year and is sure to bring attention from both country and pop fans alike.
What she sounds like: Gretchen Wilson mixed with the smooth yet passionate power of Aretha Franklin
Required listening: “Little Red Wagon,” a fun, tongue-in-cheek romp that quickly gained the attention of Miranda Lambert, who has since released the song as a single of her own.
6. Margo Price
Her songs tell stories of weary women, self-medicating and two-timing men that Loretta and Tammy would recognize all too well. With a sticky sweet sound that is never overbearing, her voice cuts through the wall of electric and steel guitar that regularly accompanies her with feminine poise. Her traditional narrative never feels forced and ranges from raging honky-tonk stompers to weepy, tender ballads. As a longstanding and popular figure on stage around Nashville, it’s only a matter of time before her talents garner national praise.
What she sounds like: A modern throwback to 70’s country queens Dolly and Loretta, with a little bit of Hank’s rough and tumble regard mixed in.
Required listening: “Since You Put Me Down,” a solemn honky-tonk tale of drinking and debauchery created to forget the bad deeds of a cheating spouse.
While she may be a newly signed artist to Sony Music Nashville, Cam is no stranger to the industry. With songwriting credits including cuts by major players like Miley Cyrus under her belt, Cam has the potential to become Country’s version of Meghan Trainor. Her bright and bubbly demeanor is fresh and appealing to fans of all ages. Plus, her recent stint opening for country heartthrobs Dan and Shay helped develop healthy buzz for her first single, “My Mistake,” which heads to airwaves in February. She’s currently working on her first album with Grammy-winning producer Jeff Bhasker, which is sure to feature at least one mainstream chart-topper.
What she sounds like: Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott mixed with echoes of a young Mindy McCready.
Required listening: “Down This Road,” a relatable, nostalgic tale of the relief felt when you reconnect with your old hometown.
4. Nikki Lane
The vicious combo of pedal steel, Nikki Lane’s unapologetic nature and raspy voice make her latest album, “All or Nothin’” a must listen for any country fan. Lane’s wistful ballads are packed with heartfelt admissions that feel and sound so earnest that make you wonder if they could be entries from her own diary. In the same breath, Lane can turn on the charm and convince you that breaking the rules is the best way to have fun. Her musky drawl is enticing and inspired and never becomes cartoonish or cliché. With a successful first single from the album, “Right Time,” and the support and praise of musical cohort, producer and Black Keys member Dan Auerbach, she won’t be dropping off the scene any time soon.
What she sounds like: Echoes of Tammy Wynette paired with a smokier, grittier rock edge
Required listening: “Good Man,” the earnest tale of a girl that’s fed up with her no good musician boyfriend and yearning for care and appreciation.
3. Maggie Rose
With a total package of powerful stage presence, brilliant lyrics and killer vocals, Maggie Rose deserves to be taken seriously. Her lyrics are constantly clever, unexpectedly forward and always refreshingly honest. Even when she playfully talks about wanting to be a man’s “Girl In A Truck Song,” she’s always doing it on her own terms. Her recent stream of posts on YouTube, including a heart wrenching, piano driven take on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” showcases her high level of technique, wide range and emotional vulnerability. She’s no stranger to the Nashville circuit, but this year might just be the time she breaks through, and deservedly so.
She sounds like: A refreshing blend of Miranda Lambert’s southern edge with Adele’s sleek vocal precision.
Required listening: The sassy, straight to the point relationship anthem “I Ain’t Your Mama,” which lays down the law for any potential suitors.
2. Kelsey Waldon
This native of a tiny town in Kentucky packs a mean punch that combines painfully truthful lyrics and raw, unfiltered emotion in each note. A true standout amongst the pack of Americana up-and-comers in Nashville, her sound transports any listener back to the days of Hank Williams and traditional country story songs. Even with her trendy retro aesthetic, she keeps an authentic fragility that keeps your heart on the edge of breaking with each line. Her latest album, “The Goldmine,” features a punchy production value filled with heavy guitars, both electric and steel, which sounds like a lost Whiskeytown album. Still, Waldon shines her brightest when an acoustic accompaniment lets her gritty, forceful voice stand in the forefront.
She sounds like: A modern day Loretta Lynn, complete with a strong feminine twang and alt-rock edginess.
Required listening: “High in Heels,” a gorgeous yet heartbreaking gem that leaves you contemplating your own seemingly miniscule troubles.
1. Mickey Guyton
Fresh-faced and ready to take on the mainstream, Mickey’s effortless, soaring sound creates a heavenly mix that is radio ready. Her girl-next-door personality and universally relatable lyrics make Guyton a shoe-in for the next big thing. Her debut single has already broken airplay records during its first week of release, and it’s sure to not be her last accomplishment. Her mellow vibrato slides flawlessly through each chord and never goes too far, exuding control and natural talent that is hard to find. After gaining this much buzz from a debut single, the only way left for Guyton to go is up.
What she sounds like:l Carrie Underwood, with a dash of Faith Hill circa 1993.
Required listening: Her debut single, “Better You Than Me,” describes the bittersweet post-breakup realization that you’re better off alone.