It’s been 10 years since The Dixie Chicks ended their run at the country music charts. In their eight years in the mainstream, the all-female trio from Texas managed to become the best-selling country group of all time — not to mention the best-selling all-female group in music.
So, on the heels of the Chicks’ comeback tour, it’s no surprise country music’s next big thing may just be girl groups.
Billboard’s closer look at all-female groups in country music reveals a slew of artists bubbling under. And as you might expect, their sounds differ vastly.
The most prominent of the group may be Runaway June, who signed with Wheelhouse Records (the same label as Texas’ Granger Smith) and began a radio tour in April. Their debut single is due in June.
The Joseph Sisters from West Virginia released their single “Crazy In Love” in February and follow closely in the pop country vein. In a totally confusing twist, another sister trio called simply “Joseph” has been slowly rising on the scene, with a sound closer to the folk-country leanings of Alison Krauss. And the unmistakable harmonic tightness that only genetics can provide.
Nashville quarter Farewell Angelina have already released their debut single “Hillbilly 401k,” which makes light of playing the lotto in hopes of striking it rich. With any luck, they’ll land a commercial with the scratch-off industry.
And then there’s Maybe April, a group of three young artists who met in 2012 at a music industry camp in Nashville and have become regulars at the “Song Suffragettes” series highlighting female talent. They fit somewhere between both versions of the aforementioned “Josephs,” holding on to pop sensibilities but rooted firmly in a folksy background with more serious subject matter.
Sister C (yep, more sisters) hopes to capture some of the Texas magic The Dixie Chicks ignited. They play up their Texas roots strongly, hoping to strike a chord with potential fans by mentioned their roots in Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Texas country. But they have reality show The X-Factor to thank for their initial bump in the public consciousness with their successful 2012 audition (singing The Pistol Annies, no less).
They’ve matured since then, of course, and so has their sound:
There’s also Southern Halo, a teenage trio which sounds a lot like three Taylor Swifts (hey, it worked once). And South Haven, which lists their sound as “classic country influences with modern sounds and melodies from pop, rock and EDM.” We’ll let you guess how much their debut single “Firestarters” actually sounds like classic country opposed to pop. Member Britt Willson told Billboard, “What worked for the Dixie Chicks then, that doesn’t speak to us now, and I don’t think it would be as relevant.”
Don’t tell the Chicks, whose tour sold out faster than tickets to the local pancake breakfast.
So do any of the groups have a shot? The consensus is that females are coming back into the scene, though they’ve had to fight tooth and nail in Nashville and are nearly nonexistent in the Texas scene. But the fact that there are more than half a dozen all-female groups already looking for airtime is a double-edged sword.
One the one hand, it means the country market is receptive to female acts in several forms. On the other, it means we might see a lot of groups all go after the same, indistinguishable sound.
The best bet is to go for authenticity. Being sisters is, clearly, not unheard of. Listing your “classic country” influences also doesn’t mean anything to anybody. Most people just want to hear good music, and there is definitely potential for some great music from several of these all-female country bands.
Only time will tell if girl groups are the next big thing in country music, but there’s certainly no shortage of them.