These 10 artists are working hard to make names for themselves independently and deserve to be heard.
Breaking into the music industry as an independent artist can be a huge challenge. Without a label backing you with promotion, management and marketing, it can be hard to create a fan base or get anyone to listen to what you have to say. While some of these artists have publishing deals as songwriters, have previously been signed to a label or just want to stay independent artists, all of them deserve much more exposure to the worldwide country music audience. Take a listen to these ten unsigned artists who are making great music and doing it on their own terms.
10. Lost Dog Street Band
Even with Americana music getting more exposure in recent years, it’s hard to find a duo with a sound like Lost Dog Street Band. Their impressive musicality and unique style make them incomparable to anything that is on country radio today. The Tennessee-based husband and wife duo’s songs range from punchy toe-tappers to aching ballads that will win you over with just a few strums of Benjamin Tod‘s banjo.
9. Carly Pearce
While she was still in high school, Carly Pearce left her home state of Kentucky to become a performer at Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park. This move helped her learn how to own a performance and to win over a crowd, which is something she’s been excelling at since her move to Nashville in 2009. She’s independently releasing an EP later in the year and is making her Grand Ole Opry debut at the end of May. Her latest single, “Blame The Whiskey,” has already picked up a good amount of rotation on SiriusXM’s country station The Highway. With this much buzz surrounding her, she’s likely to be a rising star in the industry within the year.
8. Joseph LeMay
Joseph LeMay is a hidden gem in a town filled with acoustic singer-songwriters. His debut album, Seventeen Acres, is a musical journey through an emotional time spent with his wife in a secluded trailer outside of Nashville. The album is a heartfelt work of art that Rolling Stone even listed his debut album on their list of “The 26 Albums of 2014 You Probably Didn’t But Really Should Hear.” With new music in the works and fresh exposure from a set of dates opening for Sean Watkins, keep your eyes and ears peeled for more great artistry from LeMay.
7. Molly Parden
Molly Parden has been a familiar face in Nashville in recent years (you can spot her singing backup vocals with Joseph LeMay in his video above) as both a solo artist and background vocalist. Her pure and cutting vocals instantly make an impact that will make you want to laugh, cry or sing along with her. While her acoustic singer-songwriter style could be categorized into many different genres, her honest and heartfelt style of songwriting follows the traditional country style of simple, great storytelling.
6. Maren Morris
Texas native Maren Morris is a stellar singer-songwriter who deserves more recognition as a solo artist. Many people know Morris as the writer of tracks for Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson, but her own rock-inspired work has won acclaim from both fellow musicians and country fans alike. She’s released three albums independently and often plays solo shows and writer rounds in Nashville. Her obvious talents as a songwriter, combined with a killer voice make her someone who is poised for success.
5. Kree Harrison
After taking the runner-up spot on the twelfth season of American Idol, Kree Harrison hasn’t taken the typical path of former reality show stars. She has stayed a familiar presence in Nashville with regular performances at the Grand Ole Opry, the Bluebird Cafe and other venues around town. Before American Idol launched her into the national spotlight, Harrison spent most of her life making connections in Nashville. In recent years, she’s provided background vocals on albums for both Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves. She’s currently not signed to any label, but it’s only a matter of time before she gets the opportunity to release a new album and make a strong impact on the country charts.
4. Margo Price and the Pricetags
Margo Price‘s voice is an instant throwback to modern country music of the 1970’s. She’s a combo of Tammy, Loretta and Dolly with a little Jack White mixed in. Even though her retro influences are obvious, they never teeter on gimmicky. Her lyrical honesty and powerful sound makes her stand out in a town full of vintage-wearing wannabes.
3. Steve Moakler
Steve Moakler took the leap of moving to Nashville in 2006 from his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to jump start his music career. Since then, he’s independently released three albums, had multiple songs cut by big country artists including Dierks Bentley and Jake Owen, and has developed a worldwide fan base through his YouTube videos. His sound sits on the edge of what most people consider the traditional mainstream country sound but is still easily accessible to fans who enjoy both pop and country.
2. Cale Tyson
Cale Tyson is the antithesis of the bro-country movement. His sound is planted firmly in the traditional country that has been regaining popularity, partially thanks to the movement against where the mainstream country sound has been heading. His sweet yet melancholy lyrics feel like they were probably written on a whiskey-stained bar napkin, just the way good country songs should be.
1. John and Jacob
John and Jacob started playing together as an acoustic duo back in their home state of Alabama. After a few years and three added band members, they’re on the verge of breaking it big. Their sound mixes traditional country influences with catchy pop hooks and alt rock-soaked melodies. They independently released a self-titled album last year, which features tracks that range from fun and flirtatious to tempered and heartbreaking. With exposure from their song “Be My Girl” being featured on ABC’s Nashville and their residency as the opening act for Kacey Musgraves throughout the past year, there’s not much standing in the way for the band to gain some much deserved success in the industry.