2016 looks to be another great year for country music. A new wave of strong and talented female artists are more than ready to make themselves heard within the genre.
Bro-country has been replaced with a throwback sound with lyrics that stem from real life situations. As the definition of "country" continues to evolve, these ten artists are about to make their own mark on the growing genre.
Although she's been a familiar face in Nashville for years, Margo Price is finally earning the recognition she deserves this year. Thanks to exposure from a partnership with Jack White's Third Man Records, Price's upcoming full-length Midwest Farmer's Daughter has quickly become one of the most anticipated albums of the year.
What she sounds like: A modern, rock-edged mixture of Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.
Required listening: "Hurtin' on the Bottle", a classic honky-tonk tale of using liquor to ease the pain of a broken heart.
25-year-old singer-songwriter Maren Morris' 2015 self-titled EP showcased a confident, fearless attitude that took many by surprise. The Texas native, who has close ties to artists like Kacey Musgraves and Brothers Osborne, is now working on her first full-length release with Columbia Nashville. With a killer voice and plenty of personality, there isn't much holding Morris back from becoming one of the biggest new artists of 2016. Read our interview with Maren Morris here.
What she sounds like: A fresh and confident mixture of 1990s powerhouses Martina McBride and Faith Hill.
Required listening: ""My Church", a track made to be blasted from your car speakers as you cruise with the windows down.
For years, many simply knew Aubrie Sellers as Lee Ann Womack's oldest daughter. In the past few months, Sellers has proved herself as a true individual artist who isn't afraid to break the rules and try the unexpected. Her pure voice still brings a gritty attitude to her surprisingly honest lyrics, which take on everything from heartache to existentialism.
What she sounds like: A fresh blend of Miranda Lambert's hard-hitting attitude and the powerful and pure tone of Ashley Monroe.
Required listening: "Losing Ground", a haunting and honest description of the pain and challenges that everyday life can bring.
Of all the young traditional-leaning artists aiming for mainstream success, Mo Pitney is the most promising. The message and style of his songs feel authentically country, and they don't dip into the party cliches so often used by his contemporaries. The 22-year-old singer's voice is reminiscent of the rich baritones of Keith Whitley and Randy Travis.
What he sounds like: Pure, wholesome country that many traditional country fans have been pining for.
Required listening: "Country" offers up an inspiring definition of what "country" really means.
Following in the footsteps of Little Big Town's "Girl Crush", Brothers Osborne's hit "Stay a Little Longer" pushed the boundaries in all the right ways. The duo's first full-length album, Pawn Shop, is set for release on Jan. 15. With years of experience behind them and a finely-tuned sound that's all their own, it seems likely that these two will be pretty much everywhere this year - including the top of the charts.
What they sound like: Twangy, rock-infused country that is hard to compare, thanks to their emphasis on experimenting with funky rhythms and melodies.
Required listening: "Stay A Little Longer", an electric guitar-driven tale of a casual relationship that gets a little complicated.
Although he's been honing his craft for years, 2016 may just be the year that Clayton Anderson breaks out. He first gained widespread attention as an artist back in 2008, when he was hand-selected as Kenny Chesney's opener for a string of tour dates. Since then, he's been relentlessly touring, writing new material and gaining a solid fan base. With new material likely to be released sooner rather than later, Anderson is likely to earn a lot of praise in the coming months.
Required listening: "Your Love Is Like Country Music", a track that's tailor-made for your next romantically-themed playlist.
Steve Moakler has been known as one of the most celebrated songwriters in Nashville for years. He gained even more exposure after Dierks Bentley sent his song "Riser" to the top of the charts in 2014. Now, Moakler is ready to release his own full-length project later this year. With a gentle but powerful voice and celebrated songwriting skills, his album will likely be one of the strongest and most interesting releases of 2016.
What he sounds like: A soft-spoken songwriter, a la John Mayer, with a twang reminiscent of Eric Church.
Required listening: "Suitcase", a heartfelt nod to the truly important things in life, co-written with acclaimed songwriters Thomas Rhett, Luke Laird and Barry Dean.
William Michael Morgan
William Michael Morgan is a refreshing balance of traditional and contemporary country. In a sea of singers who wear flat brimmed caps and v-necks, Morgan sports a cowboy hat, denim and boots. But it's his voice, not his style, that should will pique your interest. The Mississippi-born singer's warm baritone sounds like a blend of young country greats and jukebox heroes. If you love the voice and cowboy charm of George Strait, William Michael Morgan is your kind of country singer.
What he sounds like: A warm mixture of George Strait, Merle Haggard and Don Williams.
Required listening: "I Met a Girl", a warm love song that showcases the richness of Morgan's voice.
After years of relentless touring and penning hits for other country artists, Old Dominion finally broke through the mainstream last year with their hit, "Break Up With Him." Their first full-length release, Meat and Candy, is a musical plethora of infectious tunes that are likely to find success on the charts through 2016.
What they sound like: Polished mainstream pop-country that never takes itself too serious.
Required Listening: "Break Up with Him", a refreshingly blunt (and ridiculously catchy) plea for a shot with the woman of his dreams.
Granger Smith has been working the country music game for nearly two decades, but 2016 is going to be his breakout year. Prior to signing his first major label deal last year, Smith had amassed a huge following with relentless touring and masterful social media promotion. You may also know him as Earl Dibbles, Jr., his redneck alter ego. Smith recently scored his first top 10 single on Billboard with "Backroad Song", a tune that most country fans will find easily accessible.
What he sounds like: Hooky, contemporary country, with a tinge of Texas tang.
Required Listening: "Backroad Song", Smith's most popular song, is tailor-made for the radio and summertime drives.