2015 was a good year for country music — especially folks in Texas. We got some amazing albums from artists like William Clark Green and Zane Williams, along with some from a few younger artists you may not be as familiar with (like Shane Smith & The Saints).
Now it’s time to look forward to 2016 and 10 Texas country artists to watch as the year unfolds. You may recognize some familiar faces from our previous list of Texas country artists you need to know, and you’ll definitely see some newcomers who have big releases planned for 2016.
10. Jake Ward
He may be young, but Jake Ward has been writing music beyond his years. In the increasingly diverse world of country music (Texas country included), Ward is easy to pin down as a true Texas country protege, an apple from the tree that sprouted the likes of Cory Morrow and Pat Green. Singles from his recent release have made their way steadily up the Texas Regional Radio Report and he shows no signs of slowing down in 2016.
9. American Aquarium
American Aquarium is just one of those bands that seems to operate at a higher level than most bands. Maybe it’s because they’ve already released seven albums and have really settled into themselves. Or maybe they just have the “it” factor. Either way, 2015’s Wolves was a phenomenal follow-up to 2012’s Burn. Flicker. Die., which frontman BJ Barham wrote while living in a North Carolina storage shed. They’ve come a long way since those days, and their trajectory only points higher and higher.
8. Mike and the Moonpies
Mike and the Moonpies‘ rise have been slow and steady, but the praise for their recent release Mockingbird certainly announces their arrival on the outlaw country scene. They plan to be on the road a lot in 2016 to support the release, which landed on Rolling Stone Country‘s “Top 40 Country Albums of 2015” and has even the harshest traditionalists praising the band’s mix between the Allman Brothers and George Strait.
7. Shane Smith & The Saints
With fiddle ever a-blazin’, Shane Smith & The Saints are making waves across the Southwest. Somewhere between a countrified Bruce Springsteen and a rockified Johnny Cash, Shane Smith’s woeful baritone carries the band through its uptempo highs and its somber lows. Their new record Geronimo is phenomenal, and their increasing tour dates across Texas and beyond prove the band’s sound is resonating with Texas country faithful.
6. Cody Jinks
We’re going to beat the Cody Jinks drum until we bust a hole in the head. Then we’ll change the head and beat it some more. Jinks cut his teeth in Fort Worth, but unlike so many male country artists before him, Jinks actually has a defining characteristic that can and should carry him to new heights in 2016: his voice. Just listen to that voice.
5. Ryan Beaver
Ryan Beaver has been living and writing in Nashville for a while now, and the Emory, Texas native has been making a mark. He also happens to be a pal of and now-and-then co-writer with another rising Texas native in Nashville, Maren Morris. Beaver has written songs for plenty of Texas artists and landed on the Texas Regional Radio Report as an artist and writer multiple times. He also just released the new single “Dark” near the end of 2015, and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, his next full-length release is going to land on a lot of “Best Of” lists.
4. William Clark Green
We had a chance to talk with William Clark Green about his fantastic 2015 release Ringling Road not long ago, and it only reaffirms what a lot of fans already know: he’s got what it takes. All at once a humble and entirely honest fella, Green has etched his unique mark in the Texas country scene by both being a great country storyteller and a relatable voice behind good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll. 2016 will see the band’s first live record, aptly performed at Gruene Hall.
3. Zane Williams
After years living as a songwriter in Nashville, Zane Williams really hit his stride when he doubled down on his performing. His 2015 record Texas Like That was his best yet, and songs like “Jayton and Jill” prove it. Oh, and Pat Green’s version of his song “While I Was Away” was the most-played song of 2015 at Texas radio, proving his music resonates with more than just fans. Expect his star to keep rising in 2016. Williams is also set to release Snapshots, a personal “best of” album, later this year.
2. Sam Riggs
Sam Riggs topped our list of Texas country artists you needed to know several months ago, and it’s only fitting he comes in near the top for artists to watch in 2016, too. Why? Well for starters, he’s got a brand new record called Breathless coming out on February 19th. Few Texas artists have had as much immediate success at Texas radio with their debut record as Riggs, and you can expect 2016 to solidify him as a big-time Texas artist.
1. Cody Johnson Band
It’s been almost two years since Cody Johnson released his breakthrough record Cowboy Like Me, which landed at No. 7 on the US Country charts for album sales and No. 33 for overall sales on Billboard. It was his fifth record but for many, it was a big introduction to Johnson’s unique voice and classic sound. The band has been touring relentlessly since its release, and 2016 looks to be a big year for the group — Johnson recently shared that he’s finishing up a new record to release in 2016.