NAPA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 28: Singer Hailey Whitters attends Day 3 of Live In The Vineyard Goes Country at Domaine Chandon Winery on April 28, 2022 in Napa, California.
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Hailey Whitters: 5 Things to Know About the ACM's 2023 New Female Artist of the Year

On May 10, 2023, Hailey Whitters got her flowers after a 15-year stay in Nashville. The Iowa-born singer-songwriter won the ACM's New Female Artist of the Year award over such heavy-hitters as Megan Moroney. It was no less of a feel-good story than fellow underdog Zach Bryan's triumph in the New Male Artist of the Year category.

Even if she's hardly new, Whitters did have a breakthrough year in 2022. Her single "Everything She Ain't" cracked country radio's Top 25, while the album it's from, Raised, reached No. 9 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart. As a songwriter, she soared to new heights on April 3, 2022 when "A Beautiful Noise" —which she co-wrote with performers Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile, among others— was in contention for the Grammy's prestigious Song of the Year.

Read on to learn more about a gifted songsmith who, despite humble expectations, deserves consideration as a potential star.

The Grand Ole Opry Made Her Childhood Dream Come True

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 21: Recording Artist Hailey Whitters performs live on stage during OPRY NEXTSTAGE LIVE at The Grand Ole Opry on November 21, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Whitters' love of country music intensified at age 15 when her family visited Nashville and attended a Grand Ole Opry broadcast. On Aug. 7, 2019, years of trying to find her footing as an adult in Music City paid off when she debuted on the Opry's hallowed stage.

"It's so impactful — the Opry taking a chance on somebody like me and introducing me to their fans, to their audience," she told People. "It means a lot to me, especially this early in my career."

She Keeps Her Dreams Simple

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Hailey Whitters performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

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Even as hard work started paying off with opportunities to tour with Maren Morris and collaborate with Trisha Yearwood, Whitters kept her expectations grounded. She merely wants to spread her growing catalog of songs to as many ears as possible.

"It sounds very simple, but I just want to wake up and be inspired to write and to record and to perform songs that really hit me and hit other people," she told People. "I don't care if it's for 50 people or 50,000. I've learned the older I get to keep my dreams simple."

She Wishes She'd Wrote a Certain Tim McGraw Hit

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 26: Hailey Whitters attends day two of the 2021 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 26, 2021 in Franklin, Tennessee.

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Speaking of humility, Whitters wishes she'd written "Humble and Kind," an award-winning Tim McGraw hit penned by Whitters collaborator Lori McKenna.

"It was Grammy Award-winning, but it feels so simple," Whitters told Songfacts. "It's a song that people will remember forever— that level of greatness that she can pull off so effortlessly always has me in awe."

Those Low Expectations Keep Getting Eclipsed

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - APRIL 10: American Country Musician Hailey Whitters performs onstage during day 3 at the 2022 Tortuga Music Festival on April 10, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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Ahead of a tour with Shania Twain and a live performance on the 2023 ACM Awards broadcast, Whitters got her first piece of music industry hardware: the ACM's New Female Artist of the Year.

"I mean, so many emotions. So special. I did not think I was gonna win. It was a total surprise and I've been in town for, like, 15 years, so I've dreamt so long long about getting to do this one day," she told Taste of Country following the May 10, 2023 announcement. "And also just hitting that mark where I was like, 'I don't know if it's ever going to happen for me.' So to get to have that moment ... feels very special."

She Married Her Longtime Partner

Hailey Whitters backstage at the ACM Country Kickoff at The Star ahead of the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards from Ford Center on May 9, 2023 in Frisco, Texas.

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On Oct. 1, 2022, Whitters married music publishing executive Jake Gear. The couple has been together for over a decade. They became engaged in July 2020 in an Iowa corn field. The wedding was just as idyllic, taking place in a small church in Whitters' hometown of Shueyville, Iowa. A reception followed on her dad's property, with food and beverage via a local farm and orchard.

The wedding got held off due to the lockdown because, as Whitters told People, "my family is gonna want to get loud and drunk and sweaty and dance — and that just didn't even sound safe."

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