Country Next: Artists To Watch In 2023
2022 has proven to be a year of soaring new talent, trailblazing success and an abundance of genre-bending releases. The next era of country music artists are soaring to the top of their game with each step, and making their presence known among the established stars who have paved the way. The level of stardom that is encroaching on Music City is deemed unstoppable by the fanbase who craves more and more with each release. Those who have made it to their mission to pursue this daring career are finally starting to make a breakthrough in their dreams and for many, this is just the start.
Here are Country Now’s picks for 10 Artists to Watch in the coming year.
Megan Moroney was already well on her way to stardom as she introduced herself through her debut EP, Pistol Made of Roses, this July. Two months later, that budding success reached new heights when her modern love story, “Tennessee Orange,” went viral on TikTok. Fans quickly grabbed onto the captivating storyline about a Georgia girl who falls for a boy from the rival school, the University of Tennessee. Between the rapid rise in views and likes and garnering one million streams in just five days, Moroney quickly realized that this song was turning out to be something bigger than she had ever expected it to be. As her loyal fanbase continues to wonder who the mystery man is that inspired “Tennessee Orange,” Moroney is preparing to embark on a big year ahead. The independent artist recently secured a record deal with Sony Music Nashville/ Columbia Records and plans to take her daringly smooth vocals on the road for her first headlining trek. The Pistol Made of Roses Tour will kick off on April 13, in Chattanooga, TN.
Patience has been a key factor in Corey Kent’s career up until this point. In 2020, he put his passion for music on hold when he went to work at a pavement company to support his family. But Kent’s creative abilities couldn’t be contained for too long because the next year, he unveiled his sophomore album, ’21. Slowly but surely things started to look up for Kent. He reached a milestone in 2022 when he signed a record deal with Sony Music Nashville’s RCA Nashville imprint, meaning that Kent is finally starting to see his dreams come true, and this is only the beginning. He also sent his debut single, “Wild As Her,” to radio after months of successful streaming. The Oklahoma native earned nearly 70 million streams in just four months, which in turn, landed him a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in his career. Corey Kent wears his heart on his sleeve and continues to pave his own path with his family by his side.
Bailey Zimmerman is a 22-year-old Illinois native with a voice so addicting, it has made him one of the fastest-rising names in the country music industry this year. Growing up, his parents taught him to have a deep appreciation for music and he has carried that mentality into his own music which is now thriving on country radio. Zimmerman recently celebrated his first No. 1 at country radio with his hit, “Fall In love.” Thanks to the dedication and loyalty of his fans, the song earned nearly 250 million streams worldwide and was named the 11th most-streamed country song of the year. In addition, Zimmerman dropped his debut EP, Leave The Light On on October 14 and surprised fans with the news that he would be unveiling his highly-anticipated song, “Never Leave.” Between this song and his previous releases, “Rock And A Hard Place” and “Where It Ends,” Zimmerman is showing no signs of slowing down. He can also proudly say that because he sold out every single date on his first-ever headlining trek, he got the chance to extend the tour into the new year. Once this set of shows comes to an end, he will put himself in front of a larger audience when he serves as an opener on Morgan Wallen’s 2023 One Night At A Time Tour.
Chase Matthew has been carefully planting the seeds of his musical talent within the country music community and this year, he saw a spike in his budding career. The artist-on-the-rise had a tough start trying to break into the music industry. He was rejected from a prominent Nashville music school and got used to being told that he wasn’t good enough to make it. Instead of giving up and succumbing to the negativity, he turned that criticism into motivation and the result is his latest collection in which Matthew proves he was Born For This. He has gotten the chance to showcase his faith and artistry on the new album on his 2022 headlining tour of the same name, which saw tremendous success with several sold-out dates. The country star also joined Matt Stell for a few dates on the road and he’ll kick off the new year with a co-headlining tour alongside Kidd G. Most recently, Matthew unveiled his sincere song, “She Loves Jesus,” which fans quickly fell in love with, and he revealed that there is even more music on the horizon along with his new partnership with Warner Music Nashville.
Ashley Cooke says it all in her newest release, “it’s been a year.” 2022 can easily be described as a breakthrough year for Cooke who poured an endless amount of dedication into her craft as time flew by her. She started off the year by inking a co-venture record deal with Big Loud Records and Back Blocks Music for both label and publishing. From there, she made her debut at Country radio with “Never Til Now” with Brett Young, made her national television debut on ABC’s The Bachelorette, embarked on major tours with Young, Cole Swindell and Jordan Davis, and made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium. Through it all, she gained a loyal fanbase who stuck by her through relationships, breakups, and all the other highs and lows. She also exemplified her stand-out talent with the delivery of her new music including “getting into,” “back in the saddle,” “running back” and “dirt on ’em.” While things may be slowing down for Cooke, it’ll only be for a moment because, in the new year, she will kick things off by heading overseas for the first time to play the Country 2 Country (C2C) Spotlight Stage in London and Glasgow. While she conveys vulnerability, Cooke leads her career with a glowing model of strength and resilience.
Madeline Edwards has topped her wildly successful year off with the release of her debut album, Crashlanded via Warner Music Nashville, which she signed with this fall. The culmination of her success really began after she caught the attention of fans from across the country when she performed the song “Love My Hair” at the 2021 CMA Awards with Mickey Guyton and Brittney Spencer. Since that breakout performance, Edwards has gone on to share the stage with even more major country music stars like Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson, and Sheryl Crow. The talented singer/songwriter also made her Grand Ole Opry debut and will be joining Ingrid Andress on the road in 2023 in addition to performing at a number of major festivals, including Stagecoach, Rock the South, and TidalWave Music Festival. Edwards was living in Texas before moving to Nashville, and in that time, she had no idea what was coming, or that so much good could come from just one year.
This year, Nashville has gotten a drift of Rocky Mountain spirit ushered in by singer/songwriter, Ian Munsick. The Wyoming native has entered into a new chapter of his musical stylings this year with the release of “More Than Me,” “Cowboy Killer,” “Horses & Weed” and his fan favorite, “ “Long Live Cowgirls” (with Cody Johnson). This track featuring the Texas cowboy has earned over 45 million streams in addition to topping SiriusXM The Highway’s Hot 30 Countdown. Fans have taken a strong liking not only to Munsick’s unique musical stylings laced with fiddle-driven sounds, but also the authenticity shared through his faith-filled storylines inspired by his wife and son. Munsick is fresh off the success of his Westwood 2022 Tour, but he already has big plans in the future, starting with his upcoming sophomore album which is slated for release early on in the new year via Warner Music Nashville. In addition, he has another set of dates in the books, his headlining Long Live Cowgirls 2023 Tour.
At just 22 years old, Jackson Dean’s talent has proved to be a poster for success. The highlight of Dean’s year comes with the delivery of his song “Don’t Come Lookin’,” which recently became his first No. 1 single, cementing Dean as the youngest male in not just Aircheck, but Radio & Records’ history to top the charts with his debut single. Not only did it jump on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but the song also made an appearance on Yellowstone and the soundtrack of Netflix’s The Ice Road. Additionally, Kelly Clarkson recently covered the track during her “Kellyoke” segment on The Kelly Clarkson Show. To date, “Don’t Come Lookin’” has raked in over 80 million on-demand streams. This successful track is featured on his debut album, Greenbroke, which dropped earlier this year. Having written every song on the collection, Dean made way for his gritty Americana sound and used it as a strong introduction into who he is as an artist and as a person. Dean’s accomplishments are already making themselves known in 2023. After concluding his time on the road with HARDY in December, the singer/songwriter will continue his packed schedule and join Blake Shelton’s tour with Carly Pearce.
Since the release of Lily Rose’s debut single, “Villain,” which she now holds an RIAA Gold Certified plaque for, she has continued to showcase her talents ranging from infectious vocals to heart-pounding narratives and an untouchable level of authenticity. Her skills especially shinned in this year’s new songs, “I’d Be You,” “In My Drinks,” and “Whatcha Know About That.” Rose came into 2022 with a dedicated fanbase full of music lovers who see her songwriting approach as a breath of fresh air, and she has become one of country music’s most promising breakout stars. Her final release of the year, “Truth Is,” closes out the storm of success she’s endured in such a short amount of time. She earned a groundbreaking win at the 2022 GLAAD Awards for “Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist” making history as the first-ever Country artist to receive the coveted honor and receiving a nomination for Best New Female Artist at the ACM Awards. Plus, the “Stronger Than I am” singer’s calendar was fully booked with over 90+ shows across the country that included touring slots with Sam Hunt, Chris Lane and Dylan Scott. In the midst of her time in the studio, Rose has also used her ever-growing platform to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and create a supportive outlet. In doing so, she has never held back from being her truest self.
The powerhouse sister duo known as Tigirlily Gold took the year by its horns and embraced every challenge and success that came their way. They have been touring and teasing music for months in preparation for the release of their deeply personal upcoming project, Blonde, which is likely to represent the next phase of their careers. In October, the sisters Krista and Kendra Slaubaugh decided they were going to make a slight shift in their journey by adding to their band name. Instead of making a big change, they decided to add the word “Gold” in order to make themselves and their music stand out in a way that best fits their brand. Their next set of music is sure to enhance this new mission that they have set on. They got the chance to perform their impressive catalog throughout the year at festivals and at opening gigs for artists including Old Dominion, Ashley McBryde, Morgan Evans, Walker Hayes, and more. In addition to looking forward to their new project, the duo Introducing Tigirlily Gold: The Tour Presented by Lee® is set to continue into early 2023 with shows that will take them from coast to coast. Tigirlily Gold kicked off this headlining trek on November 14 and made their way to a variety of stops including their home state, where they played to a sold-out crowd. During their time on the road, they have given back to Musicians on Call by inviting healthcare workers to attend each show and calling for donations on stage each night.