With every passing year, country music continues to flourish, thanks to its healthy mix of artists who are destined and determined to shape the ever-evolving genre. Sure, there already are plenty of big-named stars still grinding it out, touring, and releasing music despite having already made it to the top. But aside from the obvious heavyweights, some rising singer/songwriters are beginning to carve out their own place in country music, building onto their brand and anchoring themselves as a promising new talent just in time for the new year.
Some artists, such as Alexandra Kay, have become a repeat name on the list for showing immense growth over the last 12 months, while rising stars such as Sam Barber and Graham Barham are at the top of their game. Meanwhile, entertainers like Bryce Leatherwood have already earned a following on reality TV, and singers like Anne Wilson have delved into the genre following success elsewhere. Nevertheless, these artists have proven that the future of country music is in good hands and keeping with the legacy of the way others have left it.
A promising candidate to take the United States by storm as one of country music’s next big superstars in 2024 is Josh Ross. Already a success in his native Canada, the burgeoning singer/songwriter nabbed the Breakthrough Artist of the Year title at the 2023 Canadian Country Music Awards, where the top nominee also delivered a smashing performance of “Trouble.” The tune became a No. 1 Platinum-Certified hit at Canadian Country radio and is destined for repeat success in the U.S.
Born in Waterdown, Ontario, Ross didn’t begin pursuing country music until his college years. With a talent for sports, he attended Western University on a football scholarship, but was sidelined due to injuries.
Ross, who is under a major-label contract with Universal Music Group Nashville in partnership with Universal Music Canada and management company The Core Entertainment, brings a fresh modern sound to listeners as he incorporates elements of country and pop and exemplifies an electrifying rock edge reminiscent of artists like Bailey Zimmerman and HARDY to his genre.
The 27-year-old talent, who currently resides in Nashville, Tenn., and made his Grand Ole Opry debut in the summer of 2023, has generated millions of global streams overall with previous songs like “Ain’t Doin’ Jack,” “On A Different Night,” and “First Taste of Gone” as well as newer releases like “Ain’t The One.” He has completed tours with numerous top artists, including his recent North American tour, which saw him opening for Nickelback and Brantley Gilbert’s on the 2023 Get Rollin’ Tour. Fans can look for more from Ross as he plans to release more music very soon. He will also take the road in 2023 as a supporting act on Zimmerman’s international headlining Religiously: The Tour.
The Castellows are poised to take the country world music by storm! Made up of sisters Ellie, Powell, and Lily, The female trio grew up just a short drive from Nashville, Tenn., in Georgetown, Georgia. And while they exude an image that meets country standards, they have come up with a sound that is just as unique and stand out as their upbringing.
The Castellows, which consists of triplets Ellie and Powell and their younger sister Lily, found their path into country music in a rather unusual way. The trio had no intention of turning their talents into a budding career until they ventured into the spotlight on social media. After posting their version of cover songs on TikTok, such as Bailey Zimmerman’s “Fall In Love” and Johnny Cash and June Carter’s “Jackson,” The Castellos saw their online videos gaining traction and realized their true potential as a musical act.
Now, The Castellos have taken a giant leap in their musical journeys as recent signees to Warner Music Nashville/Warner Records. They have also released their debut single, “No. 7 Road,” which they co-wrote with Hilary Lindsey and finds them sharing their love for their Southern roots. The tune also showcases their unmatched sibling harmonies, angelic vocal stylings, and instrumental talents, with Powell’s lighthearted banjo playing highly represented throughout the track.
The Castellows have only given listeners a glimpse into what they can do, but it’s enough to prove they are going places in the genre!
Matt Schuster is here to prove that country music is continuing to take listeners in the right direction. With his raw and rustic vocals, thoughtful lyricism, and ear-grabbing breakup ballads, the Illinois native has all the ingredients to become one of the biggest artists in the genre.
Schuster, who signed to Warner Music Nashville in 2023 and has toured with artists like Kameron Marlowe, Dylan Scott, Ashley Cooke, and Brantley Gilbert, built a solid online fan base before packing his bags for Nashville, earning over 130 million global streams independently.
“Tell Me Tennessee,” Schuster’s major label debut single, gives a glimpse into his backstory, but also offers a unique spin on a love song, while his more recent, “Left Me In The Dusk,” takes listeners back to a once blissful romance that ended. Most notably, Schuster’s music features the rock tinge that follows the modern-day country landscape of artists like Morgan Wallen and Bailey Zimmerman, which is no surprise as he has songwriting credits on Zimmerman’s Religiously. The Album.
2024 will see Schuster make his mark in country music as he continues to step into the spotlight as a performer all his own.
Ryan Larkins may be a new name for many country music fans, but he has long held a place in Nashville’s prestigious songwriting circles. A native of Tennessee, the rising star began songwriting at the age of 12.
Although Larkins has written for some of the biggest names in country music, including Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson on “Someday It’ll All Make Sense,” a Grammy-nominated duet with Dolly Parton, he began forging a path as a performing artist in 2023 with the release of his EP entitled Meet Ryan Larkins.
Despite hailing from Music City, Larkins didn’t jump into country music straight away. He began working on his craft in church, where he played guitar as the son of a Pentecostal pastor. It wasn’t until 2009, when he placed third on CMT’s now defunct talent series Can You Duet, that he truly caught the musical bug and began pursuing the country genre.
Early on, it was clear that Larkins had a penchant for songwriting, and he quickly scored a deal with Sony Music Publishing, writing with legends like Craig Wiseman, Tim Nichols, Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, and more. His most recent cut is “The Painter” by Cody Johnson, which continues to climb the country charts.
While Larkins has built a strong resume as a behind-the-scenes player, his EP, which he released via Jay DeMarcus’ Red Street Records, and follows songs, “She’s the Tough One” and “Man That Holds the Beer,” showcases his strong potential to move listeners from behind the microphone. It will be interesting to see what 2024 has in store for Larkins as his first-ever single, “King Of Country Music,” made a major impact at Country radio upon its debut and has solified his place in the genre.
Ella Langley guaranteed her spot on the list as she has paid her dues long before she decided to relocate to Nashville, Tenn., in 2019 to continue her journey to country music stardom. Learning the ropes with her granddaddies’ guitar by performing in bars and music festivals near her hometown of Hope Hull, Alabama, the highly driven up-and-comer quietly built a loyal fan base that has continued to follow her along the way.
Equally strong as a songwriter and a performer, Langley scored not one but five cuts on Elle King’s 2022 LP, Come Get Your Wife. They include: “Ohio,” “Lucky,” “Tulsa,” “Worth a Shot,” and “Out Yonder.” On the performance side, Langley’s unique and intoxicating blend of country and rock can grab audiences everywhere.
In early 2023, Langley signed a deal with Columbia Records and Sony Music Nashville and subsequently released her standout EP, Excuse The Mess. “Why We Fight” serves as the first single from the project and features vocals by fellow country artist Koe Wetzel. The uptempo track showcases Langley’s tough girl attitude that has helped her become a standout in her lane. Along with “Why We Fight,” Langley’s EP features seven more tracks, all of which were co-written by her. Langley’s latest project follows a series of singles, including “Damn You,” “Country Boy’s Dream Girl,” and “If You Have To,” which generated millions of streams online.
Langley’s talent behind the pen and onstage has led her to make her Grand Ole Opry debut and serve opening slots on tours ranging from Jon Pardi to Cody Johnson to Lainey Wilson and more. That’s a trend that is bound to continue as she promises more music to come.
Lauren Watkins has found herself in some of the biggest country music circles, and rightfully so, as she is a born and bred Nashvillian. An emerging country singer/songwriter, Watkins grew up in a home surrounded by music and sang alongside her siblings.
After spending four years earning a degree at The University of Mississippi, Watkins returned to her roots, where her true passion has always been at her fingertips. She hit the ground running and quickly caught the attention of Nicolle Galyon, who signed her to publishing and recording contracts with Songs & Daughters / Big Loud Records.
Since sharing her voice and impressive songwriting arm, Watkins has drawn comparisons to artists like Kacey Musgraves and Ashley McBryde. Despite the similarities, her charming and youthful personality, paired with a classic feminine voice and relatable set of songs, has set her apart from the rest as she continues to make her mark on the scene.
In 2023, Watkins released back-to-back EPs, with the first titled Introducing: Lauren Watkins and the second called Introducing: The Heartbreak. The latter features four solo tracks and two collaborations on “Fly On The Wall” featuring labelmate Jake Worthington and “Cowboys On Music Row” featuring Carter Faith. Watkins’ introduction to the fans is just the beginning, as she has big plans set for 2024. One of those highlights includes a run of stadium dates as an opener for Morgan Wallen’s tour.
Avery Anna may be young, but that hasn’t hindered her ability to position herself as one of the most exciting artists to watch out for in 2024.
Hailing from Flagstaff, Arizona, the 19-year-old fresh-faced talent first jotted her feelings into a journal. Without realizing it, she had been laying down the foundation of a promising career early on. Thanks to social media, Anna’s knack for writing and talent struck a chord with folks far and wide. She gained traction online when she began uploading videos of herself singing on her mother’s bathroom floor.
It didn’t take long for Anna’s effortless talent and clear star potential to catch the eye of some music business executives. So much so that she quickly inked a deal with Warner Music Nashville. Her debut seven-track EP Mood Swings, which followed, showcases her thought-provoking lyricism from the emotional, piano driven “Narcissist” to the uptempo and optimistic “Good Day.”
The teenager’s penmanship, coupled with soft airy vocals, has also placed her in a category that echoes the likes of Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo. It’s no doubt Anna, who has already landed gigs as an opener for Josh Turner and Martina McBride, will be a name in country music for years to come.
Ben Chapman has just as much talent as he does drive to pursue a career in country music, which is going to take him far in the genre. After spending time working tirelessly on his craft since age 17, he has developed a distinguished sound that puts him into the category of a trailblazer.
Influenced by the sound of the 70s, the Georgia-born Nashville transplant, who recently made his Grand Ole Opry debut, combines elements of Southern rock with country, giving listeners tunes that can electrify any crowd anywhere. Lyrically, Chapman is at the top of his game, and he has shown that as he has written for other artists, including Warren Zeiders, Corey Smith, Drake White, Flatland Cavalry, and more.
Fans can find Chapman’s vintage–style soulful music sampled on projects like 2022’s Make The Night Better and 2023’s self-produced Amber Sound, Vol. 1, featuring his band Ben Chapman & Co… After signing a publishing deal, Chapman further proved he has a passion unlike any other and put together his first-ever Peach Jam, a residency that brings musicians and friends together to bond over a shared love of music. Chapman shows no signs of slowing down in 2024. Having already provided direct support on Lainey Wilson’s sold-out Country With A Flare Tour, he has a string of dates already booked for the new year.
Meg McRee is nothing short of a risk-taker. Already gifted in academic excellence, she shifted gears to embark on a journey in country music — despite its uncertainties — after earning a diploma in 2018 at Vanderbilt University.
Armed with a talent in songwriting, in 2021, McRee found her way into a publishing deal at Hang Your Hat, a creative joint venture with Concord Music Publishing and hit-songwriter Hillary Lindsey. Since signing on, she has already penned a string of singles for artists ranging from Elle King and Grace Potter to Carter Faith and Harper O’Neill.
McRee has done her share of guest-work for other peers, having offered her talents as a backup musician and singer for boyfriend Ben Chapman and fellow country artist Hailey Whitters. She is now more than ready to show country music fans what she’s made of as she shares her latest project, History of Heartbreak.
The collection, which follows “Tried & True,” a song she co-wrote with Lainey Wilson, Andrew Petroff, and O’Neill, and the Petroff-produced record Is It Just Me? includes tracks like “Think About It,” “Wildflower,” and “The Moon” featuring Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna. When hitting play, folks will find McRee freely flaunting her laid-back soothing vocals that call to mind the untouchable vocals of Stevie Nicks, dreamy melodies, and stimulating subject content, giving listeners something concrete that they can sink their teeth into as they await more from the budding star.
Graham Barham can easily say he had a big year. 2023 saw him sign deals with Warner Chappell Music, Cornman Music, and United Talent Agency for worldwide representation in all areas. He then dropped his debut EP, North of Hell, which showcases his stop-you-in-your-tracks storyteller arm.
But it’s safe to say that it’s only the beginning for the emerging artist. Barham began his journey in country music as a teenager. The rising singer/songwriter ventured from his home in rural Louisiana to Nashville, Tenn., where he got his feet wet in the business as a student at Belmont University. Along with building a solid network in Music City and writing for other artists, his soulful track, “Preachers Need People,” brought him some success online and paved the way for his first distribution deal with Virgin.
“Preachers Need People,” along with songs “Break It In A Bar,” “Two Broke Hearts,” “Beer In My Bed,” “Breakin’ Down,” and the title track, can be found on his project. The six songs provide folks with a proper introduction of Barham as he continues to make a name for himself.
Barham has more to come, as he recently took to Instagram with a teaser video, promising fans that he is preparing to release a new album next year. In February 2024, he will take the road as a supporting act on Adam Doleac’s Wrong Side Of A Sunrise Tour alongside fellow openers Troy Cartwright and Greylan James.
Dylan Schneider has steadily been claiming his spot in country music since his teenage years. His first taste of fame came when he got invited to sing alongside Brett Eldredge at a concert in his home state of Illinois. From then on, he was hit by the music bug and never looked back.
After building an online fan base with cover videos and performing anywhere he could, the singer/songwriter joined then award-winning country music duo Florida Georgia Line on tour, released a string of EPs, and signed onto BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records.
He kept the momentum going with viral single “Ain’t Missin’ You” and earned songwriting credits on Dustin Lynch’s “Momma’s House.” More recently, Schneider, who in 2023 signed a joint venture global publishing deal with Sony Music Publishing Nashville and Verse 2 Music, released his heartbreaking ballad, “Daddy Drinks Whiskey.” Now, it’s just a matter of time before Schneider’s name is on everybody’s minds!
Setting high benchmarks before the end of the year, Schneider completed a round of shows as a special guest on Scotty McCreery’s Fall Tour 2023 as well as Kane Brown’s Drunk or Dreaming Tour. 2024 will see him playing plenty of shows as a supporting act on Nate Smith’s the World On Fire Tour. His shows will take place in Canada and the US, with stops in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and more.
MaRynn Taylor has the ability to stop people in their tracks with a voice that falls in line with country powerhouse Carrie Underwood. Her flawless vocal delivery and natural twang, even though she hails from Michigan, make her an artist that brings something special and unique to the genre.
Taylor, who has accumulated nearly 17 cumulative million streams since beginning her career, pairs her strong pipes with an arsenal of catchy songs that are fit for radio, from the bubbly “Every Single Summer” and “Make You Mine” to the sentimental “Dads and Daughters” and “In My Head.”
A member of CMT’s 2023 Next Women of Country class, Taylor may not have gotten to where she is had it not been for her on-the-whim audition during 2019’s CMA Music Festival. It was at that time that she delivered an impromptu performance as part of Black River Entertainment’s 60-Second Spotlight. From then on, Taylor, who made her grand ole opry debut in the summer of 2023, has been turning heads with her undeniable talent, charm, and charisma!
Wyatt Flores is as rootsy as it gets. The rising country singer/songwriter from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who was brought up on music, has quickly caught attention with his incredible band and raw talent. Packing out venues with his whiskey-soaked, tenor voice that’s as arena-ready as Garth Brooks and acoustic-driven melodies that draw in the kind of crowds that follow Zach Bryan, Flores is destined to make an even bigger splash in 2024 as he was one of the most buzzed-about newcomers in 2023.
Songs like “Losing Sleep,” “Break My Bones,” and “Please Don’t Go” from 2022’s The Hudson Sessions helped set early benchmarks for Flores, who has amassed nearly 200 million streams over the last few years. He followed up his already proven success with 2023’s Life Lessons, featuring seven unforgettable tracks, all co-written by him.
The collection finds Flores unapologetically reflecting on his journey as an artist as he unveils detailed, thought-provoking lyrics that reflect the mood of someone risking it all to chase a dream that may or may not unfold.
Flores, who has already toured across the country, will take the road next year as part of his Life Lessons 2024 Tour in support of his latest project — plus he has more music planned for release in the coming months.
Dylan Marlowe is coming in hot for 2024! The rising country artist has already made waves over the last few years, first garnering attention with a rewrite of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License,” which went viral after he uploaded the take on social media, in addition to rapidly growing a fanbase with the release of his song “I’ll Keep The Country.”
After moving to Nashville, Tenn., the singer/songwriter found his place writing for some of country music’s biggest names. Notably, he co-penned Jon Pardi’s chart-topping hit, “Last Night Lonely.” In 2023, Marlowe celebrated even more milestones. He made his Grand Ole Opry debut and released his debut EP entitled, Dirt Road When I Die, which spawned fan-favorite tunes “Record High” and more.
Marlowe, who brings plenty of energy and enthusiasm into his set lists and captures listeners with his signature quick lyrics over heavy country rock beats, has also hopped on tours with Cole Swindell, Jordan Davis, and Scotty McCreery and completed a run of shows on HARDY’s mockingbird and THE CROW FALL TOUR with Lainey Wilson.
Next year, Marlowe will take the road with Brantley Gilbert for the Off The Rails Tour alongside supporting acts Struggle Jennings and Demun Jones. On top of that, the Georgia native will headline his own tour, dubbed the Dirt Road When I Die Tour, which already has a string of sold-out shows. He also recently made a major impact at Country radio with his debut single, “Boys Back Home,” which continues to make waves and amasses thousands of streams per day and even sparked a viral craze on TikTok.
Fans of NBC’s The Voice will recognize a familiar face in Bryce Leatherwood. The country as it gets standout made a name for himself during his stint on Team Blake, which saw him reigning victory over his Season 22 castmates.
Leatherwood continues to pave his way to stardom after his successful season. Thanks to his coach, Blake Shelton, the 22-year-old Georgian landed a residency at Shelton’s Ole Red Tishomingo, OK., where he celebrated a sold-out show. Additionally, he made the permanent move to Nashville, Tenn., and has been grinding it out ever since.
More recently, Leatherwood, who previously supported Dwight Yoakum on tour, inked a deal with Universal Music Group Nashville in alliance with Republic Records. The Voice champ has already been hooking listeners with his major label debut track, “The Finger,” a clever breakup tune that offers a unique slap in the face to the narrator.
Leatherwood has only shown bits and pieces of his star power, but judging by his latest tune, he’s only going up from here!
Folks who enjoy Zach Bryan will likely be keen to Sam Barber, as he offers similar vocal stylings to the award-winning “Something in the Orange” singer.
Barber keeps his songs simple with a stripped-down feel of acoustic guitars, violins, and his billowing voice as he sings from the heart and offers listeners warm poetry with every lyric. Raised as an athlete in Missouri, Barber, who made his Grand Ole Opry debut in the fall of 2023, didn’t venture into music until later in life when he picked up his great grandfather’s Gibson guitar, out of tune with 5 strings and fell in love with the art of playing. He then found his impressive vocal talent and has quickly become one of the most buzzed about artists in music. Already, he has shown the promise of staying power with his eight-song debut EP, Million Eyes and songs like the previous solo-penned “Straight and Narrow,” which entered the Billboard charts, debuting at No. 24 on the Hot Rock Songs and at No. 38 on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs charts, respectively.
Despite finding his passion later than some artists, Sam Barber is no doubt in the right career. He will continue to anchor himself as an emerging artist in 2024, with plenty of dates lined up all next year.
Colin Stough is proving that reality TV sing-off shows are one way to go when trying to make a music career a reality. The country rocker from Mississippi blazed his trail competing on Season 21 of American Idol, capturing viewers with his edgy persona and impressive takes on songs like Whiskey Myers’ “Stone” and The Allman Brothers Bands’ “Midnight Rider.”
After placing third on Idol, Stough continued to strike while the iron was hot, ultimately earning himself a deal with 19 Recordings/BMG. Since then, Stough has been showing what he is made of with a handful of singles and a debut EP entitled Promiseland.
Stough, who continues to keep close to his roots, as evident in his six-track project, doesn’t need bells or whistles to take his career to the next level. His unique persona, distinctive gritty vocals, and youthful southern charm is bound to keep him on the trajectory to stardom as he continues to grip fans with catchy tunes like, “Promiseland,” “‘Til The Day One Does,” and “Shoulda Called Her.”
2024 will find Stough plugging in his guitar on the road as a supporting act for Chase Matthew’s extended Come Get Your Memory Tour.
Anne Wilson may be a newer name on the country music scene, but she is already a decorated artist in the Contemporary Christian market. An encouraging and uplifting singer/songwriter, Wilson has earned many awards and has also been nominated for a GRAMMY thanks to her debut 2022 project, My Jesus.
The album’s title track, which Wilson released in the aftermath of her brother’s death, has resonated with fans all over, bringing her to new heights and earning her a title for being the first debut female solo artist in chart history to reach No.1 on Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart.
After building such a strong resume as a Contemporary Christian artist, Wilson kicked off a new chapter with the release of the radio single, “Rain In The Rearview,” which she wrote with Matthew West, Jaren Johnston and Zach Kale. The song, which belongs on her three-pack of songs, REBEL (The Beginning), proves Wilson is well on her way to establishing herself in the country music world as she continues to blend her sound in country, making her a real trailblazer in the genre.
The Kentucky native, who made her Grand Ole Opry debut in 2021, will begin 2024 on a high note, joining Scotty McCreery on his Cab In A Solo Tour, which kicks off on Jan. 26.
Alexandra Kay has come a long way from racking up views with her “Coffee Covers” series, which brought her success as a viral TikTok star. Music Mayhem has been following her artist journey and tracking her success throughout the years, even adding the Waterloo, Illinois native to its year-end Artist to Watch in 2022.
Since then, Kay has taken her career to new heights, proving big things are coming for her in 2024. Just in the last 12 months, the rising star has advanced her career with the fall release of her debut studio album, All I’ve Ever Known, which details the aftermath of her divorce and features tracks like “Easy,” the title track, and “I Hate Airplanes.” She followed up the release with a tour, bringing along support from Jordana Bryant and Haley Mae Campbell.
Kay began her love of music early on, singing in church. After a stint in the R&B/Hip-Hop realm, her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” took off online, proving she was a better fit for the country genre. Soon enough, she found a niche singing cover songs while making coffee and posting those videos online. She caught plenty of attention, earning early recognition from artists like Tim McGraw and Randy Travis. In 2022, Kay made her Grand Ole Opry debut and took the road with McGraw.
With a melodic voice that’s hard to miss, honest storytelling in her lyrics, and a drive that’s undeniable, Kay will undoubtedly continue to connect with fans all over as she sets her sights on superstardom in 2024.
Emily Ann Roberts
Emily Ann Roberts is ready to take country music to new heights as an artist who salutes those who came before her. With a sound that quickly resonates with those who grew up on ‘90s country, she effortlessly brings back the spirit of The Chicks and Lee Ann Womack and combines that with a modern flare similar to Kelsea Ballerini and Lainey Wilson.
The East Tennessee native’s pure country voice and star quality sets her up as a strong contender to become one of the powerhouse vocalists in country music. She secures her place in the genre with her impressionable southern sweetness, quirky tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and an authentic drawl that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Roberts’ debut album, Can’t Hide Country, is bound to take her to the next step as it has already garnered widespread critical acclaim with catchy tunes like “Devil Wears Denim,” “Keep On,” and “Still Searching.”
In 2015, the rising artist drew fans as a contestant on Season 9 of The Voice, where she competed on Team Blake before ending her run as a runner-up alongside winner Jordan Smith. And, while she has experience competing on national television, Roberts has done the rounds as a singer in Nashville. So much so that she has stepped on the Grand Ole Opry stage over a dozen times, released several tracks, and performed internationally. Looking ahead, Roberts has plenty of shows on the books as she will take the road with Shelton on his Back To The Honky Tonk Tour come 2024.