Jelly Roll, Priscilla Block, Jackson Dean, Frank Ray, and Nate Smith Prove Superstar Status At CRS’ New Faces

The 2023 New Faces of Country Music class are certainly making their mark on the genre and paving the way for a more diverse future of country music.

By

Nicole Palsa

Nicole Palsa is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2012, she has written about the newcomers, superstars, and legends of country music for publications including Music Mayhem, Country Now, and Country Music Tattle Tale. Nicole has served as a volunteer guide with Musicians On Call since 2016 and is a Troubadour member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and her Bachelor of Arts degree in French. In addition to being a devoted country music fan, Nicole is a family historian and genealogist who can often be found in stacks of research. She is also an avid traveler with a passion for wildlife and nature photography.

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Posted on March 17, 2023

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Nate Smith, Priscilla Block, Jelly Roll, Jackson Dean, Frank Ray; Photo By Andrew Wendowski

Country Radio Seminar (CRS), an annual convention for country music industry professionals, returned to Nashville for three days of exhilarating performances, engaging panel discussions, and insightful sessions geared toward country radio. The industry-exclusive event, held March 13-15, showcase country superstars and newcomers to the country music genre, as well as opportunities for continuing education about the music business.

One of the most anticipated events during CRS is the annual New Faces of Country Music show, which features five emerging artists who have achieved significant success at Country Radio during the previous year. Since 1970, the New Faces of Country Music showcase has helped launch the careers of future superstars, including Alabama, George Strait, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan and dozens more.

The 2023 New Faces of Country Music class includes rising stars Priscilla Block, Jelly Roll, Jackson Dean, Frank Ray, and Nate Smith. The artists are voted on by industry professionals who are involved in the programming, promotion and distribution of country music. To qualify, artists must have had at least one, but no more than five, top 25 singles on the Mediabase Country Chart or the BDS-based Country Chart during the qualification period.

@musicmayhemmagazine

Introducing the 2023 New Faces Of CountryMusic… @natesmithmusic @priscillablock @thejacksondean @officialjellyroll @frankraymusic ⭐️⭐️

♬ New Face$ – Casey Veggies

This year’s class shined a light on the future of country music’s variety, from the Latin flavors of Frank Ray and the western soul of Jackson Dean to the country rap of Jelly Roll and the sassy traditional sounds of Priscilla Block. Each artist expressed their gratitude to country radio and admitted they were nervous for this career-defining showcase.

Frank Ray

Frank Ray; Photo By Andrew Wendowski
Frank Ray; Photo By Andrew Wendowski

Before taking the stage, Frank Ray, 36, talked about the importance of Hispanic representation in country music with the show’s hosts. “Support from country radio is super important because it’s been such a long time since a Hispanic artist has emerged in the genre,” said Ray. “We’re representing an entire culture. We’re representing an entire community in the Southwest, southwestern New Mexico, west Texas.”

Ray kicked off his set with “Country’d Look Good on You” and “Tequila Mockingbird.” He also previewed his next radio single, “Someone Else’s Whiskey,” which impacts country radio on Monday, March 20. Ray performed “Y’all Showed Up” and then closed out his set by bringing out a group of dancers to back him up during a medley that blended his song “Streetlights” with Luis Fonsi’s mega hit “Despacito.”

Jackson Dean

Jackson Dean; Photo By Andrew Wendowski
Jackson Dean; Photo By Andrew Wendowski

The 22-year-old Maryland native took the stage next, delivering a powerful performance of “Wings” and the unreleased tune, “Heavens to Betsy.” He later introduced his current radio single “Fearless,” where Dean took a moment to address the crowd. “In a world full of fear, be fearless.” The country hitmaker truly allowed his incredible vocals to shine vibrantly throughout his showcase set.

He finished with his breakout debut single “Don’t Come Lookin’,” which was the highest charting debut Country single since 2015.

Priscilla Block

Priscilla Block; Photo By Andrew Wendowski
Priscilla Block; Photo By Andrew Wendowski

When she moved to Nashville nine years ago, Priscilla Block, 27, knew she had what it took to make it to the New Faces stage, but just needed the right people around her. “I’ve always believed in myself and I was just waiting for people to start believing in me,” she told the crowd.

Block’s set included her hits “My Bar,” “Off the Deep End,” and her new single “Me Pt. 2.” After a short mishap with a guitar cable connection, Block joked, “If this thing wasn’t a little bit of a sh**show, y’all would probably be disappointed.”

She closed out her set with “Just About Over You,” her breakout hit that led to her record deal. In true Block party fashion, she celebrated the end of her set by shotgunning a beer. During an interview with the show’s hosts before taking the stage, Block recalled her wilder Spring Break days. “I love to shotguns beers, but when I was on spring break, Four Lokos were a big thing. So there was this one time that I funneled an entire Four Loko, uh, so y’all think I’m wild now? At least I’m not shotgunning Four Lokos. You really tone it down over the years and I toned it down. So here’s to never shotgunning Four Lokos again.” 

Nate Smith

Nate Smith; Photo By Andrew Wendowski
Nate Smith; Photo By Andrew Wendowski

CRS is historically known for comedic videos introducing the featured artists and this year was no exception. The most entertaining clip of the night came from Nate Smith, who was depicted as hanging out in a bar when he realizes he’s late for his New Faces performance. He proceeds to run through the streets of Nashville with a few hilarious antics along the way, before making his way into the venue to walk on stage.

Smith admitted he was nervous as he took the stage. “I’m shaking. I guess I’m alive, huh?” Thanking country radio, he added, “I get to be a messenger of music that can touch hearts and that’s the coolest thing ever. It’s not about me, it’s about the music, it’s about the songs.” Smith launched his set with “Name Storms After,” which will appear on his self-titled album coming April 28. Smith followed up with “Wreckage” and “Better Boy,” a tune that is destined to one day have massive radio success.

He then closed out the performance with his two-week No. 1 viral hit “Whiskey On You.”

Jelly Roll

Jelly Roll; Photo By Andrew Wendowski
Jelly Roll; Photo By Andrew Wendowski

To close out the night, Jelly Roll, 38, announced his debut country album to the audience before performing two unreleased songs.

“We wanted to make sure y’all heard it first right here. And I want you to know how much I love this country music community. This country music family. Y’all standing behind the kid, y’all came behind the guy that nobody else in life ever got behind. And I will never let y’all down. I promise you this album will be everything you want it to be. I promise you, I’m here to stay.”

He then opened his rowdy showcase with a performance of an unreleased song “Halfway to Heaven or Halfway to Hell,” which is set to appear on his upcoming new album, Whitsitt Chapel, due out June 2. Describing the rationale for naming it after his childhood church, he said “I feel like I took a couple of state-funded detours to finally come back home,” referencing his jail time.

Additionally, he performed his current single “Need a Favor,” followed by “Son of a Sinner,” which Jelly Roll says changed his life. “I believe that country music and me share one thing, it’s real music for real people with real problems.” In a surprise moment, Jelly Roll brought out guests Brantley Gilbert and Struggle Jennings for their new collaboration “Behind Bars.” Jelly Roll closed out the night with his fan-favorite hit, “Save Me.”

@musicmayhemmagazine

“Somebody save me….” @officialjellyroll #JellyRoll

♬ Save Me – Jelly Roll

Frank Ray, Jackson Dean, Priscilla Block, Nate Smith, and Jelly Roll, 2023’s New Faces of Country Music, are certainly making their mark on the genre and paving the way for a more diverse future of country music.

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Written by

Nicole Palsa is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2012, she has written about the newcomers, superstars, and legends of country music for publications including Music Mayhem, Country Now, and Country Music Tattle Tale. Nicole has served as a volunteer guide with Musicians On Call since 2016 and is a Troubadour member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and her Bachelor of Arts degree in French. In addition to being a devoted country music fan, Nicole is a family historian and genealogist who can often be found in stacks of research. She is also an avid traveler with a passion for wildlife and nature photography.

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