2014 was a big year for country music. It saw the return of the genre's all-time best-selling artist in Garth Brooks, the exodus of its biggest superstar to pop stations, and more than a few breakout stars, including Cole Swindell, Chase Rice, and Parmalee.
2015 is sure to keep the pace going with the 50th installment of the Academy of Country Music Awards live from Dallas, a stadium-tour doubleheader from Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean, and more than a few exciting newcomers. Here are 15 names to look out for in the new year.
15. Aaron Parker
Aaron Parker, 25, from Daphne, Alabama, is quickly making a name for himself with his big voice, black hat, and charming smile. He's toured with everyone from Travis Tritt to Cassadee Pope, and is currently recording his first full-length album to follow up the stand-out single, "She'll Always Be That Night."
14. Native Run
Native Run, a duo consisting of Virginians Rachel Beauregard and Bryan Dawley, is poised to make a splash with their debut single, "Good On You." Rachel describes the band's sound as "very instrument-driven with acoustic guitar, banjo and mandolin," while Bryan adds, "We value songs that take common experiences and translate them in new and interesting ways. Things like love, heartache and life, but with our fingerprint on them." Get to know them in this fun intro video:
13. Courtney Cole
This Mandeville, Louisiana, native has been in Nashville for almost a decade, but is positioned for a breakthrough year in 2015. She's an artist/songwriter for Big Machine Music, the publishing arm of Big Machine Label Group, who says the underlying theme of her music is letting people know it's okay to be themselves. To learn more about who Courtney is, check out this video:
12. Logan Mize
If you listen to satellite radio, there's a good chance you know Logan Mize's new song "Can't Get Away From a Good Time." Even before its FM-radio debut, fans have already downloaded the soon-to-be-hit more than 100,000 times. TV fans may also recognize Logan from a guest appearance on the hit CW series Hart of Dixie, where he played himself.
11. The Railers
Hunter Hayes fans will recognize The Railers from Hunter's Tattoo Your Name Tour, where audiences have been introduced to "Kinda Dig That Feeling." Last week this quartet made its debut at the Grand Ole Opry, and 2015 is bound to hold many more exciting firsts for the group.
10. Canaan Smith
Canaan is a celebrated songwriter who has penned hits for everyone from Jason Aldean to Love and Theft. "I feel like 95% of the songs that I'm writing on a daily basis I can see myself doing, but obviously I'm not going to have 100 songs on an album, so I have no problem pitching them to other artists," Canaan explains. Luckily for fans, Canaan held onto the song "Love You Like That" for himself. Watch below to see why fans are betting on this Virginia boy to hit it big.
9. Mickey Guyton
As a young country music fan from Arlington, Texas, it's only fitting that one of Mickey Guyton's most memorable childhood experiences was watching LeAnn Rimes sing the National Anthem at a Texas Rangers game. "I was completely mesmerized," Mickey explains. Since then, this Lone Star State native's big voice has taken her everywhere from the Opry to the White House. It's no wonder audiences are loving her song, "Better Than You Left Me."
8. Chase Bryant
"It's my job to put the party on and give people a good reason to have fun," says Chase Bryant of his role as a performer. The Orange Grove, Texas, native does just that in his debut single, "Take It On Back." In addition to being a talented songwriter and standout guitar player, Chase co-produced his debut album (a major accomplishment for a new artist!).
7. Dallas Smith
Dallas Smith is already a star in his home country of Canada, drawing crowds as big as 25,000, but he is setting his sights on U.S. domination in 2015. Country fans may recognize him from his sold-out tour dates with Florida Georgia Line or Bob Seger, but they'll soon know him as the voice behind the hit song "Wastin' Gas."
6. Old Dominion
You may have not yet heard Old Dominion's song "Shut Me Up," but you've undoubtedly sung along to hits penned by members of this band: they count The Band Perry, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Chris Young, and Craig Morgan among the long list of artists they've written songs for. You'll find this band on the road for most of 2015, playing in stadiums to help open Kenny Chesney's The Big Revival Tour.
5. Mo Pitney
Mo Pitney, originally from Cherry Valley, Illinois, is truly an old soul. He's a meticulous songwriter with a gift for telling stories. When he debuted his new single, "Country," at The Grand Ole Opry earlier this year, he was received with a standing ovation. That reception will surely be the first of many for this talented newcomer.
4. Steven Lee Olsen
After spending almost a decade writing songs in Nashville (and landing cuts for artists like Garth Brooks), Steven Lee is finally releasing his own major-label debut single, "Raised By a Good Time." Steven Lee says the song celebrates "all the stupid things" he did when he was young, and is a great indication of what fans can expect on his full-length album release next year.
3. Kelsea Ballerini
Kelsea Ballerini's "Love Me Like You Mean It" is making a splash at country radio this month. Kelsea, now 21, moved to Nashville when she was 15 to pursue a career in country music. Although her dad was a country radio programmer, it wasn't until she heard Keith Urban's song "Stupid Boy" that she fell in love with the genre. Get to know her in this interview while you watch the lyric video for her first single.
2. Maddie & Tae
19-year-olds Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye exploded onto the country scene this year with their ubiquitous, bro-shaming anthem "Girl In A Country Song," taking their debut single all the way to #1 on the country charts. "You dream about having a #1 song," says Tae. "Everyone does. We're just two girls, living a dream, writing our songs and getting to go out on the road and play for people." With an EP full of strong follow-ups, including "Fly," these girls will be living their dream for years to come.
1. Sam Hunt
With a chart-topping debut song, "Leave The Night On" and a critically-acclaimed #1 country album in 2014, Sam Hunt was certainly a breakout star this year. But, with one of the most interesting and well-rounded albums of the year, this young hit-maker is just getting started. Here's a fantastic live performance of his genre-bending follow-up single, "Take Your Time," from the Late Show With David Letterman.
Which new artists do you think will hit it big in 2015? Let country fans know in the comment section below.