CMT’s Next Women of Country Expands

Maddie & Tae, RaeLynn Among Latest Additions

Four up-and-coming female artists were welcomed into CMT’s Next Women of Country collective during a lunchtime event at Nashville’s City Winery on Tuesday (Nov. 4). All four sang for the industry crowd, while singer-songwriter Jewel served as mentor to address the audience about being a woman in the music business.

Lee Ann Womack and CMT senior vice president of music strategy Leslie Fram hosted the event. Pop star Gavin DeGraw gave the opening remarks for the second annual gathering.

Natalie Stovall and Angaleena Presley led the generous performance lineup — and both artists currently have a new video in rotation on CMT. (Natalie Stovall & the Drive’s “Mason Jar” and Presley’s “Pain Pills” both enjoyed a world premiere on CMT and CMT.com last week.) In addition, Kelsea Ballerini introduced her heartfelt debut single, “Stilettos,” while Kelleigh Bannen previewed a poignant, as-yet-unreleased song, “Church Clothes.”

Mickey Guyton may have been unfamiliar to many people in the room, but she appears to be poised for a breakthrough in 2015 when her debut album will be released on Capitol Nashville. The Texas native told the audience she wrote “Better Than You Left Me” after a long relationship came to an end. Although she offered a beautiful, controlled vocal performance, overpowering emotions got the best of her at the end of the song when she was reduced to tears.

RaeLynn and Maddie & Tae brought a youthful vitality to the event. RaeLynn joyfully thanked Jesus for her first Top 20 single, “God Made Girls,” while Maddie & Tae grinned all the way through their breakout hit, “Girl in a Country Song.” Both videos are in rotation on CMT. After that, Jewel spoke for nearly 10 minutes about her views on the music industry, offering valuable insight to the group of aspiring talent in the crowd.

Lindsay Ell and Jana Kramer then delivered new material that showed their vulnerability. Ell’s “Shut Me Up” underscores the determination to make it in the music business, while Kramer’s “I Got the Boy” illustrates the bittersweet before-and-after aspect of high school romance.

Brandy Clark was scheduled to perform but was unable to attend due to illness. In her place, songwriter Shane McAnally serenaded the crowd with “Follow Your Arrow” as the event wound down. (He co-wrote the CMA-nominated song with Clark and Kacey Musgraves.)

In addition to the artists mentioned above, the Next Women of Country class also includes Lauren Alaina , Danielle Bradbery, Laura Bell Bundy, Sheryl Crow, Sarah Darling, Rose Falcon, Rachel Farley, Lucy Hale, Kristen Kelly, Nikki Lane , Ashley Monroe, Musgraves, Cassadee Pope and Holly Williams.

View photos from CMT’s Next Women of Country event.
Craig Shelburne has been writing for CMT.com since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.