A California country singer, a six-piece band, a trio, powerful female vocalists and soul-baring storytellers are among the talented artists featured in CMT’s “18 for 2018” Listen Up program.
The year-long campaign will spotlight country music’s most promising newcomers across CMT platforms, exposing the network’s passionate music fan base to the diversity of today’s country music landscape through featured promotions of their new music and videos.
“Listen Up taps into CMT’s influence and platforms to guide fans to talented emerging artists that might not yet be on their radars,” said Leslie Fram, SVP of Music Strategy and Talent, CMT. “This lineup represents the diversity within country music — from traditional to modern country, mixed with a little bit of soul. We look forward to sharing their passion and great music with our audience all year long.”
The “18 for 2018” breakout artists are: Abby Anderson, Ashley McBryde, Bailey Bryan, Cale Dodds, Delta Rae, Devin Dawson, Jillian Jacqueline, Jimmie Allen, Jordan Davis, Kassi Ashton, Levon, Maggie Rose, Morgan Evans, Morgan Wallen, Russell Dickerson, Ryan Kinder, The Sisterhood and Tyler Rich.
Since 2011, CMT’s Listen Up franchise has helped launch the careers of superstars including Brett Eldredge, Cole Swindell, Dustin Lynch, Jon Pardi, Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris and RaeLynn. The 2017 class alone included breakout acts Carly Pearce, Luke Combs and Midland.
Follow the conversation on social media using #18for2018, or visit ListenUp.CMT.com for more information.
Meet the 2018 class below:
Musically, Texas native Abby Anderson was raised right. She can’t remember a time when country music wasn’t part of her life. At an early age, her mother introduced her to music by Linda Ronstadt, K.T. Oslin and The Judds. Then she discovered Shania Twain and Top 40 radio. Her smoky voice cuts like a knife, and it gives a powerful performance on her debut single “This Feeling.” She is among the artists in the CMT Next Women of Country 2018 class.
Talent like Ashley McBryde’s is the first of its kind. With a powerful voice that is incapable of delivering a bad performance, the rising artist and a member of the CMT Next Women of Country program is considered by many on Music Row as the female Chris Stapleton. And her music arrests the soul of anyone who listens. She has released at least two albums independently. Her first major label releases “Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” and “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” are just a taste of the work she has in store.
Sequim, Washington native Bailey Bryan is wise beyond her years. She came to Nashville at 15 to sign a publishing deal, and at 17, she decided to call Tennessee home. Since then, she has become a festival favorite with performances at Chicago’s Country Lake Shake, Washington’s Watershed and California’s Stagecoach music festivals. She is a new member of the CMT Next Women of Country program and her latest release is “Too Good.”
The first major label “double-sided” singles “Out of My System” and “People Watching” by Cale Dodds shows that the Columbus, Georgia native can deliver radio-ready contemporary country with hooks for days. The story behind the songs is they offer a look at opposite ends of the relationship spectrum. “Out of My System” is about a toxic relationship that Dodds stayed in for way too long. “People Watching” is a feel-good tune that describes onlookers admiring a couple lost in love. In January, he will embark on his first national radio tour.
The members of Delta Rae are Ian Holljes, Eric Hölljes, Brittany Hölljes and Liz Hopkins. With a unique sound that blends Southern gothic, giant hooks and lush production, their powerful harmony vocals hypnotize the soul. Before signing with Valory Music in February 2017, they achieved viral success with their breakout anthem “Bottom of the River” from 2012’s Carry the Fire, and they were already festival favorites at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Their first Nashville release, the four-song A Long And Happy Life EP featuring the lead single “No Peace in Quiet,” arrived in March. A full-length album is in the works.
Orangevale, California native Devin Dawson spent his formative years soaking in the sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Alan Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Cash while fronting a metal band Shadows of Colossus. All of these influences played a part in shaping the Dawson of today. A born storyteller, Dawson has an ear for a clever turn of phrase. His debut single “All On Me” is currently No. 14 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart. His full-length debut Dark Horse, produced by Jay Joyce, arrives Jan. 19.
There are so many reasons to love Jillian Jacqueline, a member of the CMT Next Women of Country program. First, the multi-talented songwriting ingénue is arguably one of the most versatile music makers today. And not many artists can say their first gig was performing in Kenny Rogers’ Christmas from the Heart holiday tour at age nine. But she can. Everyone wants to work with her. In 2014, pop hit-maker Richard Marx produced her first Nashville release “Overdue” featuring Vince Gill on harmony vocals. Her self-titled EP featuring the infectious lead single “Prime” arrived in 2016. Earlier this year she released Side A from Big Loud Records. The nine-song album features the rising lead single “Reasons.” She’s toured with Dwight Yoakam and Ryan Adams. Her 2018 dates include performances on Thomas Rhett’s Life Changes Tour and Brett Eldredge’s The Long Way Tour.
Jimmie Allen is a self-made man, and his story is one of the most inspiring tales to come out of Music Row in the last decade. His ups include overseas tours with the U.S. Armed Forces, performances on Toby Keith’s Interstates and Tailgates Tour, having a song featured in a Super Bowl commercial, appearing in a Diet Coke ad with Taylor Swift and multiple writers rounds at Nashville’s famed Bluebird Café. But it is his past struggles that have turned him into the introspective artist he is today. Following a series of bad breaks, Allen was forced to live in his car, too proud to ask for a bailout. For months he worked multiple jobs until he had enough money saved for an apartment. Since then, he has never compromised his art or who he is. Produced by Ash Bowers and Eric Torres, his major label debut EP is a cutting-edge mix of country, rock, R&B and pop.
Shreveport, Louisiana native Jordan Davis is building a unique brand of country music that’s based on competing musical styles. Some of his favorite storytellers are John Prine and Jason Isbell, and he’s a fan of artists with big productions like Eric Church, Lady Antebellum and Sam Hunt. His taste comes from being raised on a gumbo of musical genres – New Orleans jazz, Mississippi blues and hard country. His rising debut single “Singles You Up” is currently No. 26 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart, and his new song “Take It From Me” is available now. His 2018 tour schedule includes performances at the Stagecoach and the Winstock country music festivals.
Kassi Ashton is one of Music Row’s most beloved rising songwriters. Mentored by Natalie Hemby and a member of the CMT Next Women of Country initiative, the California, Missouri native is fearless when it comes to her subject matter in songs. At the CMT Next Women showcase in November she sang about turning a heartbreaker into taxidermy in a quirky title, appropriately called “Taxidermy.” Her point of view is inspired, and her storytelling knows no bounds.
Levon’s genesis started in 2014 when Michael David Hall and Jake Singleton met after performing in different bands at the same showcase. In 2015, bluegrass mandolin player Ryan Holladay joined in, turning the duo into a trio. Between Hall’s impressive vocal range, Singleton’s talents as a multi-instrumentalist and Halladay’s bluegrass background, the future is bright for this rising band. Their five-song, self-titled EP arrived in May. On tour, they have already performed with Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum.
Chasing dreams has made Maggie Rose a master of reinvention. In 2009, she was introduced as Margaret Durante with a cover of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” as her debut single. In 2011, she dropped the name, cut her hair, went platinum and resurfaced as Maggie Rose. In 2012, “I Ain’t Your Mama” from Cut to Impress was country radio’s most-heard single by an independent female artist. The singles and the EPs she’s released since have shown that she can sing anything and sing it well. When fans hear her latest EP, More Dreams > Dollars, she hopes it’s reflective of the Nashville that has shaped her craft for the last decade. As a member of the CMT Next Women of Country program, she toured with Martina McBride, Lauren Alaina and Post Monroe in early 2017. Her newest video is for her song “Pull You Through.”
Considered by the U.S. government as an “alien of extraordinary ability,” newly married Morgan Evans had a major following in his native Australia before making Nashville his forever home. On his first trip to Music City, he was offered a life-changing performance opening one of CMA Fest’s nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium. His musicality, guitar playing and ear for hooky melodies are unmatched in today’s mainstream country. He’s currently working on his full-length debut with hit-maker Chris DeStefano and promoting the lead single “Kiss Somebody.” One of his favorite songs he’s ever written is “Dance With Me,” a song inspired by his wife, Kelsea Ballerini. His newest song “I Do” is available online.
Morgan Wallen’s journey in music is as colorful as it is down-home. First, the East Tennessean’s love for music started early. At age three he began singing in church, and at age five he asked for a fiddle for his birthday. He would soon switch to piano, but back then, he never thought a career in music was possible. At Gibbs High School, Kenny Chesney’s alma mater, the rising artist focused all his efforts into baseball, and he was getting good at it, earning an offer to continue playing at a major college. But during his senior year, an injury in his right elbow sidelined his baseball career. That’s when he reconnected with his first love — music. His mother signed him up for The Voice where he joined Usher’s team and later stolen by Adam Levine. While in California, Wallen met Atom Smash’s Sergio Sanchez, who initially served as his Wallen’s vocal coach. They hit it off, and they started writing regularly. The two moved to Nashville where through Sanchez’s connections, Wallen eventually signed with Big Loud Records. His current single, a collaboration with Florida Georgia Line titled “Up Down,” was the No. 1 most-added single at country radio in late November.
Josh Turner is one of Russell Dickerson’s favorite artists. And his love for the baritone singer was one of the reasons he enrolled at Belmont University where he came to know classmates Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. Since then, the triumphs Dickerson has accomplished as an independent artist are astounding. He toured on Thomas Rhett’s Life Changes tour in 2017, released his full-length album Yours in October and the lead title single is currently No. 8 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart.
With vocals as powerful as alternative rockers Ed Kowalczyk and Emerson Hart, Kinder stands out in any country music landscape. But he’s had several close calls in his musical journey. In 2014, Kinder found himself between label deals and was in need of a side hustle to keep making music in Nashville. While on his way to get signed off to become an Uber driver, he got a call from Zac Brown who offered him a life-changing opportunity to tour with him that summer and fall. And like Brown, Kinder will go out of his way to serve others in need. While studying at the University of Alabama in 2011, his college apartment became a safe place for displaced students and friends when a deadly tornado outbreak devastated the area that April. His major label debut “Close” arrived in November 2016. A full-length debut with producers Ross Copperman and Paul Worley is in the works.
The Sisterhood’s Ruby Stewart and Alyssa Bonagura are among the lucky music makers that have found their forever creative partners in each other. Both come from music royalty. Ruby is the daughter of Rod Stewart, and Bonagura’s parents are Michael Bonagura and Kathie Baillie of Baillie & the Boys. Both bonded over their mutual love for Joni Mitchell, and together they are following in the icon’s footsteps. As new members of the CMT Next Women of Country program, Bonagura and Stewart are currently working on their major label debut, producing and writing the music themselves. On the road, they have performed multiple tours overseas.
Tyler Rich is a rising California country artist with an arsenal of radio-ready songs that would fit on any pop country playlist. Growing up in Yuba City just north of Sacramento, his love for country music started at age eight when he saw his first George Strait concert. At age 14, he was gifted his first guitar. Since then, he’s built loyal following back home and nationwide, touring with Sam Hunt, Cole Swindell, Maddie & Tae, Dan + Shay, Dustin Lynch, Jon Pardi and more. In 2015, he made the move to Nashville where he recently signed his first publishing deal with Big Machine Music. He is currently working on his debut full-length album from Valory Music Co.