Billboard Live Spotlights CMT Next Women of Country

Ashley McBryde, Jillian Jacqueline, Tenille Townes and Jo Smith Bring Girl Power and Camaraderie Center Stage

Standing ovations still don’t feel normal for Ashley McBryde, even though they are becoming a normal part of the show.

“I’m kind of awkward, and that really comes across well,” she told the crowd of her ability to take compliments during Monday night’s (June 4) Billboard Live showcase featuring CMT Next Women of Country, moderated by CMT’s Senior Vice President of Music Strategy Leslie Fram.

Katie Kauss

McBryde’s music seemingly had straight shot to the top of every country critic’s poll and country fan’s must-have list since she burst onto the national scene last year after joining Eric Church onstage in Chicago last year. Her hauntingly poignant and autobiographical ballad “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” has completely captivated audiences. But for the Arkansas native, the attention and the acclaim, though loved, is a little bit, well, “weird.” In the best way possible, of course.

“The most common word we say in the band right now is ‘weird,’” McBryde admitted. “’Weird. I gotta talk to a guy from the New York Times.’ Weird. Because two or three years ago, we were still asking, ‘Can we just have half off appetizers cause I gotta feed my men,’ you know?”

McBryde performed the songs “Rattlesnake Preacher,” “American Scandal” and “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” and did, in fact, get a standing ovation.

Jillian Jacqueline spoke of her journey to the crowd and how supportive parents and a gig with a country icon changed the entire course of her career.

“My mom was one of those parents that heard her kid singing in the back of the car, and she thought, ‘That sounds kind of good,’” she said. “She took me to an audition when I was eight and that turned into a Broadway Show with Kenny Rogers in New York City and then five years of touring after that. That chance and that opportunity changed the whole course of my life.”

Katie Kauss

Wearing a fabulous studded denim pantsuit, Jacqueline dazzled the audience with the heartbreaking “Sad Girls,” a new song called “Tragic,” and “God Bless This Mess.”

Newcomer Tenille Townes’ emotional and visceral songwriting took center stage next with the tunes “Where Are You,” “Jersey On The Wall,” and “Somebody’s Daughter,” a heart-wrenching true story that silenced the room.

Katie Kauss

“This was inspired by a drive I took with my mom,” Townes told the crowd of the song. “I saw this girl holding a cardboard sign, and I couldn’t shake her face from my mind, and it just made me think about how everyone has a story, and you never know what the person has going on in their life standing next to us.”

The night wasn’t only for heartfelt confessions — there were some hilarious ones, too, when the effervescent Jo Smith closed out the evening. Revealing that she and Townes had been chatting and sharing notes backstage during the show, Smith shared the best piece of advice she had given with Townes regarding radio tours.

“If you ever have food poisoning on an airplane that is ascending just give the flight attendant the look that says, ‘I have to go to the bathroom now’ and you can! They will let you up even though you’re supposed to stay seated,” she told the crowd who burst into laughter.

Katie Kauss

Smith introduced a soulful new song, “Bobby’s Heart,” in addition to “You Up” and “For This Town,” a song about fighting to “make it,” one that all of these women could no doubt relate to at some point as they’ve chased their dreams in Nashville.

And as they continue their rise to prominence, they can rest easy knowing that they are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. The love and admiration shown onstage was a beautiful illustration of women supporting other women on and offstage.

Katie Kauss
Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.