Ashland Craft, Brittney Spencer, Chapel Hart, Harper Grae, Madeline Edwards, Morgan Wade and Renee Blair joined for "CMT Next Women of Country: Celebrating the Classes of 2020-2022" showcase this week at City Winery in Nashville. The group got a boost from co-host Rissi Palmer and a knockout performance from newly minted Americana Honors & Awards "Duo/Group of the Year" winners The War And Treaty. Palmer co-hosted the show with CMT's Leslie Fram.
The women agree that being recognized by CMT is a sentimental and meaningful moment in their careers.
"Every time I deal with CMT, it's the best people," says Ashland Craft. "I grew up doing everything I could to try and do music, and now that I'm here, I'm living out my dream. Getting to be with everybody and see all the amazing musicians, it's just an amazing night in Nashville. I'm completely honored to be a part of Next Women of Country. CMT was a staple in our household, and it inspired me to want to be in country music. Next Women of Country has been life-changing for me. I'm just hoping to make the women of country music proud and connect with anyone and everyone I can."
The night was divided into two sets broken up by the impromptu performance from The War and Treaty. The women sat in a row on the stage and supported each other as they sang, each getting two songs.
"CMT is super important," says Morgan Wade, who played the show's second half. "I've said several times, it's just that's a core memory of mine, waking up Saturday mornings and watching the Top 20 countdown and seeing all the different music videos and just thinking, 'Man, I'd like to do that.' So now, being able to sit here and be associated with CMT, it's been great. And especially this because it's sold out and it's all females. It's super cool."
The first installment of CMT's Next Women of Country showcase took place at City Winery on Aug. 31, with NWOC mentor Jessie James Decker joining CMT's Leslie Fram as co-host. The line-up featured Callista Clark, Camille Parker, Hannah Dasher, Jenna Paulette, Julia Cole, Laci Kaye Booth, Lily Rose, Reyna Roberts, Tenille Arts and Decker.
Decker's story isn't unlike Wade's and Craft's. She grew up watching CMT, too.
"CMT is just important because it's the mother ship of country music," Decker said. "I grew up watching CMT. I watched for my favorite artists, the people who inspired me the most. Getting to work with CMT is a privilege."
Fram also introduced a vital member of the CMT-supported diversity effort "Equal Access," mtheory's Tiffany Provenzano, who described the groundbreaking equity initiative's mission of fostering all marginalized communities that are underrepresented in the country music genre. The evening lasted about three hours, and Grae described it as a safe and supportive place to share her songs and stories.
"I think like being a working mom today is so incredible," she says, explaining she recently had a baby. "Having such a diverse class of next women in country is so important, too. It feels authentic, which is wonderful to be a part of. I love being able to share a stage with my colleagues and everyone behind the scenes, too. It's just so beautiful and important, and it feels safe tonight to share our stories and that means a lot, you know?"
The lineup for CMT's third NWOC showcase in November will be announced soon.