Ten CMT Must-See Indies You Need to Know

Video Discovery Program Spotlights Independent Artists and Established Acts from Independent Labels

CMT's Must-See Indies is a video discovery program that highlights rising independent artists, as well as established acts from indie labels. The next round showcases performances that celebrate the resilience of the human spirit.

Tenille Arts

Breaking up is hard to do, but heartache and pain are perennial, thematic gifts in country music that keep on giving. And “I Hate This” by rising artist and powerhouse vocalist Tenille Arts is one of those gifts. It’s a soaring ballad that offers a raw and real look inside the sorrow one feels after a relationship ends with a focus on the toxic hate everyone has to rid themselves of following a heartbreak. “I wrote this song with Adam Wheeler,” Arts tells “We were talking about how you feel during a breakup or a break in a relationship and how you just hate the whole situation and usually want to move past that point in your life. You hate thinking about the fact that you have to stop thinking about that person and stop talking to them, and then you also hate thinking about the possibility of starting a new relationship. I have experienced this exact situation, and I really wanted to get the melody to match the feeling.” The video accentuates the brokenness by filming Arts in a room where her world gets turned upside down. The Canada native performed all her own stunts in the Todd Cassetty-directed piece.

Harper Grae

Grae has deep-rooted wisdom that’s beyond her years because of her grandparents’ raising. Her latest video “Monster” tells the tragic story of her mother, who passed away last year following an addiction battle that lasted most of Grae’s life. “Monster” is from her latest EP Buck Moon Medleys, which gets its title from the full July moon. “After my mom passed last year,” Grae tells, “I never had the opportunity to really get to know her because she struggled with her own demons that kept her away from me growing up. But I always felt super close to her. And it even came down to our birthdays being one day apart. She was born on July 3, and I was born on July 4. So, I’ve just always felt very close to her. The full moon of July is called the Buck Moon. I thought that was a cool way to honor her. Native Americans named every moon after a different thing to help them transition from season to season. I thought it was a cool way to tie in the family into this next piece because this is my raw self navigating through grieving the loss of my mom.”

Margo Price

Price’s “All American Made” is a profound message of hope that shows the beauty in a unified America. Working with directors Kimberly Stuckwisch and Carlos Lopez Estrada, Price’s goal was to film working-class Americans as they work to overcome life’s struggles and share their successes. The video was shot in eight cities across five states in nine days, highlighting individuals and their stories. One of them is Stuckwisch’s own mother who lost everything when the family home in southern Indiana burnt to the ground. In the end, Price leads the crowd down a road toward a brighter tomorrow. “One of the things we wanted to show was no matter what side of the fence you’re on, whether you’re on the left or the right, we’re all still people,” Price tells “We’re all here trying to raise our kids and go to work. We all want the same things, but there are a lot of different ways you can get there.” Price heads to the 61st annual Grammy awards with a nomination for best new artist.

John Prine

There is an extensive generation of American kids being raised by their grandparents as a direct result of the country’s opioid crisis. Their story is told in Prine’s heart-wrenching video for “Summer’s End” from his Grammy-nominated album The Tree of Forgiveness. It is the music video directorial debut for Oscar-nominated, Heroine and Recovery Boys documentarians, Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon. It is dedicated to Max Barry, the late son of former Nashville mayor Megan Barry, who is one of Prine’s closest friends. She is forever connected to everyone affected by the opioid crisis ever since her son died of an overdose in 2017. He was 22 and her only child. Prine performed at his memorial in Nashville.

Lucie Silvas

Good luck trying to tie down the fiercely independent heroine in Silvas’ “Kite.” She knows no limits and can’t be contained. Silvas channels a Frankenstein alter ego in the Jarrad K-directed art piece. “I had this character that I played with ‘Letters to Ghosts,’ ‘Smoke’ and ‘Villain,’ but this is so much more of a real character of my inner psyche,” Silvas tells “‘Kite’ is something I want to creatively explore and use these different angles of dance and performance … it’s different parts of my personality that I want to bring out that are showing what I’m actually dealing with at this point in my life.” Its chunky backbeat, nonstop attitude and expressive guitar work by husband John Osborne and Derek Wells make “Kite” a standout on her latest album E.G.O..

Ruston Kelly

Kelly is one of those rare artists who is determined make every moment count for the sake of his music. And it shows in a video series for “Mockingbird,” “Son of a Highway Daughter,” "Big Brown Bus," “Faceplant” and “Jericho.” Stephen Kinigopoulos and Alexa King directed each art piece as a way to introduce Kelly as the expressive storyteller he is. And yes, that’s him performing all his own figure skating stunts on the ice in “Son of a Highway Daughter.” The reason why it took a long time for his full-length debut, Dying Star, to come to fruition is that he had to kick a drug habit that was going to kill him if he didn't stop. “I kept quitting and then relapsing probably eight times,” Kelly tells “I just couldn’t get a handle on it, and I had to learn a lot about myself first … I fought a long time to even get a chapter one. Everyone has their demons in the closet. Everyone’s got their thorn. To be transparent about that and to use artwork as a means to remove that thorn and understand yourself better, that’s the statement I wanted to make.”

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