Country Breakout Stars That Made Power Moves In 2022

Lainey Wilson, Kameron Marlowe, Madeline Edwards, BRELAND, and more made 2022 their year.

The country music industry welcomed a handful of newcomers with open arms in 2022. 

While musicians like Lainey Wilson would attest that Nashville is a 10-year town,  Ashley Cooke and BRELAND proved that there are faster avenues to reach success in the highly competitive genre. Many artists have utilized powerful platforms like TikTok and have turned their social recognition into an adoring fan base. 

Last year, Cooke independently made waves with her debut record “Already Drank That Beer – Side A,” which showcased her radio-worthy sound and collaborations with hitmakers. The 9-song tracklist served as a strong introduction and foreshadowed her massive success for 2022. Meanwhile, YouTube made Zach Bryan an overnight sensation. The vocalist was an active-duty member of the US Navy, when he filmed himself singing “Heading South” on a phone in extreme heat overseas. Bryan is now a GRAMMY-nominated artist with a promising future. 

CMT reflected on country music’s eventful year, and carefully created a roundup of musicians that brought their artistry to new heights in 2022.

Lainey Wilson

Lainey Wilson has had a record-breaking year. The must-watch artist released her sophomore album “Bell Bottom Country.” The 16-song track includes fan favorites – “Watermelon Moonshine,” “Heart Like A Truck,” Smell Like Smoke,” and more. Wilson raked in prestigious accolades such as CMA 2022 Female Vocalist of the Year, CMA 2022 New Artist of the year, ACM 2022 New Female Artist of the Year, and CMT’s 2022 Breakout Artists of the Year. The singer-songwriter made her acting debut on Taylor Sheridan’s hit drama series “Yellowstone.” Within 2022, the breakout star shared a stage with Luke Combs, Jon Pardi, Morgan Wallen, Jason Aldean, Ashley McBryde, and more. Following her chart-topping duet “Never Say Never” with Cole Swindell, she teamed up with HARDY for moving collaboration “wait in the truck.” Wilson will kick off 2023 by embarking on her first-ever headlining run.


Cross-country artist BRELAND is one of the most significant names within the genre, as he’s making power moves to shift the industry in a positive direction. The vocalist has found an innovative way to blend his love for hip-hop and R&B with country, which is placed on full display in his critically acclaimed debut album, “CROSS COUNTRY.” The playlist-worthy project includes his gold-certified track “Throw It Back” featuring Keith Urban, “Praise The Lord” with Thomas Rhett, a duet with Lady A, and more. The vocalist held “BRELAND & Friends,” a benefit concert held at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for the Oasis Center. The star-studded affair raised well over $140,000 for the nonprofit. Following the affair, BRELAND embarked on his headline Here For It Tour, which packed out distinguished venues nationwide. In 2022, BRELAND scored his first CMT Award and performed at the ACM Awards. The crooner is slated to join Shania Twain on her Queen Of Me Tour in the Spring of 2023.

Zach Bryan

Zach Bryan made 2022 his year and proved that he's an undeniable force to be reckoned with. After being honorably discharged from the Navy, the Oklahoma native's outlaw country sound and folk-flair cultivate a steadfast fanbase. Bryan shared the stage with country legend Willie Nelson and appeared alongside Luke Combs, where he promoted his 34-song album, "American Heartbreak." The massive collection became the most-streamed single-day country release in 2022 on Apple Music and Spotify. Following the release, Bran dropped his EP "Summertime Blues," and a live project from Red Rocks Amphitheatre called "All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster." Following his successful headlining tour, he made a cameo in "Yellowstone." Bryan's chart-topping track "Something In The Orange" scored him his first GRAMMY nomination for Best Solo Country Performance.

Ashley Cooke

2022 will go down in history as Ashley Cooke's breakthrough year. The singer-songwriter, known for her infectious country-pop pipes, inked a joint venture deal with Big Loud and Back Blocks Music in March. Following the career milestone, she made her country radio debut with "Never Til Now" featuring Brett Young and appeared on ABC's The Bachelorette. The promising vocalist stepped into the Grand Ole Opry's sacred circle for the first time and performed at Nashville's mother church, the Ryman Auditorium. Cooke also played over 100 shows with hitmakers Cole Swindell and Jordan Davis. Cooke wrapped up 2022 with the reflective ballad, "It's Been A Year." Cooke is one of the few country stars that will be participating in Europe's Country 2 Country music festival in 2022. In the spring, Cooke will join Brett Young on tour.

Kameron Marlowe

Kameron Marlowe had a career-altering year. The singer-songwriter sold-out prestigious venues on his critically acclaimed We Were Cowboys headlining tour. Marlowe opened for some of the biggest names in the industry such as Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, and Riley Green, where he performed tracks from his Dan Huff-produced debut album "We Were Cowboys." Marlowe recently scored a spot in CMT's Listen Up Class of 2023 and is slated to hit the road on Thomas Rhett's Canadian run. He will also be joining Chase Rice and Parker McCollum for select dates.

Madeline Edwards

CMT's Next Women of Country member Madeline Edwards had a whirlwind of a year. Edwards made waves as an independent artist, but became one of the most prominent new voices in country after scoring a record deal with Warner Music Nashville. The powerhouse released her well-rounded album "Crashlanded," which features the sassy single "Mama, Dolly, Jesus," "The Wolves," and "Hold My Horses." Edwards made her Grand Ole Opry debut, collaborated with The Highwomen on Lad Gaga's Born This Way tribute record, and joined forces with Chris Stapleton's All-American Road Show Tour.

Conner Smith

Conner Smith's southern charm and radio-ready sound have made him into a promising new artist. Smith became the sixth act to join the 2022 Opry Nextstage class, alongside Callista Clark, BRELAND, Restless Road, Elvie Shane, and Morgan Wade. The country crooner released his four-track EP, "Take It Slow." Smith embarked on Thomas Rhett's Bring The Bar To You Tour, where he created a five-part video series via YouTube.

Kat & Alex

Husband-and-wife duo Kat & Alex are shaking up the country music scene one song at a time. The "American Idol" alums are known for their soulful harmonies and bilingual tracks. Kat & Alex became CMT's "Listen Up" artists and made history by releasing the first-ever Spanish country EP, "Lado B" right before Hispanic Heritage Month.

"Sonically, the project is a melting pot…introducing two different worlds," shared Kat & Alex. "You'll hear country, which is the root of it, as well as some rock, soul, and pop. The common theme of the music though is love, which is purposeful because our relationship is full of love, and it's the core of everything we do."

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